Continuing on from last week’s thought that maybe we were looking in all the wrong places when examining the loss of people attending church, got me to wondering about where we need to look. I think most of us can agree that whatever we have been doing, while certainty not a complete failure, still we are not retaining or gaining those souls needed to do the Lords work. From previous discussions in morning bible study, which by the way started this line of thought, three groups come to mind. There are those that have been hurt by the church in some way or another. I am not going to mire this down listing reasons that people are hurt or get mad and leave; fact is they do and you may know someone like this or might even be that someone. There are of course those that don’t believe period. This we will come back to at another time. Then there are the “Nones.” This is an interesting group because they include those that have left, believers and non-believers and those that are not or have never been affiliated with any organized religion. “Nones” is a term sometimes used to refer to those who are unaffiliated with any organized religion. This use derives from surveys of religious affiliation, in which “None” (or “None of the above”) is typically the last choice.
Let’s run the numbers on this. There are lots of different surveys and research articles About the “nones”. I tend to look at Pew Research center. Also part of the information I will share is from an article written by Michael Lipka from FacTank, News in Numbers. This article paired with Pew Research numbers provides an interesting look at this subject.
A growing trend in American religion in recent years has been the percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. In 2007 the number was 36.6%. The latest figure, 2014, has that number at 55.8%. I am going to try not to overwhelm you with numbers but they do tell a story. Responses to how they became “nones” is telling. Remember that this group includes religious people who indicate that a lack of belief led them away from religion, Mr. Lipka writes that number to be about 49%. There were other reasons listed such as many respondents said that science, common sense, logic or lack of evidence played a part in their being where they were today. Others interestingly enough simply said they do not believe in God. Quoting directly from the article, “One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.” One in ten who were raised in a religious affiliation are now inactive. They just went home and stayed there. Oddly enough they still hold certain religious beliefs but have withdrawn from any active practice. Interesting to note that within this group there are sub groups, confusing is it not? Are you beginning to see the point that the task the church is facing is not a simple one by any means. there is no “one program cure” for what ails us. There are the agnostic, don’t believe period, then a rather odd group who describe their religion as “nothing in particular”.
If I were to pick a reoccurring theme here it is that the complexity of this group cannot be approached with anything we are now doing. The stats say what we are doing is not working. I have saved the best to last. A significant number of these folks say they are to busy for religion, which reminds be of a sign I saw when traveling the back roads. Small country church, the sign read “ARE YOU TIRED OF RELIGION……TRY JESUS….
Next week we will continue to explore this issue of losing souls. That’s right, this whole thing is not about numbers or denominations. It is about his people, his creation and maybe if we quit looking at numbers and religion so to speak our task will be plainer. I believe that saved or not saved we are, each of us a child of God, his creation, each just as precious to him as the other.
I welcome your comments, hope to see you in the pew next week.