George Barna is a researcher who does polling in the U.S. for the purpose of understanding societal trends more fully – particularly as it relates to Christianity. Based on recent polling, he has picked up on five trends among those in American culture who are unchurched. These trends are:
1. Secularization is on the rise – Over one third of American adults are fully secular in belief and practice and a growing number of churched people adhere to secular beliefs, as well.
2. People are less open to the idea of church – While the most effective way to get unchurched people to attend church is still for a friend to invite them, now the number of those willing to even consider the invitation is less than 50%.
3. Churchgoing is no longer mainstream – In modern culture, nearly 25% of the population has NEVER experienced regular church attendance.
4. There are different expectations of church involvement – These days, just over one half of unchurched people would be interested in attending a worship service if they decided to go to church at all. The others would rather go to some other kind of activity.
5. There is skepticism about churches’ contributions to society – When asked, 49% of unchurched people could not identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community.
There is a pop culture definition of insanity that is cute, but oh so true. It goes: Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result. As we look at the influence of the church in American culture, it is trending downward on almost every front. And what is the general response of the church and individual Christians? Keep on doing the same thing.
This certainly does not mean that we need to throw out what we are doing. We need to continue our opportunities for worship, Bible study, discipleship training and fellowship. But if we have any desire to turn things around, we are going to have to add something new to the equation. We cannot simply continue the “yall come” mentality of the past. Rather, we are going to have to begin deliberately developing new opportunities to actually take our faith out into the culture. And we are going to have to do this as individuals, not simply as part of a church program. Something like this will certainly be more effective if it is initiated under the umbrella of the church, but no traditional church program can pull this off.
There are all kinds of ways we can do this. We can create lunchtime Bible studies at work, start book clubs, begin research forums, create Christian fraternal organizations, and all kinds of other opportunities. But the main thing we must grasp is that we can’t just keep doing what we have been doing. If we stay on the current path, not only will things not change, they will continue to go downhill.