News about the sharp decline in the number of Americans who self-identify as Christians shook the community of faith this past year. The Pew Research Center report “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 2015, revealed that from 2007 to 2014, Americans who self-identify as Christian declined from 78.4 percent of respondents to 70.6 percent.
On the other hand, nones (those who identify with no particular religion) grew from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent in that same time period. Atheists and agnostics grew from 4 percent to 7.1 percent. The sharp decline in the number of people who identify with the Christian faith is particularly troubling to those of us who are Christian mothers. None of us likes to consider the possibility that our child may grow up to forsake the faith, but many families have experienced exactly that scenario.
These statistics may lead us to ask if there is any good news to be found. While many walk away, do those who stay in the community of faith exhibit deeper discipleship? And how are we to effectively reach a culture that no longer listens to us? The answers are a bit complicated.
A Crisis of Discipleship
A later Pew report, released November 2015, said this: “By some conventional measures, religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.” Though the percentage of those who self-identify as Christian is smaller, among those who do the rate of worship attendance held relatively steady over the past seven years. There were modest rates of growth among Christians in several key faith practices as well: weekly Bible study or prayer group participation grew from 28 percent to 32 percent, daily prayer rose from 66 percent to 68 percent, weekly Bible reading outside of worship services also grew from 41 percent to 45 percent.1