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.