A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times reported on a major study that shows a continuing and rapid decline in the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christian. Based on survey done in 2014, the Pew Research Center reports that 71% of adults say that they are Christian, down 8% since a similar poll in 2007. This taking place all across the country – in rural settings as well as urban center; in the Bible belt and on the coasts; it crosses age and race; it affects nearly all denominations (May 13, 2015, A11).
Some of this is generational, and it is particularly evident among those who are young, well-educated and affluent. Many theorize that about what is causing this, including: the politicization of Christianity by political conservatives; general disengagement from traditional institutions and labels (political party affiliation is falling as well); interreligious marriage; economic development.
Challenges like this are also opportunities, in this case an opportunity for the church to reconsider much of what we are doing and how we do it. One thing we can do is re-examine the Christian message and how we communicate it. In the month of June, I will once again lead a Sunday morning class at 9:30 looking at basic ideas of our faith with an eye to the question of how to better express our faith. Here is the outline. I hope to see you so that we can share the conversation together.
Reformed Christianity: Foundations and Frontiers
June 7: God’s Grace – the ground of faith and life
June 14: Grace and the Good Life – values and vocation
June 21: Frontier #1: Roman Catholicism – prayer, contemplation and worship life
June 28: Frontier #2: Buddhism and Judaism – suffering and the “sovereignty of God”
July 5: Frontier #3: Medicine and science – “soul” and body