The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life recently released a major study of the religious landscape in America. The study reveals that 26 percent of Americans are members of “evangelical” churches, while 18 percent belong to “mainline” Protestant churches. The term evangelical refers (loosely) to churches that hold to the authority of Scripture and to the biblical gospel of salvation by grace through faith, while mainline is used to refer to major denominations that are historically connected to the Protestant tradition but have generally abandoned the biblical gospel.
Since 1970, the stats for “mainline” denominations show a steady decline:
- Episcopal Church: down 34%
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: down 16%
- Presbyterian Church USA: down 25%
- United Church of Christ: down 38%
- United Methodist Church: down 25%
I worked a brief stint in politics after college, and on the campaign trail, we used to say “the numbers don’t lie.” Data has a way of revealing the truth. I report these statistics here for one reason, and that is to show that the numbers are telling a different story than the professors at your local college or the commentators on your favorite cable news channel.
The media and the academic elite beat it into our heads continually that to really be relevant to the culture, churches should stop preaching the Bible, relinquish our archaic beliefs in God and the afterlife, agree that Jesus was basically just a Jewish version of Gandhi, and hire lesbian pastors who will preach a gospel of “tolerance” that abandons all claims of truth and objectivity.
The data shows just the opposite: the churches that aren’t doing this are growing, while the churches that are seem to be on a path to imminent death.
When the numbers and the academics disagree, be encouraged: the numbers don’t lie.