2021 | Week of April 5 | Radio Transcript #1406
A sobering recent Gallup poll found that church membership is declining pretty significantly in the United States, with fewer than 50 percent of Americans now saying they are members of a local church. That’s an historic low.
Of course, that’s an aggregate number. If you break the data out by age, for example, you find notable differences, with the older population considerably more likely to be church members than those in the younger generations.
Obviously there’s some kind of difference between church membership and church attendance. Many people will pretty faithfully attend church without ever joining, especially today among the younger set who don’t seem to think the level of commitment that comes with membership is necessary or right for them.So what’s my point? First, church attendance, church involvement and, yes, church membership are important in general for any society. This is especially true in cultures where Christianity has been dominant, since the local church has been a mainstay in transmitting Biblical truth, encouraging people to live according to God’s Word and equipping believers to share the Gospel with others. A society that is filled with people who know and do these things looks very different from societies where that is not the case.
A look at our culture right now testifies to that truth. The influence of Christianity on the United States has waned and is continuing to wane. Church attendance, involvement and membership has some part to play in that, and I suspect its role might be more significant than we would like to think.
Another area that is very much impacted by the level of church involvement is marriage. The Institute for Family Studies reports that “[c]ontrary to what is sometimes claimed, Christians who go to church on a regular basis are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce than the general population.”
Additionally, marriage happiness is impacted by church attendance and involvement. Again, research done by The Institute for Family Studies found that 78% of individuals in marriages where both spouses attend church regularly report being very or extremely happy in their relationship. In marriages where neither husband or wife attend church regularly, that percentage drops to 67% and in relationships where only the woman is actively engaged with church, it drops even more, down to 59%. Interestingly, however, in situations where only the man attends church regularly, 78% of individuals reported being very or extremely happy in their relationship. Clearly church involvement makes a positive difference in how happy spouses are in their marriage.
Church attendance, involvement and even membership impact the entire family. In families where both mom and dad regularly attend and are quite involved with a local church, children come to understand the importance of church to dad and mom and thus to the entire family.
Done right, children from families where church is a priority learn about service, commitment, sacrifice, tithing and giving, teamwork, and much more. Setting this example at least gives the children an opportunity to do the same as they become adults and establish their own marriages and families. Unfortunately, even the best examples are not foolproof by any means. But if no church involvement happens within a family, we can be pretty certain that the likelihood of the next generation making church a priority is pretty slim.
I hasten to add that the churches do bear some responsibility in all this. They need to be places married couples want to attend, places where married couples can find areas of service, places where they can connect with others who are like them, and more. And all this needs to be done without in any way compromising the Truth of God’s Word.
But most of the responsibility in all of this rests on the husband and wife. They need to consider church important to their relationship and to their family. When they do that they will seek out a church that is right for their family—where they can be a blessing and be blessed. When individual American families once again begin making that commitment, then I believe we will see a change in the trend regarding church membership. I am absolutely convinced that when this happens, our culture will change in a positive direction as the influence of Christianity increases once again. And this can happen one marriage, one family at a time.
For Wisconsin Family Council, this is Julaine Appling reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”