By: Keith Kappes
Carter County Times
If and when this coronavirus pandemic ends and our lives return to something like normal, will there be more empty seats where you worship?
U. S. religious leaders were surprised but not shocked last month when the Gallup Poll revealed only 47 percent of Americans said they belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque.
It was the first time in 84 years of polling since 1937 that the membership in houses of worship dropped below 50 percent. The figure was 70 percent in 1999 but dropped to 61 percent in 2010 and 47 percent in 2020.
Gallup’s demographers said the latest decline is due primarily to the growing number of Americans who express no religious preference. In the space of the 20 years, that figure has grown from 8 percent to 21 percent.
Older members normally comprise the largest number of churchgoers who continue to attend a specific house of worship. Percentages decline gradually with baby boomers and Generation X but increase substantially with millennials.
As a grandparent, I interpret the poll results as showing that we oldest folks have the highest percentage of church membership but our kids and grandkids are steadily declining and our great-grandkids could become strangers to our religious beliefs.
In a nation and world torn by political, economic, and social strife, the possibility that a majority of our youngest descendants would not have the love and support of a church family is worrisome, even frightening.
Many of us in the older generation have yet to return to face-to-face church attendance because of COVID-19 but often have access through electronic media. That service should continue after the pandemic to serve the disabled and others unable to leave their places of residence.
But those worshipers who have not been seen in person at church or on a video screen during the pandemic should be encouraged to return to our fellowship as soon as it is safe to do so.
I believe that most Christians know that Jesus Christ told us in Matthew 18:20 that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
A few verses earlier, He also gave us the parable of the lost sheep. To me, that clearly means He also wants all of us believers to be present in His house.
Keith Kappes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org