The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently released its study "Nones" on the Rise, which stated that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has risen to 20% - and tops out at 34% among those under 30.
This increase in the unaffiliated corresponds to a decline in those that identify as white (evangelical and mainline) protestants.
There are plenty of takeaways from the report, but it is clear that there are simply fewer and fewer people with whom the church has a traditional, historic affinity - people who might attend a church out of expectation, obligation, or habit, be it for familial, ethnic, or cultural reasons.
It is also clear that the cultural space the mainline churches inhabit is shrinking fast.
The challenge here is not about finding some great new outreach program, but entering into our culture, which is increasingly defined by the unaffiliated - and discovering, as Elizabeth Drescher has argued, the many spiritual connections there.
This place of the church in culture (or lack thereof) came home to me in a dramatic way on a recent trip to Asheville, North Carolina.