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"The Decline of Churches in Chattooga County: What's Causing the Upset and How Can We Revive Them?"




Gallup polls (personal opinion polls) for the past 70 years have generally stated that about 40 percent of the population—attends church on any given weekend.


‌Concerning this statistic, ‌sociologists Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler stated…


‌”Opinion polls indicate that over 40 percent of Americans attend worship services each week. However, attendance counts in several North American counties, and Roman Catholic dioceses, suggest that worship attendance may be much lower…Contrary to many published sources, the total number of congregations is estimated at just over 330,000. Second, using known population values and sample-based attendance counts we develop estimates of average weekly worship attendance for religious congregations by religious family. The resulting totals suggest that fewer than 22 percent of Americans attend worship services each week.


Initially prompted to discover how church plants in America were doing, the director of church planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church began collecting data in the late ’80s, gradually expanding his research to encompass overall attendance trends in the church. In his study, he tracked the annual attendance of more than 200,000 individual Orthodox Christian churches (the accepted U.S. church universe is 330,000). His findings reveal that the actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40 percent the pollsters report. Numbers from actual counts of people in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline, and evangelical) show that in 2004, 17.7 percent of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend. This number is predicted to be 10% by 2050.


Today the statistics are worse. Only 47% of the population claims affiliation with a house of worship. This is the first time in 80 years of research that number has dipped below 50%. This number is not church attendance but merely a figure representing when a person claims affiliation with a house of worship.


When I first came to Chattooga County about 8 years ago (2015), the newspaper had done an informal survey of church attendance and determined that on any given Sunday, about 80% of the population of Chattooga County was not in church. Via informal survey, it was determined that there were about 90+ churches in the county. There are now, apparently, only about 65+, if that many.


The Association of Religious Data Archives indicates that in 2020 only 50% of the population of Chattooga County claimed to be an adherent of any one of the nineteen different religious groups that comprise Chattooga County, with the largest number of groups being Southern Baptists with 33 congregations (6962 adherents - who, by the way, close about 1000 churches per year…1250 closed in 2022), and the Church of Christ with 10 congregations (and 778 adherents).


In its most basic form, a New Testament church is a local visible assembly of baptized believers who have voluntarily joined themselves together, under the authority of Christ and the Bible, to carry out the Great Commission.


Here is my question. When so many churches in this community are mostly empty, what can we expect our community to be/become? How can we claim to be a Christian community when so few people attend church meetings and have no desire to?  How can we expect the blessings of God when we neglect what He considers important (assembling as believers in local congregations)? How can our communities be morally strong, when we avoid that which, historically, has most efficiently promoted morality (the churches of a community)? When a community has lost strong churches, they have lost something valuable. Something will take the place of the void when churches are weak and anemic. Communities lose the biblical conscience of their community when they lose strong churches. They have lost something that leads to the redemption of individuals, decreases crime, strengthens marriages, stabilizes homes, and promotes the welfare of the community at large, including the schools, the government, and the businesses of that community.


A pretty smart person said recently,


“You're not going to fix society on Twitter. You're not going to fix society on Facebook. You are going to fix society by going to your local church and involving yourself in a local community. That is the only way to restore any semblance of sanity to our civilization.”


Do you agree?


I ask this community to seriously reconsider its relationship to the churches of this community.


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