Attendance at Catholic and mainline Protestant churches has been declining steadily while Evangelical churches have seen an increase in attendance and in the number of new churches planted.
Meanwhile, some Catholic and mainline Protestant churches are closing their doors. The Archdiocese of New York has closed dozens of churches as have Protestant denominations.
In the time period of 2000 to 2010, approximately 3,000 churches closed every year. During this period the number of Evangelical churches moved in the opposite direction with a net gain of 5,452. The Evangelical church success is discussed further in this article, but first let’s look closely at the experience of Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.
Well-known church researcher Thom Rainer says that the failure of Catholic and Protestant churches to grow with the population is a serious issue for these churches in the future.
If the rate of decline in attendance continues, it is entirely possible that these churches will continue to close, and there could come a time when only a small percentage of Americans will regularly attend these churches. Much of Europe is already experiencing this sad problem. A January 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal reported the following:
“These rapidly emptying church buildings, though, are only a symbol of
Europe’s true spiritual decline. Its people, once overwhelmingly Christian and regularly in the pews on Sunday morning, have given up visibly observing their religion. Even those who still identify as Christian show few of the signs of vital belief, and many experts expect even these holdouts to accept secularism with time.”
This trend began in the United States in 1990. Between 1990 and 2000, church attendance declined in more than two-thirds of the counties. The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion published an article in 2005 that said church attendance had been steadily declining in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches over the past 30 years.
The Hartford Institute of Religion Research research shows that less than 20 percent of the population attend church services weekly. The Pew Research Center reports that there was a 3.7% decline in weekly attendance at Catholic and mainline Protestant churches between 2007 and 2014. This growth is lagging far behind the growth of the population.
A Light In The Darkness
Evangelical churches added more than 2 million people to their membership roles between 2007 and 2014. During the same period, mainline churches lost 5 million people, and this number is likely higher.
According to the Pew Research Center, Evangelicals now make up a 55% majority of all Protestants.
One reason for the rise in Evangelical church membership is the denomination’s followers retain two-thirds of their younger members. Catholics and Protestants retain far fewer. Without the continuing participation of the church’s youth, the church will reach a point where it dies along with its aging members.
Bob Coy, the founding pastor of the Evangelical megachurch Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, points to a crisis for the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. Pastor Coy says young people are “… searching for real truth and reasons for actions.
Pastor Coy further says: “The next generation is screaming for a relationship with God.”
He may be onto something considering that Calvary Chapel now has 35,000 people attending weekly.
Evangelical churches relate to the spiritual needs of their members. Members are engaged. Members find satisfaction in their participation in the worship and the outreach.
Evangelicals teach that the Bible is The Word of God and it is inerrant.
This is also the basis for much of the satisfaction with the Evangelical churches. Many mainline churches are falling away from this essential belief.
~ 1776 Christian