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Kenmare clergy discuss Christianity poll

A poll recently released by the Pew Research Institute suggests the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining.

5/26/15 (Tue)

Discussing the issue . . .
Kenmare pastors John Fetterhoff, left and Joddy Meidinger, discuss a recent Pew Research Institute poll that suggests a decline of Christianity in the United States. Both men acknowledge the poll results and say there are a number of things the church can do to circumvent a continued decline.

By Marvin Baker

A poll recently released by the Pew Research Institute suggests that the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining.

More than 35,000 Americans were surveyed in 2007 and 2014 and in that time span, the number of people who consider themselves Christians declined from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent.

The United States continues to claim the greatest number of Christians of any country in the world with seven out of 10 identifying with a Christian faith.

However, those who identify themselves as non-Christian, are on the rise, according to poll. From 2007 to 2014, non-Christian adults in the U.S. increased from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent of the adult population.

Three Kenmare pastors acknowledge the decline and say the church (in general) must be more than a building to go to on Sunday morning.

Pastor Michon

The Rev. Michon Weingartner of Nazareth Lutheran says today’s Christians are seeking technological means of worshipping and are looking for a more immediate results.

“What our parents and grandparents did, isn’t working today,” Weingartner said. “Worshippers are turning to social media, but not here. We’re still pretty traditional.”

However, Weingartner said Nazareth is doing its best to reach out to young people, who could be part of that nationwide demographic on the decline.

“We have a Facebook page and a web page and we use email,” Weingartner said. “But the best way to reach out is meeting people where they’re at.”

She suggested that in large cities, pastors have thousands in the congregations instead of hundreds. She said some of those churches use live streaming of their worship services so those who can’t get to church, are still able to get a Sunday service.

Pastor Joddy

The Rev. Joddy Meidinger of the Methodist church echoes Weingartner’s comments.

He says the Christian faith is great, but attending church is one slice of the pie and faith is meant to be lived in the community.

Meidinger said times have changed a great deal in the past couple of generations and not only are the number of Christians declining, but the number of times people attend church services is declining as well.

“The church has become a club for members only,” Meidinger said. “The church has forgotten its role.”

Meidinger said point blank, it’s the church’s fault that Christianity is declining.

He said he met a man who is a third generation removed from attending church every week. He said the man felt a higher power but he hadn’t been to church in 20 years.

“We open the door of the church and say ‘here we are,’” Meidinger said. “It’s not just stained glass and a steeple.”

Pastor John

Dr. John Fetterhoff of Faith Baptist agrees. He says the church is doing it to itself.

And much like Meidinger, he says the church has to be more than a building, buses and ballparks.

“The issue that makes us relevant is in the gospel we preach,” Fetterhoff said. “It’s how we preach it and how we live it.”

Fetterhoff believes the church, in general, can do a lot to reverse the numbers in the Pew Institute poll.

As an example, the faiths within Christianity can work together for a better cause.

“There are a lot of things we have in common, things that we can do together,” he said. “We can feed the hungry, we can help the poor, we can provide spiritual blessings. We can do these things together. We have all these things in common to meet the needs of God’s people.”

He said the message of God is so simple a child can understand it and that is how it was meant to be.

Yet, we put too much into it and sometimes forget the real mission of the church.

“It’s there. You can see the need,” Fetterhoff said. “But when folks see the church, what do they see?”

He said the job of a pastor is lined out in the Bible and the best thing a pastor can do is reach out to people and love them as Jesus did.

Fetterhoff sees a lot of potential with the church (in general) locally. As an example, he holds an early morning Bible study that has an increasing attendance.

“It’s gaining popularity,” he said. “It’s a cross section of folks from various faiths. It’s a neat ministry.”

Fetterhoff said the average attender is in church 1.2 times a month. In stark contrast, the early church met every day.

Then, there are the nones. Those who don’t favor any faith within Christianity and  think the church is irrelevant.

Some of those folks might turn to radio ministry, but Fetterhoff cautions, radio ministry is not meant to replace the church, but is a complement to the church or the faith.

“There’s a lot of potential here,” Fetterhoff said. “There are plenty of churches and plenty of people.”

Pew Research Institute is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Institute does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

It’s recent poll suggesting Christianity is on the decline in the United States was done in two years, 2007 and 2014.

The number of adults, 172.8 million, who identify themselves as Christian, fell from 78.4 percent of adults to 70.6 percent of adults.

The drop was driven mainly by drops among Roman Catholics and some Protestants, according to the poll. People who consider themselves Roman Catholic, dropped from 54 percent in 2007 to 51 percent last year.

In the 2014 poll, it was suggested that one of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of ‘nones’ is generational replacement, referring to those who chose no religious identity.

The number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious “nones” – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to The Pew Research Institute.

“As the milennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation,” Pew Research Institute said in a statement.

In addition, many people who were born into Christian families, later renounced or drifted away from their faith, the poll said. Eighty-five percent  of U.S. adults were raised in Christian households but nearly a quarter of them no longer identified as such.

Further, many of those who describe themselves as unaffiliated, still believe in God or consider themselves to be spiritual, according to Pew... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!