The 3 C’s of American Christianity
What is the state of “The Christian Church” in America today? Dr. Ed Stetzer (President of Lifeway Research) shared a helpful perspective with Associational Missionaries at the 2014 SBC Convention in Baltimore. Around 75% of Americans call themselves Christians—they “self identify” as Christians, regardless of how others might define them. About 25% of Americans claim to be something other than Christian. Stetzer separates those who profess Christianity into three categories: cultural, congregational and convictional. Now, these are NOT exact numbers, but broad categories. The numbers are different from region to region, but as a whole, the categories might be helpful. They have been consistent for a really long time—since accurate records have been kept. (Read the Parable of the Sower/Soils in Matthew Chapter 13 it so applies and explains these statistics)
Cultural Christians–are people who believe themselves to be Christians simply because their culture tells them they are. They are Christian by heritage. They may have religious roots in their family. They are not practicing a vibrant faith. This group makes up approximately one quarter of all Americans.
Congregational Christians– these individuals at least have some connection to congregational life. They have a “home church” they grew up in or perhaps were married in. They might even visit occasionally. However, these people are not practicing any sort of real, vibrant faith. They are occasional attendees at best. This group makes up around one quarter of all Americans. Convictional Christians–are actually living according to their faith. These are the people who would say that they have met Jesus, He changed their lives, and since that time their lives have been increasingly oriented around their faith in Him. Convictional Christians make up approximately one quarter of all Americans.
Stetzer shared that Cultural and Congregational Christians in America are imploding fast. They are becoming NONEs in relation to religious affiliation. Convictional Christians are growing, but at a slower rate. What are the implications—1) The squishy middle of “American Christianity” is disappearing in the 21st Century—that is good. (Revelation 3:15-16) 2) The Bible calls Convictional Christians disciples and making them has been the church’s Great Commission for 2,000 years. It has never been easy to win the lost and mature them in their faith. The coming years will be no different—the good news is counterfeits just won’t hardly exist. Churches will either grow genuine believers or nothing in the years to come. It seems America is losing her taste for just a little bit of Jesus—and I say Amen. Because just a little bit of Jesus doesn’t make a disciple.