Will The Church In America Survive?

"Will The Church in America Survive?"

The church in America is in crisis.

All the stats confirm the fact. Here are just a few of the numbers. As you read them – like the prophet Jeremiah – may they cause you to weep. 

  • Over the past twenty years every mainline Protestant church has been in significant decline.
  • In the first half of the 1900’s there were 27 churches for every American; today there are less than 11.
  • Every year approximately 1,000 new churches open their doors, while approximately 4,000 close theirs.
  • Despite an increase in the US population over the last ten years of 11.4 %, the combined membership of Protestant denominations over the past ten years has decreased by 9.5%.
  • Despite all the efforts of church planting and church revitalization, every year another 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity.
  • According to a 2012 survey, the number of Protestants has fallen below the 50% mark for the first time in American History.
  • Twelve hundred Evangelicals leave the faith each day.
  • Over 20 million believers no longer have anything to do with the church.

No matter how you parse the numbers, like a skier on an alpine slope, the numbers are rapidly moving in a downward direction.

I’m saddened and alarmed by the condition of the Church. Granted, there are a few promising, bright spots. But in general   the church is not well.

Yet, I have hope.

Many are saying that the church may be in a season of reformation as significant as the days of Martin Luther. Theologian and history professor, Phyllis Tickle, is one of those voices. In her book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, she proposes that about every 500 years the church goes through a “great” transformation. She supports her premise by…

counting back 500 years from the present to the Great Reformation,

and then 500 hundred years from the Great Reformation to the Great Schism,

and then five hundred years from the Great Schism to the monastic movement,

and then five hundred years from the monastic movement to the first century and time of the apostles.

She makes the observation that when these violent cycles of upheaval occur, there are always at least three consistent results:

  • a more vital form of Christianity emerges
  • the organized expression of Christianity becomes more pure
  • the church ends up with two new expressions rather than just one.

I, along with many others, agree with Tickle. The church is in the throes of another great reformation.   

So I invite you to follow along with me over my next 4 to 5 blogs as we take a look at The State Of The Church and Some Ideas For Reformation Within The Church.

But first you need to know something about me.

I’m not a naysayer or a doomsday prophet. I’m a “church guy.” I love the church. I believe in the church and have a high theology of the church. I’m a student of the church and a practitioner within the church. Undoubtedly, the church is going through major convulsions but I still have tremendous hope for her.

Do you? If so why? If not why not?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.


Sincerely Submitted

Ken L Roberts

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “Will The Church In America Survive?

  1. Thanks, Ken. This subject so needs to be breached. I think church leaders need to stop turning their heads and continuing with the same tired, anemic programs and revitalization attempts. All I can say is that I want to have hope for the church, but here we are with four children still at home having devotional time on Sunday, and occasionally visiting churches in our area. We want them to attend church, but not because it's a religious exercise. We would rather that they have a personal relationship with Christ, and know His Word because that's what will get them through the storms of life, not how many consecutive weeks they attend youth or young adult group. I hope for a reformation. It's the only thing that will save the church from extinction.

  2. Cheryl,

    I agree! There are many, many people and families like yours that now there's more to the journey with Christ and they are hungry and looking for ways and for people to express that same journey with them.

    It causes me to think that "reformation" is already happening.


  3. Just came from a regional pastor "brain- storming" group where this same discussion took place. We see the scaffolding of recent, traditional structures collapsing. The programs, buildings and styles are mere supporting mechanisms to our main purpose of MAKING DISCIPLES. The question we were asking is what will that look like? We felt that challenging this change is futile only because it's going to happen whether we want it too or not!

  4. Jeff,

    Thanks for the comment. I think the question that you pastors are asking, is back to the crucial question: In the time, era, and culture that we live how do we make disciples? As that question is answered it will then affect certain approaches to church, structures, and programs. But without asking and answering that question, and without that question being the reason behind any changes, all changes will be peripheral instead of fundamental.

    Your comment is encouraging. I believe more and more authentic followers of Jesus – both of those serving in leadership and shepherding roles within the church and those who aren't – are asking and trying to return to this question of making and be disciples!!!!

    Keep up the good work.

    Ken L Roberts

  5. Growing up Lutheran, we learned that October 31st was Reformation Day. I was just talking about that with my two younger sons, aged 16 and 13. The actual date that Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg was October 31, 1517, so it has been almost 500 years since that latest reformation, per your blog post. I think you may be right, it has already begun!

  6. Ken,

    Now we're asking the right questions: how does pastors today in the 21st century make disciples? and what would the church be, in light of the Scriptures in preparation of His coming? how do we respond to the lost & needy people in the meantime since they're are more churches closings than openings to date?

    We can no longer afford to do church services 'as usual' if you will, but with positive changes that could make a difference in people's lives that can last forever…


  7. Elmer,

    I believe you are asking the right questions! Awesome. These questions are the key to reformation. Thinking like yours makes me hopeful!!


  8. Dear, the Church is not dependent upon anyone. But those who are in the church can profane it or consecrate it. Not only in U S but every where the Church has been politicized, contextualized and conventionalized. Who can revive or reform it? Because of the spirit of sacrilegious the church suffer. Let us pray.

  9. I stand in agreement that the organized church as we have known it for the past few hundred years is in trouble. Virtually all measures support that perspective. I also believe that the Church, the body of Christ, is alive and well. However, the body cannot sustain forever in an under supported state.

    The good news is that the good news cannot and will not be stopped. I believe that there is a revival of sorts brewing. The Church will be revitalized in coming years by BEING the Church in all that we do, living unapologetically and transparently Christ-centered lives, 24×7. The marketplace/workplace is a gigantic mission field and we must stay true to our Christian values and disciple others in that space.

    It isn't that GOING to church isn't important. We are called to gather for fellowship and to equip and encourage one another and to worship God. But BEING the Church should happen whether we GO to church or not.

    Sadly, and perhaps bluntly stated, some organized churches have instituted human rules, rituals, and values that do not honor God. Ego, pride, and fear can create an environment that is disconnected from the Lord. When this becomes the "norm", ultimately people who are seeking a relationship with Jesus will sense that those surroundings are not viable or desirable.

    I pray that the local churches will awaken and refocus on Jesus Christ. I pray that believers will not walk away from deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus. I pray that the marketplace will embrace the coming revival and that new churches will be born out of His Church… house churches, workplace churches, and so on.

    In Christ and always for HIS Glory!

  10. I love this article and couldn't agree more. In fact,
    I'm in the midst of publishing a book about the sin in the church and the cure that will cure it. It should be out by Christmas.

  11. Jack

    Thanks for the comment and congrats on the upcoming book. I've published one book and almost finished with my second one, so I know firsthand what a task it is. Congrats.

    What's the name of the book?

  12. Well I'm still working that out, but it will probably be titled, "The Church in America is Sick… But is All Hope Lost?" Praise God! I am excited to see what God will be doing through this book. I felt He wanted me to write it because the church will die unless we become all God desires us to become.

  13. The simple answer is that the church will survive because it is the work of God.
    however some of the traditional structures we know are falling away because they are not of God.
    Issues, such as homosexuality are causing the church to take stands which are ultimately for or against what the Lord has revealed in the Bible. (Romans 1, etc.)
    this falling away must come before the coming of Christ.(2nd Thessalonians 2:3, Matthew 24:10,12)
    We must busy ourselves with the work of the Kingdom, both in the Great Commission and the Great Community (building the church)

    Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
    Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

    Love and Prayer,
    in Christ
    Chris Bowman