Interested Culture/Uninteresting Churches

Sam Rainer

December 26, 2007

One of today’s Christian Post headlines reads “American Christianity Remains Strong in 2007.” The tagline is derived from a recent Gallup Poll reporting that the vast majority of Americans identify with a Christian faith. The breakdown looks like this on a national scale: 82% of Americans identify with a Christian faith. Yet only 62% of Americans say they are members of a church. And only 44% of Americans can be described as frequent churchgoers.

Applying these percentages to the current US population as reported by the Census Bureau, we get the following numbers:

249 million people in the US think they are Christians (or at least identify with Christianity).

188 million people are somewhere on a church’s membership roll.

134 million people actually attend church.

These figures mean that 115 million people in the United States identify with the Christian faith but have no way to grow spiritually in a body of believers. And 61 million of them are easily identified (they belong to a church). Clearly, not all of these people are orthodox Christians. And I’ve seen lower figures reported on the number of Americans who actually attend church. But the sad fact remains: our churches are not connecting with the vast amount of people who are at least somewhat receptive.

Once again, the polls show that many people in the United States connect with Christianity. The receptivity is out there. The opportunity for a great revival lies dormant beneath the surface of our culture. But perhaps a better spin on the story would read “Interest in Christianity Remains Strong in 2007 – Churches Do Little to Capitalize on this Interest.” Perhaps 2008 will bring a new breed of churches willing to become interesting to the people who are interested in what they are supposed to represent.

6 comments on “Interested Culture/Uninteresting Churches”

  1. I’m curious as to the generational breakdown. The problem with this survey though is I’m sure they are “self-described” Christians. For some to be a non-Christian is the same as being “un-American”. A recent Barna Group survey places evangelicals at 10% of the population – determining that by having those surveyed affirm different believes which are considered foundational (deity of Christ, infallibility of the Bible, etc.), 38% were considered to be non-evangelical, born-again Christians (those who claim to have a personal relationship with Christ, but do not subscribe to an evangelical worldview), the rest were self-described Christians and outsiders.

    Have you read Dan Kimball’s book “They Like Jesus, But Not the Church”? You are right that people are spiritual sensitive and are seeking, but they don’t like what they see in the church.

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Shane – good clarification points. ‘Evangelical’ and even ‘Christian’ can be amorphous terms. I prefer the definitions focus on the fundamentals of the faith. And it does appear that the respondents were ‘self-described’ Christians in this survey.

    Obviously many, if not most, of them may not be Christians. I just wish the church could do a better job at connecting with those who (at least on some level) connect with us.

    I’m behind on my reading (always am). Dan Kimball’s book is on my “must read” shelf. I’ve got two books in front of it, then I’m going to dive into his book.

  3. I hear you when it comes to being behind on reading. My problem is that I am usually reading more than one book at a time.

  4. Chilly says:

    So relieved to hear Gallop’s assessment. Ha.

    Bottom line: Far too many people are going to hell. We’re called to make a difference. And, we’re not doing enough.

    Enjoy your site.

  5. Sam Rainer says:

    Thanks Chilly. We can always go more, tell more, give more, and send more.

  6. forthekingdom says:

    I now understand why more and more people are talking about your blog. Thanks for the informative reports and thanks for your gracious spirit.

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