It’s STATurday: Do the Numbers from Pew Really ‘Stink’?

imagesEd Stetzer said it well in his blog on May 12: “Christianity is losing, and will continue to lose, its home field advantage; no one can (or should) deny this. However, the numerical decline of self-identified American Christianity is more of a purifying bloodletting than it is an arrow to the heart of the church.”

He’s referring to the Pew Research Center report, released a few weeks ago, on the religious landscape in America. The raw data itself isn’t very glamorous for evangelicals. But it doesn’t really stink as bad as one might think. Why? Essentially, it simply reveals that those who have been pretending all along are finally owning up to it.

Here are 11 quick stats from the report in case you haven’t yet seen it.

  • From 2007 to 2014 the number of evangelicals in America rose from 59.8 million to 62.2 million.
  • Evangelicals now make up a clear majority (55%) of all US Protestants. In 2007, 51 percent of US Protestants identified with evangelical churches.
  • Evangelicals’ share of the overall US population dropped by 0.9 percent over the last seven years, but the percentage of US adults who self-identify as evangelical actually rose from 34 percent to 35 percent over the same period of time.
  • Within Christianity, the only group retaining more of their population than the evangelical church is the historically black church.
  • Sixty-five percent of those raised evangelical remain evangelical (behind only Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Historically Black Protestant). Sixteen percent switched to another version of Christianity, 3 percent switched to another faith, and 15 percent became unaffiliated.
  • The only region where evangelicals decreased was the South (37–34%). It remained the same in the Northeast and Midwest, and grew in the West (20–22%).
  • Only 45 percent of those raised in the Mainline Protestant tradition remain in Mainline churches.
  • The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching.
  • The percentage of convictional Christians remains rather steady, but because the nominal Christians now are ‘unaffiliated,’ the overall percentage of self-identified Christians is in decline.
  • Fifty percent of all Christians now self-identify as “evangelical” or “born again,” up from 44 percent in 2007.
  • In 2007, 44 percent of American Christians, who made up 78 percent of the US population identified as evangelical. In 2014, 50 percent of American Christians, who make up 70 percent of the US population identify as evangelical.

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