On Monday, March 29, 2021, news emerged of a Gallup poll indicating that only 47% of Americans now have a religious affiliation.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey writes about matters of faith for the Washington Post. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson served as general secretary of the Reformed Church in America for 17 years and writes for RNS (Religion News Service):

I went to Wes Granberg-Michaelson’s article ‘Behind Gallup’s portrait of church decline’ for more details.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The article begins as follows:

As Holy Week began this year, a Gallup Poll found that church membership in the United States had declined to less than half of the population for the first time. The headline grabbed attention, but it’s mostly unsurprising: In a country where 90% of the 350,000 congregations in the U.S. have a profile older than the general population, time brings an inevitable decline.

Christians have also suffered self-inflicted damage: Surveys show that the identification of many white evangelicals with former President Donald Trump drove many millennials away, as did the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church over the previous decades. “Nones” — those claiming no religious affiliation — are growing, now roughly equaling the number of evangelicals or of Catholics in the U.S.

However, not everyone has stopped worshipping publicly. It appears this phenomenon affects the white population:

People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

Interestingly, there has been a slight uptick for mainline Protestant denominations:

The latest available data from the General Social Survey, a major tool for sociologists, shows that the percentage of mainline Protestants in the U.S. recently increased for the first time in nearly 30 years, from 10.2% to 10.8%, while Catholics and evangelicals showed a moderate decline.

The lack of religious affiliation with any world religion, not only Christianity, is not a matter of unbelief, either, as only 22% of those polled describe themselves as atheists.

Another RNS article looks at the survey: ‘Gallup: Fewer than half of Americans belong to a church or other house of worship’.

That article shows the Gallup graph of formal religious affiliation from the late 1930s to the present. It’s a rather shocking picture.

Looking at it, we see that, in the late 1930s, 73% of Americans were members of a church or synagogue. In the post-war years, that figure rose to 76% then went back to 73% until the 1970s when it slipped to 71%.

Today’s decline began after the Millennium, when religious affiliation was under 70%. By 2015, that figure was 55% and falling continuously to the present 47%.

By now, multiple generations have grown accustomed to not entering a place of worship unless it is for a wedding or a funeral. The article says:

Younger Americans are increasingly disconnected from organized religion, according to the report from Gallup. But the number of older Americans who are members of a house of worship has also declined in recent years.

No doubt Christian clergy will think they need to make their church services even more ‘relevant’ in a secular style. However, Britain’s Anglican churches have been doing that for decades with little to no success.

Meanwhile, in California, Pastor John MacArthur has no problem attracting well over 1,000 people to his church every Sunday and Wednesday. He also has a very well attended Spanish service.

What is the secret of his success? Preaching the Bible, one verse at a time. Clergy, take note.