According to a new Gallup poll conducted last month, eight out of ten Americans are "Christian in one way of another."
Hmmm? Before Christians get too excited about those numbers, let's break down the stats.
That 82 percentile not only encompassed Protestants (51 percent) and Catholics (23 percent), but included "other Christian faiths" (8 percent) that many would categorize as unorthodox or simply non-Christian.
And those numbers are down from a 1948 Gallup poll when Americans were 69 percent Protestant and 22 percent Roman Catholic.
In a 1937 Gallup poll, three-fourths (73 percent) of Americans said they were church members. The number remained virtually the same through the turn of the century. Since 2000, however, that number has dropped to between 63 and 65 percent. (Wow, that's a 14 percent decline in membership in just seven years!)
But simply being a "member" of a church is very different than actually attending church. Of the two-thirds who claim church membership, only one-third said they attended once a week; 12 percent they attend "almost every week."
The number of Americans labeling themselves "Christian" is down from 91 percent to 82 percent in little over fifty years. Church membership is down from 73 percent to 66 percent over the same time. And only one half of those claiming church membership actually attend church once a week.
Despite the increasing numbers of mega-churches and TV ministries, the number of Protestants and Catholics in America has declined 19 percent. However, overseas, especially in Africa, South America and even Communist China, Christianity is flourishing.
So, why the decline in of the church in North America and increase in other areas of the world? I have some theories, but I'd like to hear yours.