My friend, Greg Albrecht, provided the following. It’s a fascinating, and sobering, postscript to my previous blog on “Nones and Dones: “The number of unchurched people in America would make the 8th most populous country in the world!”
George Barna’s most current research on the issue of Nones and Dones is dated 2014. The report (“10 Facts About America’s Churchless”) says, among other things:
“The number of unchurched people in America would make the 8th most populous country in the world. In 2014, the estimated number of people who the Barna Group would describe as “churchless” – meaning they have not attended a Christian church service, other than a special event such as a wedding or a funeral, at any time during the last six months – stands at 114 million. Add to that 42 million children and teenagers who are unchurched and you have 156 million U.S. residents who are not engaged with a Christian church.
“The vast majority of America’s churchless have attended a church. Very few of America’s unchurched adults are purely unchurched – most of them, rather, are de-churched. Only about one-quarter of unchurched adults (23%) has never attended a Christian church at any time in his or her life . . . The majority of unchurched individuals (76%) have firsthand experience with one or more Christian churches and, based on that sampling, have decided they can better use their time in other ways.”
By my calculations, 76% of adult unchurched individuals who are, to use Barna’s term, de-churched, for one reason or another, would be 86.64 million (76% of 114 million).
I wouldn’t say this number is trending – it is an overwhelming tidal wave of change.
Comments from Steve:
To me, the point is not whether someone thinks this is a good thing or a bad thing, whether you are a staunch defender of institutional Christian religion or a critic. The point is, the nones and dones is a reality. You may interpret the reality any way you want. However, to pretend it is not a reality, or to pretend it is not significant, is irrational.
If you are out of institutional Christianity, it is not enough to criticize where you have been, kicking the cradle so to speak. You carry the responsibility of providing a better, more viable, more kingdom-aligned, functional alternative other than just a smaller scale of what you have always known and done. Replicating the same value system dysfunctions, just on a smaller scale, is not spiritually progressive. It is not enough to repaint the mousetrap. You have to ask if you are supposed to be in the mouse catching business to begin with.
If you are committed to traditional structures and methods of Christianity, self-reflection is required. The reality requires more than recarpeting the sanctuary, “more inspiring sermons,” “a contemporary worship team,” more bake sales and barbecues, “stewardship campaigns,” and a new “evangelism outreach program.” Since Jesus was attractive to the unlovely and sinners, we have to ask ourselves, “Why is there no attraction toward us and our “church”? If our pride does not get in the way, the humbling embarrassment of asking ourselves that question can be empowering and transformative. It will also likely challenge the status quo, especially if the answer to that question touches the entrenched powers of prestige, money, control, and power. The old canard applies: change, adapt, or be swept away into the historical dustbin or irrelevancy–a phenomenon that is already well underway for many situations.
The fact that none of us are perfect, therefore any assembly of the imperfect will also be imperfect, is no excuse whatsoever for the perpetuation of dysfunction. This is not about “finding a perfect church.” This is about addressing deep, systemic values and methods that are anathema to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
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