Earlier this month, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) released a very important report on U. S. congregational membership. You may find the data on-line at The Association of Religion Data Archives. You will also want to check out the web site of the Religious Congregations and Membership Study 2010 for additional important information. I am so thankful that this information has been made available to the public. You may also purchase a book containing the information HERE.
This is one of the most important studies that will be released this year in relation to our task. It contains a wealth of data on the churches in the United States. Also, the findings show the numbers of Evangelicals in this country as well. And if you know these numbers, you can also obtain an estimate of lostness in the United States.
Where are the Wise Stewards?
In January 2010, I released a report and presentation titled “From 35,000 to 15,000 Feet: Evangelical Statistics in the United States and Canada.” The U. S. evangelical concentrations represented was based on the 2000 data housed at The ARDA. What I found to be amazing was that this information had been available for several years, but I was unable to locate any church or denomination who had used it to calculate the evangelical percentages and evangelical church to U. S. population ratios, and widely distribute such information for missionary labors.
So, with coffee and calculator in hand and a good research assistant and secretary, we set out to create the report and large PowerPoint presentation that you may now find linked above. We put together the percentages and ratios for the states, many metro areas, and selected counties.
During this time, I was troubled that we were going to make this information available years after it had been released. But something had to be done. Too much church planting in the United States was taking place (and still is) with little consideration for the lostness in the states, cities, and counties. We needed to be better stewards when it came to strategy development. And knowing the Evangelical realities would be a major step in the right direction.
Over the past two years, I have had numerous churches, individuals, and denominational leaders to share with me that they have been using my report and presentation to guide their church planting efforts. I am very thankful for this.
Now, the most up-to-date information is available. It is there for the taking and use. Will we squander this moment and wait another decade before we take this information seriously AND run the calculations to determine the evangelical percentages and church to population ratios?
My Challenge is Two-fold:
First, make use of this information to guide your missionary labors in the United States. I know I will be using this new information. Sure, it is not perfect information. Yes, I have concerns about the definitions used by the researchers (I shared this in my 2010 report.). But, they have provided the Church a great starting point. The researchers are to be commended. They have studied the third largest country in the world with 312 million people and have provided some very useful information for Kingdom advancement.
Second, I want to talk to the missiologists and other researchers who read my blog. Will you rise to the challenge by taking this information and show us the evangelical concentrations and evangelical church to population ratios? Use my 2010 material as a guide and do a much better job. It would be great if you would also compare my numbers (based on the 2000 data) with your new findings, to show the change over the last decade.
And follow my example in another way: If you take this challenge, then give your findings away for FREE. I guarantee your reports–if done correctly and are visually appealing–will be widely used by many churches, church planters, and mission agencies for years to come. If you want to use your time wisely over the next few weeks, here is where you should invest your time.
The information is now available. Who will use it to advance the gospel in the areas of the greatest need? Who will take their time and a cheap calculator and give us a better understanding of lostness in the United States that we may be more faithful stewards with the resources we have to multiply disciples, leaders, and churches across this great land. If I can do it with a budget of $0, then some of you should be able to hit a grand slam by providing the Church with a very valuable resource.
(image source: The ARDA)