We all know the “nones” are growing. This week I saw the latest statistics. Those people who say they are atheist, agnostic or have no religious affiliation went from 22% of the USA population in 2008 to 36% in 2021. We all know these numbers are true. You, no doubt, have family and friends who have walked away from faith. We are seeing the biggest decline in Christianity the United States has ever experienced. It’s happening under our watch. Under our noses. Forgive us Lord!
Yesterday, I read books to children at Dillon Elementary school. I read in three different classrooms and I took three different books: Where the Wild Things Are (the children informed me, they had read that one before); Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (a book I would read to my Alexander after a horrible, no good very bad day in his life); and Nicolas Cricket (a favorite of mine). I read all three in each class. The children settled on their spot on the carpet. The rest of the carpet must have been lava, because they didn’t move off “their” spot. They were very well behaved as I read. It didn’t take long. I was in and out in less than an hour. I wish I could have been there longer.
What does reading children’s books (they weren’t even “Christian” books) and the rise of the “nones” have in common? We’ve got to love the generation growing up. I had a mentor who once told me, “You gotta play with them to pray with them.” He was right. To reverse the avalanche of “nones,” we’ve got to be involved in people’s lives. Not just hammering them over them over the head with a Bible or listing off the “Four Spiritual Laws.” People need to first know we care. It’s baby steps before leaps of faith. So I read at Dillon Elementary School, call it a baby step.
Getting involved in the community; showing people you care is the new evangelism. It’s takes more time and energy than handing out Bible tracts on the “Roman Road.” It’s a longer process. People need to see the love of Jesus in us, before they invite the love of Jesus into their lives.
Listen, the rapid rise of “Nones” is alarming. The pandemic pushed the accelerator on this trend. Look at Europe to see where this is heading. NEWS FLASH: It ain’t good (pardon my poor English). What am I saying? Get involved in your community. Volunteer at elementary school. Get to know the kids in your neighborhood. Be the nice neighbor. Let them roll all over your lawn. Hand out the best candy on Halloween. Follow Jesus’ example of the time when the disciples tried to shoo the children away and he said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”(Luke 18:16).
We’re blowing it. We’ve got to own this bad news, confess our failure in the “Rise of the Nones” and be proactive in stopping the trend. It begins with loving our neighbors. Even (especially) our youngest neighbors.