The Wall Street Journal noted that part of the reason for the massive destruction in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan was due to a failure to acknowledge its’ size and power as it approached their shores: “They had simply failed to imagine a storm so large. That failure of imagination, combined with residents’ skepticism …had a deadly and devastating impact. As of this weekend, the death toll reached 5,235 with a further 1,613 missing…They grossly underestimated the havoc the storm would wreak.”
Are we grossly underestimating the massive storm that may have already hit our shores? I have been gathering statistics from different researchers for the past six months on the state of the church. Here are a few data points I discovered:
- An estimated 8 out of 10 youth from evangelical Christian homes walk away from their faith by age 23 (Brown 2006).
- Less than two out of five who believe the Bible is God’s word read it at least once a week.
- Only one out of four American Christians study the Bible regularly to find direction for their lives (Gallup, 2003).
- Large-scale studies now conclusively reveal that people are not experiencing transformation in our churches (Reveal- WCA, George Barna).
- Divorce rates are just as high among born-again Christians as among other groups (Barna Research Group, 2008).
- 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do. (NY Times, 2010)
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close (U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and David Olson).
- 92.5% of churches in the United States are racially segregated.In fact churches today are ten times more segregated than the neighborhoods in which they sit, and twenty times more segregated than nearby public schools.America is actually becomingmore diverse, while the church remains consistently segregated (Mark Chavez, “National Congregations Study”, Dr. Michael O. Emerson).
A typhoon is approaching the American and Western church. Perhaps it has already hit our shores. The solution, I am afraid, may be far larger and more far-reaching than most of us want to go.