In much of society and even the Church presumptions exist about evangelicalism that may not necessarily be true. PE News asked a panel of experts to debunk some of the cultural myths currently gaining currency. Those participating in the discussion are Assemblies of God General Secretary James T. Bradford; David Drury, chief of staff to the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church; and Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. They all answered cultural myth questions posed by PE News Editor John W. Kennedy.
Myth 1: Millennials (those born between 1981-96) are leaving the Church in droves.
JAMES T. BRADFORD: This has not been our overall experience in the Assemblies of God. At the end of 2014, those under 35 years of age constituted 54 percent of our 3.15 million adherents in the U.S. Those ages 18-34 constituted 23.4 percent of all of our adherents. Over the past four years, the number of millennials in our churches has increased by 4.3 percent.
ED STETZER: LifeWay Research has found the dropout rate for young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least one year in high school is about 70 percent. But, of those who left, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church.
If you believe that many millennials once called themselves Christians are no longer doing so, you’d be correct. The next generation is much more secular. However, what is not that different is the percentage of those that are devout religious people. True believers often attend church regularly and have more conservative social values.
In short, millenials are becoming secular in droves, often dropping their Christian self-identification. Yet, there are many who are still devout believers, and that percentage has not dropped in “droves.”
DAVID DRURY: The reality is that each generation experiences variations in church attendance at certain ages, and somewhat predictable returns later. However, sticking our church leadership head in the sands during this time would be unwise. There are certainly cultural realities to our day that are not following a pattern from the past. Some of the reasons we hear young people leaving the church are disconcerting, and include loss of faith in God, opposition to the positions of the Church on moral issues, distrust of leadership, or even questioning our evangelical view of Scripture. While the problem of young people drifting away from the church is not a new pattern, the problems we are facing are in fact new.
Myth 2: Overall church attendance is plummeting.
DRURY: Overall church attendance in my movement is actually growing and has been for more than a decade. A majority of this growth can be attributed to our larger churches, but overall in the last decade we are seeing a growth in attendance (up 21 percent), conversions (up 38 percent), and baptisms (up 48 percent), reaching record marks in those areas multiple years in a row.I no longer open comments on my articles. Interact about this with me on Twitter or Facebook or share yourself below.