“It’s not just millennials leaving the church. Whether married or single, rich or poor, young or old, living in the West or the Bible Belt, almost every demographic group has seen a significant drop in people who call themselves Christians, Pew found.”
That was the paragraph of the story that really caught my attention. We have been hearing for years now that the Christian church membership has been on a rapid descent. Much of this was attributed to a younger population – The Millennials – who were more caught up with everything digital to attend church on Sundays.
This recently published report of findings by the Pew Research Centre sheds a brighter light. More and a more diverse number of people are no longer identifying themselves as Christians. The decline in church attendance was hardly a secret and now this?
What next for the Christian church? Is its leadership ready to listen to the still small but now growing more loud voice?
I am one of those who, for years now, do not identify as Christian. My childhood years were spent going to Sunday school every Sabbath morning. There were some Sundays that the entire day was spent on the church premises – from Sunday school, to Sunday service, luncheon then bible studies.
My seven years of living in a communist society where faith was truly a private and, in most cases, secret matter, I began learning how to meet God on my own. Upon my return to my island home of Jamaica in 1990, my active belief in God as presented by the churches of my youth had died. Alone and adrift, my questioning of the Church’s teachings on sexuality, the place of women in the world, my race, poverty, among other societal issues that continued to play out in my personal experience, peaked.
My feet would not cross the threshold of a church for almost 10 years. When they did, it was to enter a place of worship and fellowship that engaged my heart and my mind – respectfully and intelligently. This was the moment when my understanding of God, a Higher Power, shifted.
No longer was God a He but The Source, active, ever-present and engaging with human existence with and through me.
Training as an interfaith Chaplain immersed me even more into an appreciation of Life that went way beyond anything the traditional church taught me. As my understanding of other religious and spiritual practices including Hindu, Buddhism, Islam, Native American spirituality, I embraced my own African spiritual roots.
Through this openness to other paths, including Christianity, my love of Jesus and his teachings grew. No longer was he wrapped up in doctrines and diatribe, division and discrimination as I had witnessed and experienced even firsthand by Christians.
Love became my religion. It was Jesus’ as well, I dare say, just as it was that of all the spiritual leaders whose teachings have not declined but increased.