Why We Are Losing So Many Churches In The United States?

What are some of the reasons that churches in the U.S. are losing members?  What can be done to stop this bleeding?  How can you help?

There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago

The Decline of the American Church

You might not be surprised that Brazil is the number one receiving nation of foreign missionaries in the world but you might be surprised about who is the 2nd most missionary receiving nation in the world.  It is the U.S.   Why?  In a recent sermon, Pastor James McDonald from Walking in the Word Ministries revealed these shocking numbers about Christianity in America:

Of the 250,000 Protestant churches in America, 200,000 are either stagnant (with no growth) or declining. That is 80% of the churches in America and maybe the one you attend, if you attend at all.

4,000 churches close their doors every single year.

There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago.

3,500 people leave the church every single day.

Since 1950, there are 1/3rd fewer churches in the U.S.

As I mentioned, the U.S. is the number two receiving nation of foreign missionaries and perhaps now you can see why.  Churches in America are declining and may be following the trend that has been occurring in Europe.  Why?  What can be done about this?  What is the root cause of why so many churches in the U.S. are disappearing?  Seeker Sensitive Churches

I believe part of the reason that the church is declining in America is that expository preaching is no longer the rule but the exception. Too many churches are seeker sensitive that try to appeal to the masses to make them solve their everyday problems or try to make their lives happier.  This is not the gospel for Christ Himself said that the road is hard and that we will all have to take up our cross and bear it (Luke 9:23). The gospel has been compromised and has been changed from a repentance, confession, and trust in Christ gospel to a feel good, real good, health, wealth, and prosperity gospel.  This is not the gospel that Christ or Paul preached but another gospel (2 Cor 11:4).

A Works Based Religion

Another reason is that some churches teach a work-based gospel that robs God of glory.  Paul rebuked the Galatian church for this very reason writing

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.  Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” (Gal 3:1-3)?

Some churches are critical of other churches who do not keep the Sabbath or who allow members who smoke or drink when the most critical issues of repentance and faith are ignored.  Instead they teach that a person is not a Christian if they do certain things or don’t do other things.  I often tell other Christians who believe this that we have a section of town where no one smokes, no one drinks, no one dances, no one works on the Sabbath and not even one there plays cards.  We call it the cemetery.  If a person is saved by works then Christ died for nothing (Gal 2:21)!

Revival Starts With The Believer

The church in America is in desperate need of revival but where does revival start? Revival is not an appeal to those outside of the church.  We can’t pitch a tent and put up a sign saying “Revival Tonight.”  Revival is not for the lost for if you are still dead in your sins then you cannot be revived.  Here is the only place that revival can begin. If you are standing in the sand, draw a circle around yourself.  Inside of that circle is where revival must first begin. In the same message about the decline of American churches James McDonald gave some diagnostic questions that reveal whether a believer needs personal revival or not.  I have added some of my own.

When I hear the Lord’s name taken in vain and used as a curse word and am not moved to righteous indignation, then I need revival.

When striving for personal holiness ceases to dominate your thinking then personal revival is need.

When you do not attend corporate worship regularly with the church Jesus built or have no desire to be with the redeemed in the Body of Christ, the church, then you are in dire need of revival.

When I sin and know that it is sin and fail to repent immediately, then I need revival on the spot!

When I don’t rejoice in the success of others but instead are secretly or inwardly jealous or envious, then I need reviving by the Spirit of God.

Where there is no hunger for hearing the Word of God or for reading the Bible then I need revival.

When biblical truth is ignored or we rationalize our sin against what the Word of God says, then that person needs revival.

When the eternal fate of those in our family, our co-workers, our friends or even strangers fails to move us to share the gospel, then we need personal revival.

When my prayer life ceases to be an everyday necessity then I am really saying to God by my silence, “God, I am good to go…I don’t need your intervention in my life today.”  That is a critical sign that you are in need of reviving.

When I am able to watch degrading movies filled with violence and profane language or I can read publications with the same things then I need to have revival.

If I find more joy in discord or disunity than in unity in the church, workplace or the family, then I am not in tune with the Holy Spirit and need reviving.

