Decline of Christianity in North America
In the past three years, a number of articles have been published about the decline of Christianity in America. CNN published the results of a March 9, 2009, poll that concluded, “America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago.” The article went on to explain, “Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identication Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.” That is a drop of more than 10 percent in only twenty years.
Ken Ham, founder and president of Answers in Genesis, an organization that promotes a biblical view of creation, is concerned about how few young adults there are in many of the churches where he speaks. He enlisted America’s Research Group to study why young people were leaving the church. Based on the results of the study, Ham wrote a book entitled Already Gone. The results of the survey are shocking: “95 percent of 20 to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.” Ham concluded, “The next generation of believers is draining from the churches, and it causes me great personal and professional concern.”
After studying the influence of Christianity in American society, Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek magazine, concluded, “While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago.”
Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, has written extensively about this issue as well. Referring to the decreasing number of young believers, Stetzer says, “This is sobering news that the church needs to change the way it does ministry.” There is no arguing that the statistics reveal that fewer young adults identify with the Christian religion now than ever before. If such trends continue unchecked, the organized Christian church will soon find itself in serious trouble.
Though the numbers reveal a decline of Christianity at the national level, this does not mean that every church in every town or area is facing imminent closure. A number of bright spots on the horizon demonstrate that churches can grow in the current spiritual climate. Some of the most-encouraging examples are found in the most unlikely places. Vermont is a great example of a place where the next generation is being reached despite all the statistics that make it seem improbable.
The Green Mountain Baptist Association is an evangelical mission organization ministering in Vermont and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Founded in 1982, the association is dedicated to strengthening existing evangelical churches in Vermont and starting new Baptist churches in towns that are underserved spiritually. According to a December 2009 survey published in USA Today, Vermont is the least-religious state in America, with the lowest rate of church attendance in the nation. Despite these less-than-stellar religious statistics, from 2001 to 2010, the Green Mountain Baptist Association grew from seventeen churches to thirty-seven churches, and attendance at Sunday morning worship services grew from just under nine hundred to over two thousand. Though statistically Vermont’s Christian community is in decline, the Green Mountain Baptist Association is rapidly growing.