As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; 11There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.”
The Pew Research Center has come out with new data about how many people in the U.S. identify themselves as “nones”–people with no religious affiliation of any kind. This group is growing quickly and is now at about 20%, the highest rate in Pew research history. You can read the report here.
What’s more, most “Nones” have little interest in finding a church. Only 10% of the unaffiliated said they were still looking for the right church.
This data contradicts a message I have often given my parishioners: the idea that there are people out there lonely for belonging who need to be welcomed into the institutional church. There are a few people like that, but apparantly, not very many! Most unaffiliated people are just fine with their status. They may believe in God (68%) or pray every day (21%), but they think churches have too many rules and get too political. They’re not buying.
A large percentage are young (34% of 18-22 year olds are unaffiliated) but some are older, and many of them (74%) were raised in households that practiced a faith, but have not chosen to continue their practice. In other words, we lost them.
We who would like to revitalize our churches are disheartened by these statistics. But the truth is about more than statistics.
Last Sunday I was meditating on the text from Hebrews: The word of God is living and active. As I reflected on this line, I realized that the Word is the thing that lives, not the institutional church.
How does the Word live outside the institutional church? That is the creative challenge of our age. It is the question that we who are Christian in this time in history were chosen to pursue.
How is the Word of God living and active in your neck of the woods? Is it in the hospital or the bar, in the homeless shelter or the health club or the high rise office? Is it somewhere you haven’t even thought to look?