America is becoming a secular nation much like those in Europe. The Catholic Church has born a significant amount of damage over many years, but this is a problem that is well known and is not a new thing. While many Protestant sects have pointed to the Church, they have also refused to recognize that what they see in the Church is just a reflection of something taking place in their own groups but do not wish to talk about. However, the hard reality of decline has become so apparent that many are being forced to recognize the changes which are taking place and also will have long-term consequences.
After the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptists are the next single largest Christian bloc of all the blocs in the country. According to a story from the Christian Post, the Southern Baptists report the largest single decline so far that has taken place in a century.
While the number of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention has increased slightly, total membership in those churches suffered the largest single-year decline in more than 100 years, according to recent measures from LifeWay Christian Resources.
In the Annual Church Profile prepared by the publishing and distribution division of the SBC based in Nashville, Tennessee, data show that the denomination lost some 287,655 members, nearly 2% of its adherents from 2018 to 2019. Current membership stands at 14,525,579.
While the number of churches in the denomination increased by 74 for a total of 47,530 churches over 2018, it did not reflect an increase in the number of congregations. Overall, the number of SBC congregations fell to 51,138 over 2018. Multisite congregations, however, grew by 505 campuses.
Southern Baptist baptisms also fell by more than 4%, dropping from 246,442 in 2018 to 235,748 in 2019. In 2019, there was one baptism for every 62 Southern Baptists. And Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said the decline in baptisms is a reflection of the increasing secularization of America.
“These numbers are not able to tell the story of all the evangelistic efforts that many individuals and churches have put in this past year. They do indicate, however, that the efforts of the same number of people in a congregation on average are seeing fewer people come to Christ and being baptized,” McConnell said in a statement.
“The Southern Baptist Convention is not immune to the increasing secularization among Americans that is seen in more of our children and our neighbors not having interest in coming to Jesus,” he said.
A study from the Pew Research Center last October noted that only 65% of Americans now identify as Christian, while those who identify as religiously unaffiliated — a group which includes atheists, agnostics and people who don’t identify with any religion — swelled to 26% of the population. The drop in the number of Americans identifying as Christian reflected a 12% decline when compared to the general population 10 years ago. The decline was visible across multiple demographics but particularly among young adults.
Research by the Public Religion Research Institute in 2016 on why Americans are leaving religion also pointed to the increasing share of American adults who have been joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated, and said it is being “fed by an exodus of those who grew up with a religious identity.” Younger Americans today are also more likely than seniors to be raised without a religious identity.
In addition to the decline in membership, giving in the SBC was also down. Total church receipts and undesignated receipts were both down in 2019 after two years of growth. Total church receipts fell 1.44% to $11.6 billion while undesignated church receipts decreased 0.01% to $9.6 billion. (source)
This is not a surprise, and it is not as though people are changing denominations. They are leaving religion and not returning.
Likewise, all of the talk for years about “Latino Christianity”- the poaching of Hispanics from the Catholic Church by American guitar-strumming check writers from places like Colorado and Tennessee -has also been shown to be a farce because the faith does not get passed to the children and it dies away very quickly, and thus leaving a void that is filled by secularism. There are going to be more Hispanic people in churches and people of other races, but this is because of demographic changes already in progress, not because of a particular interest from any said demographic more so than when compared to others.
Christianity is no longer a political and in many ways, social force in the US. Those people who mocked Christians for talking about a threat to them were either wrong or wanted Christianity as a whole to lose her position of power, because that is what is taking place right now.
The Catholic Church will survive. She will be a lot smaller and it will be a lot harder, but Matthew’s Gospel has already assured this, plus this is supported by the current numbers, even though they are not good. The Protestant denominations will be struck a lot harder, and one can expect to see the “business” of religion lose a lot of its, to use the awful phrase, “market share” in the coming years. Thus to be a Christian will truly be much more like how it was in the days after the Resurrection and until the time of St. Constantine, which is that Christianity will be a persecuted religion hated by many but pursued by those who believe because it is moral and right.