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The State of The Church in America When Numbers Point To A New Reality Part 3

Written by Ed Stetzer on . Posted in Ed Stetzer

Before you dismiss research as unimportant, read this. If facts are our friends, then it's time we listen to them for the good of the Church in America.

The (Formerly Christian) Nones

The Nones, as we discussed earlier, are on the rise. Almost 1 in 4 Americans now claims to have no religious affiliation. That number will likely grow in the years to come. About a third of Millennial Americans, according to Pew, are now Nones. And they are disassociating with every segment of the church, although at differing rates.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe it’s a sign that we are clarifying what it means to be Christian in America. Most of us realize that although about three-quarters of Americans check the “Christian” box when filling out a survey, they are not all genuine followers of Jesus. For many, the idea of being Christian and American are one-in-the-same. Or they claim to be Christian because they aren’t Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim, or Buddhist. But the Church defines “Christian” differently than culture at large, and the distinction is an important one to make.

I believe it is helpful to distinguish those who profess Christianity into three categories: cultural, congregational, and convictional.

1. Cultural Christians. The first category is made up of people who believe themselves to be Christians simply because their culture tells them they are. They are Christian by heritage. They may have religious roots in their family or may come from a people group tied to a certain religion, such as Southern Evangelicals or Irish Catholics. This group makes up around one-third of the 75% who self-identify as Christians—or about a quarter of all Americans.2. Congregational Christians. The second category is similar to the first, except these individuals at least have some connection to congregational life. They have a home church ...

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