Is Christianity's Influence Waning?

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Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

When a generation of young people began wearing the four- lettered WWJD bracelets - it publicly signified the influence of Christianity in their lives.

The "What would Jesus do?" movement challenged people to think daily, and in every decision, about whether they truly were living out their biblical beliefs.

That type of dedication to the faith could be waning during the next decade, say a group of pastors surveyed about the religion's future in America.

Forty-one percent of those surveyed predicted Christianity will be less of an influence in the lives of Americans a decade from now. About 31 percent said its influence in politics will decline, according to the recently released Phoenix-based Ellison Research study.

Locally, though, some pastors are more optimistic about Christianity's future. They say church growth and support for the community's less fortunate prove people's reliance on their faith will remain strong.

"I see people taking their faith very, very seriously and living it out," said Debbie Fisher, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Downers Grove.

More than ever, Fisher said, she sees people seeking faith-based answers to questions about the world around them and ongoing charitable works that prove to her people are inspired to act by their faith.

"The bottom is falling out in other ways and people want something solid. Church is a good place to fall," she said.

Rick Donald, assistant senior pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, said his and other churches in the area are expanding because people want to build on their faith.

"People are really looking for answers," he said. "A lot of people are turning to Jesus Christ."

Ron Sellers, author of the Ellison survey, said it might be easier for some pastors to be more optimistic because they are speaking from the context of their own congregations rather than the country. Based on the responses from the surveyed pastors, he said, it appears they believe people have flimsy faith. …