North American Christians know that North America is becoming more secular and unbelieving at a rapid rate.
What’s going on? An article, “Where Have All The Christians Gone,” by Heath R. Curtis in The Lutheran Witness (November 2017, p. 6-9) identifies a number of factors causing this decline:
- Secularization: “A more secular worldview in the culture at large, pushed by cultural leaders in media, government and education, has had a large impact.” (p. 6) Curtis talks of a “secular war” waged on biblical marriage and the family which is resulting in marriage rates declining, divorce rates rising, family size shrinking — all factors that put downward pressure on the “natural growth” of one’s church. He observes, “From a young age Americans are indoctrinated by their televisions and their schools to have an anti-biblical worldview on the origins of life, the meaning of the human condition, sexuality, and a hundred other topics. This puts up barriers to the Word in evangelism that must be torn down. And even more insidiously, this is an attack on the hearts and minds of Lutheran youth, alienating them from the faith.” (p. 8)
In this cultural climate, the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod has seen a sharp decline in infant baptisms, but a rise in adult conversions. Congregations need to focus on membership retention: “supporting young people as they transition from the cradle roll, to the Sunday School, to the youth group, to college, to forming their own families in young adulthood.” (p. 8)
Curtis, discussing adult conversion, observes, “For example, in the Southern Baptist Convention, one adult convert joins each year for every 47 adult members in the church. The LCMS sees more adult converts per capita: 1:44. Given the massive resources they expend on outreach, it is unsurprising that the Mormons have the best ratio in this regard, but you may be surprised to find that it is only 1:40.” (p. 9)