World News and Trends: Church attendance declines while interest in God increases

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Church attendance declines while interest in God increases

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The quote continues, "In fact according to a 1999 study by Mark Chaves, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, belief in the afterlife is going up, even as church attendance drops. Attendance and membership have been drifting lower ever since the baby boomers ... started to wander away again" (emphasis added)."

Statistical information is always subject to manipulation, but Chaves also claims that, on average, only 28 percent of Catholics attend Mass on any given weekend and about one in five Protestants attend church on Sunday. In general these downward trends have been confirmed by other sources.

Wrote Los Angeles Times religion writer Margaret Ramirez: "Church attendance is declining in the United States and other industrialized nations . . . At the same time, however, in both the United States and elsewhere, the percentage of people who report that they think about spiritual issues is holding steady or on the rise."

Those polled also showed considerable interest in the meaning and purpose of life itself. One member of the Michigan team "believes that the findings show that while allegiance to religious institutions declines, spiritual concerns remain strong but are displayed in different outlets from the Church."

Dan Wakefield put it this way in his recent book, How Do We Know When It's God? He wrote: "I haven't lost faith in God, but I've lost faith in words." The impression given by these various lines of thought is that God mainly reveals Himself in other ways than through the Bible and churches.

However, other observers have expressed serious misgivings about ungoverned spiritual expressions divorced both from the Bible and the church. They point out that this phenomenon reflects a move toward "cafeteria Christianity" in which believers pick and choose for themselves doctrines from different denominations and even New Age groups.

To further understand these important issues, please request our free booklets What Is Your Destiny?, The Church Jesus Built and How to Understand the Bible. (Sources: The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times.)