Last Sunday I provided a quick “youth culture update” to a local group of youth leaders. In this training, I talked about how the majority of this young generation in America is open to God and spiritual beliefs… just not church attendance or organized religion (a fact I discussed in detail in my book about reaching out to the unchurched).
UK opinion columnist Camilla Cavendish draws the same conclusion about people in Britain. In this article she highlights the religious trends report suggesting there will be fewer people attending churches than mosques by 2040. Apparently only 6.3 percent of the UK population attends church on an average Sunday.
But does that mean 93.7 percent are atheists?
Not even close.
Cavendish, a self described “moonlighting agnostic,” gives us a glimpse into the reality that people might be interested in God… they just aren’t interested in church.
There is a fascinating debate to be had about cause and effect. But the only point I want to make is that being a Christian country has always been about more than belief in God and Sunday worship. In the 2001 census, seven in ten people described themselves as Christian, to the astonishment of many bishops; 22 per cent claimed to be still going to church at least once a year.
So Britain is very similar to America in that the majority of the country describe themselves as Christian, but very few attend church. My friend Dan Kimball expands on this phenomena in his book They Like Jesus, But Not the Church.
This coincides with much of what we’re hearing from people in the media (the source where much of this generation are drawing their opinions from). Celebrities make statements frequently that support this kind of thinking. In my Reaching Out to the Unchurched Training I often share quotes from the media preaching “belief in the spiritual” but resistance to “church or religion.”
“I think I find more strength in faith than I do in organized religion.”
– Jon Bon Jovi, Time, August 6, 2007, p. 6.
“I believe there is something out there. I believe there is an energy, a Karma– you know– what goes around comes around. And I hope to God that there is an afterlife . . . I don’t go to church that often. I go for like Easter Sunday. There is such a short period of time to live and I’d rather spend it ‘living life’ as apposed to sitting down and praying.”
-Hayden Panettiere, Interview, The Source for Youth Ministry
“I grew up in a family that called itself Catholic. But nobody told me that to pray you have to go to a place. I’ve always believed in God my own way.”
– Actress Penelope Cruz, Jane, March 2005, p. 109.
I always find it interesting to get a peek into the minds of those we are trying to reach.