On today’s program I ask Dr. Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, a very straight-forward question: Is Christianity in America dying?
Based on some of the headlines in the media, you might believe that it’s on the brink of extinction.
Most of the news reports in recent months were based on a study by the Pew Research Center, which asserted that American Christianity is in decline. Not surprisingly, the secular media latched on to the story and offered dozens of interpretations and theories about Pew’s findings – most of them negative.
According to Dr. Stetzer, part of the confusion stems from the lack of nuance the media offers – or even understands – about the very definition of “Christian.”
For example, committed believers would consider a Christian to be those who have, by grace and through faith, accepted Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for their sins and claim Him as their Lord and Savior. It’s a group Dr. Stetzer identifies as “convictional Christians.”
However, the majority of people who call themselves Christians in America are not ordering their lives around their faith in that way. They’re “cultural Christians.” These are people who assume they’re Christian because they live in America, or who don’t want to fill out a form and check the box for atheist or another religion.
There is also a significant percentage of people who identify as Christian because they have some sort of loose connection to a local church, or they were baptized as an infant, or their marriage ceremony was held in a Christian church.
When you parse out those rather important details what you find is the number of “cultural Christians” is, in fact, declining rapidly, but the number of “convictional Christians” has actually increased in recent years.
That’s not to say that all is well within American Christianity today, but we have to keep the changes we see occurring in the right perspective. As Dr. Stetzer says, “The sky is not falling, but the ground is shifting.”
What he means by that is, on most social issues, the population as a whole is trending away from traditional biblical beliefs. In short, Christianity is not a religious majority. We’re a convictional minority.
I hope you’ll tune in today for this fascinating conversation with Dr. Stetzer. He offers some great insights on the latest research and clarifies some of the misleading information you may have read or heard on the news.
It left me feeling excited about the future of the Church. As tough as things may be, the God I know and serve shows up in tough places. That’s what gives me hope for the future. We don’t have to feel downtrodden. We can trust that the Lord knows what He’s doing and that He’s going to use what’s happening in the culture today to bring out deeper conviction in His people.
Join us on your local radio station for our program, “Addressing the State of the Church.” Or tune in anytime online or via our free, downloadable mobile phone app. But don’t miss this important broadcast.