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Secularism is replacing nominalism as the religion of the people.
In Part One of our series on subtle, yet important church-planting shifts, we dealt with the changing face of the church launch. As I mentioned, this includes a downscaling of the traditional launch mode to build up more core elements that will allow the church to go the long haul. Below, I unpack the next trend: a shift from a focus on nominal Christians to more secular people, and how that impacts church-planting methodology.
Statistically, most people in America are nominal Christians. About half the people in America call themselves Christians, but they don’t have any statistically discernable life change. Actually, as I’ve written, only 25% of Americans call themselves Christians and have demonstrable engagement in that commitment.
This reality, and its changing numbers, are essential to understand the future of outreach and evangelism.
The challenge is that most of our church-planting efforts target the fastest shrinking segment. We are focusing on those who are nominal Christians because we think this will yield us the greatest result or provide us the easiest path to seeing people attend our church.
They probably will. And today, in most places, that focus makes sense.
However, the category of nominal Christians is the fastest shrinking category today. Perhaps 20 years ago, nearly 60% of the population was nominal Christian. Yet now, nominalism is declining about 1% per year. It’s still the largest group, the vast majority of our church-planting strategies aren’t making the changes necessary to reach a different group of people that is emerging.
Today, most unchurched people we reach are either dechurched, formerly churched, or are a kind of nominal Christian who is not antagonistic towards church …