Christian anthropologist Jim Denison says in his June 28, 2023, Daily Article, we need to ask why some stories are featured in the news while others are not; certain stories are reported while others are ignored. “When it comes to good news, the answer is obvious: we like these stories and media outlets know they are popular and drive clicks and views.” Denison, however, says we are seeing too many stories about falling church attendance, repurposing empty sanctuaries and how church attendance has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.
Many incorrectly believe biblical faith in America is on life-support. Thankfully, this is not the case. For example, Denison notes the article on repurposed church buildings largely dealt with churches in Europe, where many congregations have denied the truths of Scripture for generations.
Research does show a slight decline in US religious participation since the pandemic. Attendance fell from about 34% before the pandemic to roughly 31% today. While this is a drop, still nearly one in every three Americans attends a worship service on any given Sunday. To put that in perspective three times more Americans attend church than watch sports on television. Church attendance is 50% higher than the number of Americans who exercise regularly.
In fact, according to a New York Times article, among Americans moving away from faith, roughly half are either Buddhists or Jewish. Cultural commentator Glenn Stanton believes Christian church attendance is actually at an all-time high, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the population.
If you have been discouraged by what you have heard about a mass rejection of faith, consider this is not the only time worshipers have been tempted to believe that few are seeking God. The prophet Elijah was once convinced the entire nation was worshipping the ancient god Baal and that only he still served God. He complained, “…the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” (1 Kings, 19:14, NLT) God encouraged Elijah just four verses later with the reality that the situation was not as dire as he imagined. God said, “I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal…” (1 Kings 19:18, NLT)
While I wish more people would seek God, if you are a Christian, you are not alone. Even among young adults, the group thought least interested in God, recent studies suggest this demographic is more interested in faith than previously thought. In fact, Denison says, “the number of Christians in the world today is larger than it has ever been in the history of the world.” It is legitimate to be concerned about whether others are open to faith, but we can be certain God is still at work.
During four decades as a pastor, Tim Richards has served five churches, three in rural Missouri and two in St. Louis. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.