Americans increasingly are avoiding getting hitched – not just to their significant others, but to their church. Today, just over half of all adults are married compared to 72% in 1960. Similarly, though the percentage of Americans attending church has remained relatively unchanged for five decades, church membership has plummeted. In fact, there are about as many church members in America today as there were in 1960. This, despite a 40% increase in U.S. population over that same time. Today, less than four in 10 churchgoers are members of their congregation, according to Grey Matter Research.
One might think church membership and marriage are unrelated, but I think they’re actually closely connected. Take the reasons people give for avoiding both. Many co-habiting couples, for example, say their love validates their union, so there’s no need for a piece of paper from the state. Similarly, those who avoid membership argue that the church is organic, not institutional. It’s a living organism comprised of people in relationship with God and each other. So, there’s no need to formally add their name to some church roster.
People who spurn both marriage and church membership also cite bad experiences to justify their aversion to commitment. Confirmed singles often recall their parent’s divorce or bad marriage. Similarly, those who avoid membership frequently tell of rancorous church splits and hypocritical church members.
However, none of these objections, though understandable, negate marriage or church membership. Churches, like marriages, are comprised of humans, so they’re going to be flawed. And, though it’s true, the local church is organic – it’s also, like marriage, an institution created by God. It’s an outpost, so to speak, of Christ’s kingdom. It’s where we, as citizens of Christ’s kingdom, fully participate in His mission – where our citizenship becomes real, not merely a concept.
So, if you’ve been attending a local church, but have never joined, how about resolving this New Year to get hitched? For better or for worse, it’s a commitment that honors God.