When I see an injustice or suffering and fail to be moved by it, then my heart is hardened and I desperately need revival.

What do you believe reveals the need for revival in yourself or in others?  Is there something that you can add to this list?

Revival in the Church

If revival is to take place in this nation or any nation, then revival must begin with the individual believer.  Revival starts within each one of us.  Then it spreads to other believers in the church.  Then the church which is revived can impact the proximate community around it.  That revival can then spread from that neighborhood into the district of that town or city.  Only then can this revival begin to impact the entire town or city.  The revival of this city initiated by born-again believers can start to spread outward to other cities and affect the state.  States can impact neighboring states and states impact the nation.  Only then can that nation impact those bordering nations…and those bordering nations can affect the nations around the world.  Revival will never come until it first comes to believers.


You can help bring revival to America but it must start with you and with me but we cannot have revival until revival has us.  We cannot revive what is not first alive.  If you are not born again then you are dead in your sins.  The greatest revival in human history began with one man.  Jonah, the reluctant prophet brought salvation to Nineveh.  Nineveh was the arch-enemy of Israel and Jonah hated the idea of having them be saved but God told Jonah “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle” (Jonah 4:11)?  Who doesn’t know their left hand from their right?  They are those who are under the age of accountability and are very young children, babies, infants and toddlers.  So if there were over one hundred thousand young children in Nineveh, then there must have been over one million souls in that city-state.  Nineveh did repent and more than a million people were saved.  Does that excite you?  If not, then you need revival.

Only God can bring revival.  We can fall on our face and repent of our spiritual laziness which I have had to do.  We can pray that God sends revival to us and then pray for those around us and that God will bring revival to our church, to our city, to our state, to our nation and to the world so that millions might be saved.  This is the will of God.  He doesn’t take pleasure in or desire that any perish.  Is that your wish too?  Then pray for God to revive you so that others might be saved and bring glory to God because bringing glory to God is what it’s all about.

Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design

 photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Correlation is not causation; and it’s not clear that there’s even correlation rather than mere contemporaneity. Are the declines concentrated in those with those where expository preaching is comparatively more rule, or concentrated where it is more the exception? Is the decrease in expository preaching a result of that means being less effective than in the past at keeping the sheep within the fold, or even simply less prevalent because churches relying on it too have shrunk in size to being too small to notice?

    For that matter, is there any measurable decline?

  • Jonas Aagbjargensson

    Because we see what a bunch of stupid, unloving hypocrites you all really are under your veneer of phony handshakes and lardy potlucks with your jiggling fat bellies, that you have no divine authority or respect for life (but instead preach hate and eternal torment of billions of innocent people), and that what you preach could not possibly be the religion that Jesus preached. Give up everything you have and give it to the poor. What…you mean…you…don’t do that? Then I guess you don’t practice what Christ preached. I am a millennial and I speak for my generation. And trust me…you won’t get us back…

    • Ozzie Glea


      I can appreciate and respect your thoughts , reasons, and conclusions based on your experience. I would first of all say that everyone is not called to give up all the have in a literal sense, abandoning all and walk the land as Christ. No, some may be “moved” to do that, but if everyone did that I would any of us survive in the natural setting we call earth.

      The Bible’s main purpose is to transform one’s thinking beyond just themselves and what they want, but to in a holistic effort love, respect, and cherish the life of all people, regardless of their lifestyle, religion, race or gender.

      I do agree with you that church is full of hypocrites, but so is any and every other organization in the world, surely you must recognize and know that.

      I trust that your heart and mind will be changed, not because I want it to, not because God is making you to, but because you will see and respond to the need to.

  • Ryan J

    Howdy from an ex-Christian Millennial. As usual, none of the reasons adduced in this article hit upon why the church is shrinking, and why my generation wants nothing to do with the Christian faith. Here are the core reasons: (1) the Bible isn’t true; (2) the Bible is chock-full of myopic, misanthropic nonsense (cf. Old Testament law)–the kind of nonsense which can be (and indeed was, during the Reformation and its aftermath) used to justify all manner of violence. Millennials often ascribe their lack of faith to the hypocrisy of Christians (see Jonas’s comments). But the real culprit in simpler: the preachments of the Bible just ain’t true. And as the disparity between the revelations of science and the intellectually stultifying dogmas of Scripture widens, the Bible only appears more and more untentable–more and more laughable.

