Each year, Pew Research Center releases its top findings of the year on a variety of topics from political to social to religious. This year there was no lack of interesting findings on any of these topics, but there was one that really stood out to me as something we, as Christians, should at least be aware of.
According to their findings, Muslims are projected to be the world’s fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead. By 2035, the number of babies born to Muslims is projected to modestly exceed births to Christians, mostly due to Muslims’ relatively young population and high fertility rates.
The Muslim population in Europe, now accounting for 4.9% of the total population, is projected to continue to rise. Even if there is no new migration in the coming decades (an unlikely scenario), the Muslim share of the region’s population is expected to increase to 7.4% by 2050.
A few things to note about this research:
- The research talked about is looking at birth rates, so people who are born into a specific religious group, not those who actually adopt the religion as their own.
- The accompanying chart does not show birth rates; rather, it shows the expected increase in the number of those who adhere to a religion by percentage. In other words, the entire population of the globe is expected to increase by 32% by 2050 and the population of those who are Christian is expected to grow by 34% (just 2% more than expected population growth, so basically, it doesn’t actually grow). Conversely, the Muslim religion is projected to grow by 70%, greatly exceeding the expected population growth.
- These projections are based on current trends that are expected to continue into the future. “The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) published the report with findings that U.S. residents who identify as white and Christian are less than half of the country’s population… Forty years ago, about eight in 10 Americans were white Christians. Now, only 43 percent of the population identifies as such. Still, 70 percent of the overall population identifies as Christian, according to the PRRI… (The study) found that 25 percent of the population doesn’t identify with a faith group.”
Okay, that’s a lot of info.
What does it all mean to us, Christian parents and ministers, as we approach discipleship of the next generation?
I have many thoughts on this and would love to just pour them all out on this post, but that would be a lot of words and often a lot of words are just that… words. So I only want to share these few things.
We are living in a mission field
Now more than ever, we must recognize that we are not living in a “Christian” nation or world. We are living in a world that is beginning to explicitly reject Christianity and either remain without any religious affiliation or adopt new ones.
There are people in our towns that have never heard the gospel, have never seen the inside of a church, and have never experienced the dynamics of a faith community. Our Christian jargon (words like “saved”, phrases like “born again” and concepts like “the body and blood of Christ”) sound foreign and strange, not familiar and comfortable.
That is the world we are sending the next generation into and our discipleship MUST include ways for them to live in this world and still not be of it. (For more on this, check out these blogs by Carey Nieuwhof).
Others are not our enemy
I hesitated putting up these statistics because, sadly, I’ve seen some Christians react by badmouthing members of other religions as though these people were the enemy. They are not the enemy.
Human beings are not the enemy; they are in fact the whole reason Jesus came to earth, the whole reason we are called to be the church here on earth and not whisked away to heaven, the whole reason for grace.
Our heart should not be one of frustration, fear or competition – it should be love, modeled for us by God and lived out in front of our children. For God so loved the world… and so should we.
This is not The End
These statistics, these projections, are just that… numbers and guesses. They are based on what researchers think will happen based on what has been happening. But that is not concrete.
It can change.
And we can change it.
You see, we have the amazing gift to be able to raise up a generation who can raise up a generation who don’t walk away from the church, who choose to follow Christ, and who love this world the way that God did when He sent His Son.
We have the opportunity to reverse the trends through intentional generational discipleship that welcomes children and youth into the body of Christ is ways that are tangible, communal and lasting.
We can have faith-filled home where the life of Christ is lived out in the everyday and where the hope of the gospel is woven into our daily practices and conversations.
We can equip parents for the work of discipleship at home.
We can welcome children and youth into our faith communities.
We can answer the call to “make disciples of all nations.”
How can I say this with such confidence? Because when Jesus first came to earth, it was 0% Christian. He started with a small group of men and women who listened, learned and loved… and they shared it with others… who shared it with their children… and so on until today. Even a secular group like Pew Research Center realizes the power of the home in spiritual formation as they use birth into a family as their criteria for religious affiliation and growth.
If these statistics have sparked your heart and mind as they have mine, why not take some time this month and consider, “What can I do to make a difference? What can my church do? How can I more intentionally impact the next generation in a way that is going to bear fruit for the future?”
Because the future is not yet. And the present is our gift.
Let’s use it.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed
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