An In-Depth Look at the Decrease in Church Attendance and Bible Engagement in the US

Even though it is a subject of debate, most Christian scholars agree that America's founding fathers envisioned the creation of one nation under God. From time immemorial, America has identified as a Christian nation. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore – at least not according to the statistics.

The numbers paint a rather grim picture – it would appear that church attendance, as well as Bible engagement, is on the decline in America.

A recent telephone survey from Pew Research Center that was carried out between 2018 and 2019 revealed that 65% of American adults consider themselves Christians. A decade ago, this number was 12% points higher which means the Christian faith is shrinking in the nation. The study also established that atheists, agnostics, or those who do not consider subscribing to any religion have increased from 17% to 26% in the same period. If this trend continues, experts believe that it will only take a decade for the percentage of Christians in America to drop below 50%.

Other studies have however clarified that the number of church attenders has only declined amongst certain age groups (specifically the youthful segment of the population). In fact, research on the impact of COVID-19 on church attendance shows that the older generation went back to church almost as was the case before while the numbers of the youths dropped significantly post-pandemic.

If we were to only go with this information, we would easily infer that the COVID-19 pandemic made young people stop attending church – and we would be wrong. A close look at pre-COVID-19 data shows that even before the pandemic, the number of young people attending church has been on a decline – a trend that continued during and after the pandemic.

To put it plainly, even if COVID-19 had not happened, the numbers would still have dropped. Clearly, something is wrong.  So why are so many Christians falling away from the church? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Reasons why church attendance is on the decline

1. Hypocrisy

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If it weren’t for Christians, I would be one.”

It is such a shame that the Christians Gandhi interacted with left a lot to be desired. He clearly loved the Christian faith but unfortunately, he only met hypocritical Christians who didn’t live according to the teachings of the Bible.

According to USA Today, 66% of all youths (aged 22-30 years) who stopped attending church say they stopped going to church because most churchgoers were hypocritical.  This is both sad and good in equal measure. It is sad that such a huge chunk of young believers can be disillusioned because they cannot see Christians who profess the faith they confess. But on the flip side, it is good because therein lies the answer. If we can fix the issue of hypocrisy in the church, then we can retain more of these young believers!

2. Secularization of the society

America is arguably one of the most permissive societies on the globe. From abortion to gay rights, it seems anything that may seem like a hard pass in other nations gets wide acceptance in American society. But it wasn’t always like this. Over the years, the American society has increasingly been secularized. Even though some scholars opine that the founding fathers envisioned the formation of a Christian nation, the choices made over the years have pushed society further and further away from the teachings of the Bible.

The rain started beating the American nation in 1963 when the supreme court ruled that School-Sponsored Bible readings were in violation of the Constitution. Up until then, children were not only educated but also exposed to the word of God. But after that, secularization was introduced into the school and subsequently into society, which culminated in the current situation where faith is on the decline while secularism is on the rise.

There is a dire need to hit the reset button and get back to prayer and Bible reading in our schools because the alternative is a growing secular society.

3. Generational gap

A study by Gallup shows that generational differences play a significant role in the declining church membership in America.

The typical mainstream protestant church is led by baby Boomers and naturally has programs and events that are tailored for Baby Boomers. As such, the younger generations struggle to fit in. Meanwhile, the newer churches that are led by younger people are often viewed as too radical and are often scorned by the older folks.  This generational disconnect eventually pushes away some out of the church.

We can learn a lot from Apostle Paul because he was careful not to impose his personal preferences and style of worship on the churches. His mantra was;

to the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)

4. Ignorance of God’s word/will

Even though most people won't admit it, ignorance of God’s word and his will is a significant factor in them quitting church. See, it is impossible to build faith in something you are ignorant of. In the words of scripture,

The people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits (Daniel 11:32)

Failure to understand his word will lead you to question what He is doing which will ultimately result in shipwrecking your faith. A good example is the renowned Bible scholar, Bart Ehrman, who couldn't reconcile a good God with the suffering in the world. Consequently, he quit Christianity and became an atheist. This is a sad example of what happens when you know a lot of scripture but don’t understand it.  

As church attendance continues to decline, there is a dire need to improve the understanding of scripture in order to avert more of such crises. And that is what makes BibleLines App such a powerful resource. The App integrates video teachings in your Bible study to help you understand any passage of Scripture as you read through.

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