Gallup, veteran of polls, documents worst-ever figure for churches

Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Billy Davis, Steve Jordahl (

empty pews in churchFor the first time ever, fewer than half of Americans say they are members of a church, synagogue or mosque, and a Christian apologist says that figure should alarm those who are sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.  

The steady decline in church attendance among Americans has been documented for decades, meaning it is not making headlines anymore, but Gallup reports the under-50% is a first time for a nation birthed by the demand to worship freely without fear of the king's soldiers at the door.

According to Gallup, which has tracked church membership since 1937, it peaked at 73% in 1965, remained near 70% for a half-century, then began dropping quickly at the turn of the century.

Christian apologist and author Alex McFarland says the polling speaks to more than fewer people attending church.

“The decline of church attendance and church involvement, and giving, and frankly the decline of Bible knowledge and biblical living, he says, “we are paying the price for having abandoned God.”

rear view of church congregation (blurred)It is not clear how many Americans were polled for the survey, which was conducted in 2020, but Gallup says it asks religious-related questions to more than 6,000 adults in the U.S. twice a year.

When the pollsters at Gallup drilled down in the newest findings, it appears the drop in church attendance mirrors the documented and steady increase in Americans who do not express a religious preference. That number has jumped from 8% in 1998 to 21% in recent years.

The change is also related to age differences, Gallup says, since the highest percentage of church attendance is 66% of those born before 1946. The number then drops from there: 58% of baby boomers, 50% of Generation X, and 36% of millennials.

Among religious groups surveyed regularly by Gallup, Catholics have dropped in a steeper number (from 76% to 58%) than Protestants (73% to 64%).  


Gallup also reported that decline in church membership is smaller among political conservatives, Republicans, married adults, and college graduates.

“Over the past two decades,” Gallups pollsters write, “declines in church membership have been greater among Eastern residents and Democrats.”

McFarland recalls when America’s churches were packed in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Yet the populace returned home and never returned to church again, McFarland says, even though God had used the terrible attack to awaken the “prodigal nation” that had abandoned Him.  

“We will be a secular police state,” he says of America’s future, “like so much of Europe is, like so much of the world is becoming.”

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