    • tonhogg

      Yeah I agree. I looked at a lot of things about the bible and couldn’t believe the horrible immoral things it puts forth. It truly is a book that makes horrible awful stances on how to deal with people not obeying God. But it goes way beyond that. Parts added to books of the new testament long after it was written, and the horrible lack of evidence that there is even a supernatural force anywhere in the world.

      I think the church is dying because of the internet and it can’t hide it’s failings anymore behind of veil of “All is right with the bible”. Clearly these things are there in black and white and you can’t hide it anymore. This article got it wrong. I don’t believe because of the lack of “getting back to the basics”. I don’t believe anymore because it’s a book that is awful, you can’t read through the stupid thing because it makes no sense half the time, and it’s just overall a book with a really bad message. Hey someone is a witch or committed adultery, well hey, just have the church pick up rocks and throw them until the person is dead. WHAT!!!!

      • Clive Johnson

        I used to be a Christian as well. One of the reasons I’ve remained an ex-Christian is precisely because of the Bible, which I now regard as an abject testimony to human ignorance and primitiveness. There are other reasons.

        1. For a supposedly god-inspired book, it stacks up very poorly with philosophy and ethical thought. The Bible simply doesn’t have much to say, and what it does say it is often not with intelligence or much insight into the human condition.
        2. The Bible is objectively worthless as a guide to understanding the natural world. Science wins this one in a nanosecond.
        3. With very few exceptions, the Bible pales as literature compared with with many thousands of books of literature and poetry written before and since. One novel of Proust, for example, with its genius of observation, its brilliance of expression, its beautiful similes, is culturally worth more to humanity than the entire Bible. In my view, anyway.
        4. The Bible is silent on a huge range of questions facing humanity. What economic systems works best for people? How do we treat the environment? How do we make end-of-life decisions? What is the moral status of animals? How do we think about radically enhancing human capabilities through science? What is dark matter? Is there intelligence elsewhere in the universe? Should we contact it? There’s nothing the Bible says–NOTHING–that hasn’t been exceeded in depth of understanding by subsequent thought. The Bible is dead in this way.

        In every sphere of human activity we know more now than we did then. Why hold onto this ancient book as though it’s the master key to human wellbeing?

      • Eric

        I’m in exactly the same camp as you Ryan and I’ll share some of the reasons:
        1) Christianity does not deliver on its promises. Living life as proposed by the Christian message is supposed to bring peace, joy and love into your life, at a level not offered by any other practice of religion. It most emphatically does not. Instead, it leads to guilt, self-doubt, narcissism and ultimately to depression, which brings me to my next point.
        2) Christianity (read prayer) is supposed to be able to fix all of life’s problems. Angry or depressed? You need to pray more. Having a disaster in your relationship or job? Just pray. This clearly doesn’t do anything except bring more focus to the problems and discourage any action upon the part of the petitioner, which can in turn make them worse, especially if those problems were brought on by the guilt and shame that this religion likes to shower upon all natural human needs and desires.
        3) Christianity has its focus on the wrong means for its stated goals. Most Christians will say they desire joy, well-being and success for themselves and others, but then go on to promulgate religious and political dogmas that run directly counter to those admirable aspirations. For example, the church I left is *still* actively struggling with equality for women in church roles and family life, despite every evidence that women offered opportunities to do take on more responsibility and have successful careers are thriving. This is because a central theme within Christianity is submission to authority in every aspect of life: government, society, church and home. I think we can all agree that actively suppressing the free intelligence, creativity and personal growth of half the population is going to undermine the well-being of everyone concerned.
        This is only for a start; I could go on for pages. Maybe I’ll write a book. :-)

    • Guest

      You’re an absolute moron. That is all.

