The numbers game...

Since my arrival at St. Elias I have been telling the people that in the United States in any given area the population can range from roughly 40 - 60 percent unchurched. That would mean that LaCrosse County with a population just over 107,000 could have as many as 40,000 people who for all reasonable purposes have no church home. That's an enormous mission field for such a small area and it certainly means we could find several hundred of those folks receptive to Orthodoxy.

I think some have doubted those numbers and so I've been sending emails with links to the Barna Group and Gallup that provide snapshots of the actual level of church involvement in this country. We have this veneer of Christianity in this country, and even the veneer is getting really thin, but when we press just a little below the surface we find out that regular church goers are a real minority in this country. People, for the sake of casual politeness or to avoid getting into discussing religion, may identify themselves in broad terms as Christian but the actual practice of the faith is quite limited.

Of course we should have picked this up from our culture. If the majority of Americans were actually committed to their faith and their churches would our culture even come close to looking like it does? I don't think so. We are, in fact, a nation of baptized pagans, a society of people who by and large engage in the occasional religious ceremony but hardle ever actually practice the faith they claim. Or better yet we're a country of secular materialists who've added a splash of religion like salt on a hamburger.

Regardless, the mission field in America is open and every church needs to see itself not simply as an organization but as a mission station and be actively engaging a pagan culture with the Faith. In fact, in many Orthodox churches, we must engage our own people with the Faith because, in truth, they really don't know what they believe or why. The first thing that must disappear, though, is the myth that this is a Christian country. It is not, and we believe that falsehood at our own peril. It's hard to be jarred from a sleep to learn your house is on fire, but it will save your life. In the same way the Church needs to wake up from its slumber before it is too late.

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