by Matt Karr
In March, the results of the American Religious Identification Study (ARIS) were reported. The findings confirmed a continuing decline in the percentage of Christians in the United States and an increase in those who claim no religious identification — what they refer to as the “nones.”
Since 1990, Christians have declined from 86.2 percent of the U.S. population to 76.2 percent of the population, while the “nones” have increased from 7.2 percent of the population to 15 percent. In pure numbers, the “nones” have gone from 14.3 million people to 34.2 million — an astonishing 138 percent increase in 18 years! The “nones” now represent the third largest group trailing only the Catholics and Baptists.
One of the conclusions of the report is that “the challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion” (see the Web page at: www.americanreligionsurveyaris. org). The trends all point in the same direction: America is becoming a less religious country.
So what do we do?
In the early church, when faced with converting a predominantly pagan society, the catechumenate was what you did. It was the process of making disciples. It was the institutionalization of the way Jesus made disciples. It continues to serve as a model for establishing modern-day processes of evangelization that are adapted to the circumstances of our reality.
It is imperative that new processes of evangelization be established that are attuned to the pedagogy of God: processes that are capable of understanding the hoped-for outcome of evangelization, which is the conversion and commitment of men and women to the person of Jesus Christ and the establishment of environments where a fully Christian life can be lived. These processes should take people from first contact to initial conversion to full Christian maturity to apostolic witness. In other words, processes should be complete and total.
One such process that our office is working with is called Light of the World parish evangelization. LOTW is a comprehensive plan for parish evangelization beginning with a kerygmatic retreat, followed up with the formation of small communities, and missional outreach within the parish. In May we will be hosting two leadership team retreats in Kansas for seven parishes.
Another is the Making Disciples training that a few of our parishes are going through. Making Disciples serves to help parishes become evangelizing communities, understand the reality of our current culture, and adapt processes of evangelization within a parish community. We are offering this training for a few pilot parishes in April, June, and September.
These programs serve as an opportunity to begin to refocus our energies on the church’s primary work of proclaiming Jesus Christ and combating the growing secularity in our culture.