      • oikos

        You have no cogent argument to make so you call him a moron. Religion is dying because of the ignorance of people like you who promote its bigotry and superstition.

        • Guest

          You’re an even bigger moron.

          • oikos

            Does your mother know you’re on the Internet unsupervised? Make sure you finish high school, your critical thinking and conversational skills are abysmal.

          • Guest

            I finished high school 30 years ago.
            You’re getting all the conversation you deserve, idiot.

    • http://www.worlds-best-answers.com/ GoodScienceFYou

      The problem isn’t the Bible. It is religions and their utter BS about what the Bible actually is about and what it really teaches. I mean where in the Bible does it teach that a “god” who “loves” you is going to torture you in hell forever burning torture, for 60 years of mistakes? “The wages of sin is death”. No life no eternal soul is found in any scriptures.

      The Bible also predicts the genetic degradation of modern people. The average IQ is less than 84 in this world and it is declining rapidly.

      The Bible and Jesus predicted that right before Armageddon when this world would be renewed that Churches, the prostitutes fornicating with governments would be destroyed.

      George Carlin tells it like it is, but he was raised Catholic I think and so that is why he thinks the Bible has this crap in it. Churches have done more to destroy life on earth than any other “useful thing” used by tyrants.


  • Guest

    I wrote a blog about this very issue titled :Church – Evolve OR Dissolve read here..www.TheTheoSphere.com

  • TheTheoSphere

    Want to save your fellowship? Time to adapt. The advent of a global Theospheric Neurological Network is evolving through the understanding, development and application of ministry metrics. Ministry metrics is the science and process of discovering true or accurate value(s) within a spiritual community in order to solve optimization gaps utilizing big data technology. This technology can be compared to the invention of the printing press as far as impact goes. Truth be told, applying big data technology within a spiritual context changes the depth of relationships never quantified before and it will happen quicker than most people think. read more http://www.thetheosphere.com

  • world freedom

    The Internet now exist a place for people to stand against you and explain why faith is bad for people you can’t go anywhere on the Internet without being ridiculed by the people who are correct as people become more and more entertained by the Internet your attendance will drop even faster and faster.
    the atheists shall win is only a matter of time.
    only the truly ignorant unable to let go of the past will remain going to your churches.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvg3mRZXut4 Aronra

    Falsehoods of Creationism


    To comment that saying there are no transitional species


    to people who want to read the real bible


    For people wondering what God actually is

    against a recent creation



    Jesus is literally the bread http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation

    • Guest


  • EvidenceBasedDecisions

    People no longer rely upon the local cleric as their source of misinformation (sic). Whereas a century ago the local pastor was (supposedly) the font of all knowledge, now you can listen to a sermon whilst fact checking it on your phone browser – calling BS all the way through.

    To put it bluntly,
    1) There are no philosophcal arguments to demonstrate that any god exists,
    2) There is no evidence or rational reason to believe that a god exists.
    3) There IS already a scientific theory that explains a god free universe.
    4) We can already explain the origins of life in a god free universe.
    5) There IS already a scientific theory that explains the origin of species (our existence) in a god free universe.
    6) If we examine societies based on religiosity correlated with desirable social factors , we identify that religion fails “everywhere” (certainly on 43 indicators in 18 categories).
    7) Religion has had millenia to demonstrate itself – and failed miserably.

    When the epistemological basis of your belief system is “faith”, saying to a person “1 + 1 = 3, have faith” is NOT gong to win you any converts.

    It is time to abandon bronze age sky fairies, and move on the the 21st Century of evidence based reality.

  • Clive Johnson

    Perhaps the fundamental fatal flaw within organized Christianity is its inability to adapt. This doesn’t mean conforming to every fashion. It means being able to change when confronted with new evidence. As a general rule the faith has done a terrible job with this.

    One example is young earth creationism. I’ve encountered any number of people who have left the faith because they figure out, usually in their teens or in college, that this account of earth history is not true. Objectively not true.

    This can be a disturbing experience and precipitate a spiritual and personal crisis. “How can my parents have misled me? How could they be so wrong? Can I trust anything my pastor tells me if he gets this so fundamentally wrong?”

