Declining Faith?

Declining Faith?

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A guest post written by Ronald Scott

A recent study by the Pew Forum on religion and public life found that the number of Protestants in America is slowly declining. The study suggests that a major factor driving the decline is “an increase in religiously unaffiliated Americans.” Two-thirds of them still say they believe in God, but expressed disenchantment with religious organizations that are too concerned with money, power, rules, and politics.

Are average church members abandoning their faith?

When I did some research to try to answer this question, I found a Christian Science Sentinel article titled, “Does Religion Have a Future?” The author asks, “How important is religion anyway?” He makes the point, “Religion does not literally put up buildings. In its truest form it builds people…. It can keep the light in people’s lives.”

My personal experience supports this idea. I’ve always enjoyed active membership in a Christian Science branch church because the church commits itself to being a healing factor through consistent prayer, which supports the community. This invites opportunities to be supportive in practical ways.

A few years ago, the large mountainous area about 45 miles east of my community suffered heavy losses in a very damaging wildfire. A number of volunteer firefighters in that area had their homes burn to the ground while they were called out to fight on a fire line. We received information that there were unfortunate delays in the processing of their insurance claims, so our members put together financial gifts for each of those firefighters’ families, drove out to their community, and presented these gifts to help carry them through to when their settlements were expected. This totally impressed all of them.

Events like this are taking place every day.

From my perspective, it’s not accurate to assume people are turning away from religion, because it is difficult to quantify the number of people praying to resolve their problems as well as problems in their communities – as well as gauge the effectiveness of this religious activity. As I view it, this idea of numbers and trends being a determinant as to a religion’s quality and effectiveness is not logical. With God being available to each and everyone of us, prayers are being answered constantly.

We can take great comfort in this.

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.

Comments

  1. Pamela says

    Thanks Ron for this information. It is important to understand that just because the “numbers” don’t seem to be there, does not mean that people are not praying about their communities and those things that are important to them.

    Thanks too for sharing what your church did for the firefighter’s families, that was certainly Love in action. I love a statement that Mary Baker Eddy (the discoverer of Christian Science) makes in her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, “Giving does not impoverish us … neither does withholding enrich us.” I am sure your church was enriched by its giving.

  2. says

    At a recent get-together a conversation centered on a mother’s hopeless feeling for her son whom she was afraid was just wasting his time. It seemed she’s done everything she could to guide him but was at a loss for what to do next. I spoke up with the offering that the best thing she could do, and maybe the only thing was to pray that he already had all that he needed and was compete. The four other people in the group all agreed and said the same things to her and religion or faith had not been part of that conversation and we barely knew each other. So, I would agree that there is no way to measure who is receptive to spiritual ideas and we shouldn’t assume that others aren’t. Then we spoke on issues of faith for the rest of the evening. It was apparent that that was really what we all were the most interested in. Who knew?

  3. Judy says

    It is wonderful to hear of the practical steps your members took to be a “hands-on” help to those in need. Well done good and faithful servants.

  4. diana says

    Good to hear about a church helping out! Thanks Ron. I betcha there are a lot of “silent” Christians.

  5. Tracy says

    This is such a wonderful article that reaffirms what we already know – that spirituality is continuing to meet human needs everywhere we go. I think it’s tempting sometimes to do headcounts on Sundays and Wednesdays, but we need to hold steady to the idea that many, many people are spiritual and are finding spiritual solutions to their problems – healthwise or otherwise – on a daily basis. A light that shines on the top of a hill cannot be hidden, no matter how what. Thanks for writing this, Ronald!

  6. Charles James Martin says

    We cannot understand reality as God knows it by looking at the material picture. The statement that the number of Protestants is declining may hint at the thought that its system is not satisfying people’s spiritual needs due to the church’s rote routines and stating of Bible quotes along with human, personal commentaries and interpretations of them without genuine heartfelt Christian feeling and the effective prayer for growth in grace.The Bible tells us, “And they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest.” I view this as a prophesy. Right now the leaven of Truth does its work, and this human appearance of declining Protestant numbers may be evidence of this. People must put off the old man and put on the new man in order for these searchers to get on the path that will lead them to their goal of understanding God, man and his relation to God,, and Gods’ laws. Mrs. Eddy tells us, “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortal. In the perfect man the Savior saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.” What these people don’t get yet is that man’s perfection is a Scientific fact that can be proved. The church workers mentioned above are those lights on the hill, whose charitable actions hint at the Christly nature that is inherent in each of us. We hear from Mrs. Eddy that Jesus’ prayers were deep conscientious protests of truth. He was Immanuel, “God with us,” the Spirit of Truth and Love. He showed us that of which man is capable. I agree that no one knows what is going on in the minds of others. I would think that many are searching for deeper spiritual understanding, for which Christian Science provides, and that inevitable, here or hereafter, this search will end for then in their being led to Science, the truth of being. It is the needed way of thinking, as was illustrated and demonstrated in Christ Jesus’ life. Just look at its results, as are reported in the New Testament.

  7. Don Ingwerson says

    Ron, you make a good point. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of expressing active kindness for each other and the good that each of us can do without reference to numbers.

  8. Jim says

    I have always found my church membership to be a very valuable part of my life and being. I was introduced to the idea of church membership by my wife. That membership and the love of the church members expressed to me after my wife’s recent passing was very healing. I can’t imagine not having church membership as part of my life.