The money the faithful are spending on new church buildings – or on expanding current ones – has fallen by 66% since this time in 2003 to a record-low $3 billion a year, according to the U.S. Census.
"I think that we are watching a very deep, very serious, and frankly very tragic decline of participation in Christianity here in America," he laments. "To be sure, the pandemic accelerated what some had been doing for years -- either watching TV or, among younger adults, participating in some sort of online experience."
He also faults the weakened strain of biblical theology that is making its way into America's churches.
"We hear preachers and churches emphasize what's good and what God can do for me, almost as if the Lord is some sort of divine life coach," McFarland relays. "But we're really not hearing, 'Repent.' We're not hearing a lot of messages about what God's Word says about sin, a call to holiness, a call to sacrifice, a call to obedience."
The Gallup analysis finds that just 47% of American adults claimed membership in a church, synagogue, or mosque in 2020, marking the first time U.S. church membership has ever fallen below 50%.
According to McFarland, that should not be surprising.
"We may very well be seeing a winnowing and a falling away," he submits. "The Bible talks about before Christ returns there will be a time of apostasy."
I Timothy 4 and Hebrews 6 are examples of passages that mention that.