    In the past the churches could rely on closed information environments to maintain conformity. Now with the internet, you can’t prevent people from pursuing knowledge on their own. They can take their doubts into a world of information and see what else is out there.

    It’s difficult to imagine that the collapse in numbers of believers can be reversed.

  • Charlie

    Why are so many people opposed to the church making comments here? If you don’t believe it, why do you care to read about it or discuss it?

  • JackieTrinity

    I personally enjoy reading all these recent articles about “why are churches losing their memberships?” and “why are our young people deserting our churches in droves?” Like this article, most other articles written by older religious folks get it all wrong. But that’s okay. The more out of touch you old men and women are, the more young people will see it’s okay to think for themselves.

    My theory is that lack of information was what kept religion strong for so long. Now that we can communicate globally, and information is more and more available to the general public, religion has nowhere left to hide. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • http://www.coffeecuptheology.wordpress.com/ Darryl Willis

    I’d be interested in seeing the statistics on this one. Also there is the problem of cause and effect. According to the article the church is declining because of the type of preaching, many churches are works-based rather than grace based, and there needs to be individual revival.

    I’m glad the author pointed out “in my opinion.”

    One could list all the beefs one has with a particular church or small subset of churches and extrapolate that to all of the churches in the US. Since I haven’t done an independent, scientific, and statistically sound study I really cannot say what is going on “in the church” across America. I can only speak to what I personally know in my local context.

    In my own subset of Christianity, I’ve been noticing a marked increase in accepting a grace-based outlook as opposed to works-based. I’m seeing more believers reaching out to the poor and outcast. I have witnessed more folks trying to develop the mind of Christ in their day to day life and leave behind this idea that “church” is only about what happens at a particular place one or two (or three) times per week.

    If we are receiving missionaries, fantastic! We need all the help we can get.

  • PR8ZS8N

    The truth begins with atheism. Churches cannot solve people’s problems and offer no real world guidance. Religions are based on lies, and have no moral foundation. The internet is a light shining in the dark corners where superstitions hide. Start with atheism, whatever questions about life you may have, Iran issues you may be dealing with, and watch the answers become known to you.

  • Sarah Adirondack

    James 2:20 says that faith without WORKS is dead. It means that if we aren’t TRYING to live a holy life by avoiding things that are unclean and we are taking for granted Christ’s sacrifice then how can we really work to have faith in God and take his commandments seriously. You can’t pick and choose which scriptures you’re going to listen to and which ones you will. A person who is trying their hardest to live a clean and holy life is going to have a much easier life then a person who smokes for instance and shortens his life and dies of cancer. Or a person who avoids provocative styles of dancing may save himself/herself from sexual immorality. There is nothing wrong with dancing, though there are styles of dancing that would be wise to avoid. And there is nothing wrong with drinking, provided it’s in moderation and doesn’t go against scriptural counsel not to be a drunkard. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says that drunkards will NOT inherit God’s kingdom and there is a list of other practices that would not make you approved for God’s kingdom. So, yes ACTIONS do matter as a Christian.

  • Jimmy Fields

    Funny, the Apostle John in Revelation 16:12 prophecied long ago that in the last days “the river Euphrates would dry up” or false religion would dry up to make the way for the coming of the king (God’s son, Jesus Christ). Indeed, false religions who have proved themselves hypocrites and extortionists and that preach falsehoods like hellfire and the trinity are going away. Revelation 17+18 points out that after the pouring out of the sixth bowl that the seventh bowl will be poured out and the Great Harlot, Babylon the Great (false religion) will be destroyed by the Wild Beast (United Nations) completely because Jehovah God will put it into the hearts of world leaders (wild beast) to carry out his thought. Rev. 17:17 When that occurs, know that the Bible really is a source of wisdom and that the end is about here for these man run governments because God’s Kingdom will rule in heaven AND on the earth where only the meek who recognize the true God Jehovah’s supreme rulership who has appointed his son Jesus as King will inherit the earth. Psalms 37:10-11, Daniel 2:44 jw.org