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Faith: Some good news and some bad news as the ‘nones’ pull into second place

America's changing religious climate Photo: Hartford, Conneticut

America’s changing religious climate Photo: Hartford, Connecticut

[by Dean Smith] Rush Ministries (Reaching Unchurched Students for Him) just held a major evangelistic event in Thomaston, Georgia on May 5th, 2015, where according to reports over 950 people accepted Christ. The goal of the organization, that was formed in 2004, is to equip and motivate students to share their faith with other students.

Over 7,000 people attended this year’s event that featured Sadie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame and more recently Dancing with the Stars. She apparently even showed off some dance moves.

Other speakers included Lecrae, a Grammy winning Christian rapper. His song Anomaly was #1 on Billboard’s top 200. Both Lecrae and Robertson shared their testimony.

Despite the hot and muggy climate nearly 1,000 went forward to accept Christ. Considering many of these are students, we can’t ignore the significance of what happened. The Holy Spirit was moving.

There are a number of references in the Bible that speak of an end time revival that will see many enter the Kingdom of God. Joel 2:28-32 talks about a great Holy Spirit outpouring associated with the end times. In verse 23, the prophet also spoke of the early and latter rain. Some believe the early rain referred to the Holy Spirit outpouring in the Book of Acts and the latter rain will occur during the end times.

Now for the bad news

Pew Research Center is reporting that a survey conducted in 2014 shows that while Christianity remains the dominant religion in America, its numbers are slipping. Meanwhile the “nones” are seeing dramatic growth.

In 2014, 70.6% of Americans called themselves Christians. Though it shows that Christianity is the dominant belief in America, this number is down from 78.4% who called themselves Christians in 2007.

Of course calling yourself Christian and believing in Christ are not necessarily the same thing. The survey showed a dramatic decline in numbers among the largely liberal mainland denominations which fell from 18.1% in 2007 to 14.1% in 2014. Roman Catholics similarly experience a decline going from 23.9% to 20.8%.

Even the Evangelical church couldn’t escape the downward swing, but it was much smaller as our numbers declined by .9% from 26.3% to 25.4%. In 2014, the Evangelical church is still the largest religious block in the US.

The second largest group in 2014, sitting at 22.8%, were those classified as “unaffiliated” or “nones.” It is made up of agnostics, atheists or those who describe their religion as nothing at all.

In 2007, at 16.1%, the “nones” were the fourth largest group behind Evangelical, Catholic and Mainline, but today they are second and climbing.

Those with non-Christian faiths also experienced growth, in part due to increased immigration. In 2014, they represented 5.9% of the population up from 4.7% in 2007.

Though these numbers on the outset look disturbing, in some ways they may reflect more honesty in answers. Though in 2007, 78% of Americans identified themselves as Christian, there is no way we are seeing those numbers in Sunday morning church attendance. The reality is people are saying one thing and doing another. The 2014 numbers may simply suggest more people saying what they are doing.

It also may be revealing an odd end-time’s dichotomy. While on one hand, the Bible speaks of a revival that will sweep many into the Kingdom of God, it also speaks of a falling away taking place as well. Some suspect this may be already taking place in the mainline liberal churches that have rejected the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. (1 Timothy 4:1 NASV)

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