America’s Religious Landscape

Hot off the press The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey provides a rather revealing look into the religious- or should I say nonreligious- soul of our country.

According to the story I read on this survey more and more Christians in America are claiming no allegiance to any church and another growing percentage of folks call themselves “secular nonaffliated.”

There is much bad news for Protestants as practically all brands have lost membership. The Catholic Church remains steady, however, thanks to the increasing number of Catholic immigrants.

Interesting for those of us from a restoration heritage background- the Christian Church was singled out (in the article that originally ran on Monday, but for some reason erased from the article when I read it today- just the mention of non-denominational churches growing) as being one of the only churches currently growing faster than the growth population. On the other end, the Disciples of Christ got a mention as one of the churches rapidly shrinking. (No mention of the Churches of Christ in the article but we are mentioned in the survey. It can be found here if you want to wade through it)

Another revelation was not really news to me- that is- that folks now change church loyalties rather easily. I have been seeing this first-hand for quite some time. No longer can we assume that just because someone grew up in a church that they will stay there. Here is how the survey put it:

Fluidity is the rule today, not the exception. There’s greater diversity and greater movement — a quantum leap in the rate of change.

The survey is not predicting any imminent demise of Christianity in America- just that in the future the expression of Christian faith will likely be much different.

So what can we learn from all of this and what does it mean for our church? Here are some of my thoughts.

  • Welcome back to the first century. I keep saying this because if our country is now “post-Christian” the first century culture was “pre-Christian” with just as much secular philosophy as today. Yet in this atmosphere the gospel flourished. Why can’t it do the same today? The light of Christ will only shine brighter as the darkness deepens.
  • It should be good news that the survey identifies “non-denominational churches” as the only ones growing faster than the population rate.  This has long been the plea and identity of Churches of Christ. Maybe it is time we tell someone about it?
  • Will we wait until it is almost too late to respond to this kind of news? If nothing else this survey calls for stronger faith and deeper commitment. Pew sitting will just further the downward spiral.

The last line of the article included this quote:

These new voices mean you can’t do business as usual. There has to be an entire rethinking of how to do religion and what it means to be Christian in this new cultural context.

Are we listening?

  

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19 Responses to America’s Religious Landscape

  1. alsturgeon says:

    To your second bullet point, I’ll take your sarcasm and raise you one: not just Maybe it is time we tell someone about it? but Maybe it is time we practice it?

    It used to strike me as ironic that nondenominational churches were all the rage while Churches of Christ weren’t a part of that revolution. Now, I think I understand that it’s because we don’t practice it our own selves. The public outcry for a place not dependent on labels and “you have to do it this way or else” took a look at us (if they took the time to even notice) and said, If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck…

    And I love the quote from the last line of the article. And your follow-up question.

  2. dannydodd says:

    Al, your point is well made- we must start living like it- or else talking about it will be meaningless.

    Now why would someone who can preach like this want to be a lawyer? 🙂

  3. Adam G. says:

    Shoot! You beat me to the punch. I was going to blog on this before Friday. Oh well!

    As a Christian churches man who’s long circulated among “Church of Christ” people, I can say I never saw a group more fixated on its name and identity. The very use of “the Church of Christ” in the singular rather than the plural utilized by my particular branch of the fellowship (“the independent Christian churches”) certainly keeps away any notions that this is a non-denominational effort.

    The only concern I have is that the United States population might end up as spiritually dry as Europe appears to be. Then again, I’m an American who’s never visited Europe, so who am I to say?

  4. Teresa says:

    Open your Yellow Pages and look under Nondenominational Churches. Do you see any Church of Christ listed there?

  5. dannydodd says:

    Adam, I am an American who did live in Europe for two years and I believe we are trending that way. Europe’s religion is secularism and while there are still thousands of Christians livingly faithfully there- there are many majestic cathedrals now empty.

    On one hand it is discouraging but on the other it just provides more of a mission field.

    Thanks for the comments- as always- Adam!

  6. dannydodd says:

    GREAT point Teresa!

  7. Trey says:

    Al made an excellent point. We’ll talk and pretend to be non-denominational, we just don’t live it! Makes absolutely NO sense to me.

  8. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    I hope we are listening.

  9. Odgie says:

    This data doesn’t really surprise me, and Danny, I have been waiting to hear a preacher make the point that you make in your first bullet.

    I also believe that it is important for us to realize that the “methods” of the early church are still the only methods that work. Living for Christ among the lost and taking every opportunity to share the Gospel are more important than spats over who is right and what it says on our money. If we stop trying to lobby Rome (as it were) we might have the energy to implement meaningful change in our society.

  10. Darin says:

    I do think we are at a greater disadvantage culturally because the Jesus movement came and had its opportunity and people have found it wanting.

    In the first century it was new and fresh and an answer to paganism. The biggest hurdle I see is a ‘been there done that got baptized’ attitude.

    I agree with the method of showing it like they did, I just think we have a larger barrier today. We will certainly see.

  11. dannydodd says:

    Interesting take Darin. There is no doubt that we have to deal with all kinds of residue from generations of mistakes, but the gospel- the true Good News about Jesus- can still cut through all of that to impact.

    Our challenge is just to preach that- and like Odgie said- to live it.

  12. Steve Lavin says:

    We are a denomination! When watchdog groups, that bear the same name as us, have specific identifying criteria by which we are measured, judged, and persecuted, then I would have to say we are a denomination. The irony, of course, is that the very people, who would argue to the death that we are not a denomination, prove by their actions that we are.

  13. Royce says:

    Perhaps we could reverse the downward trend on the “undemominational (lol) churches of Christ” if we preached more on the resurrection of Jesus and less on baptism. If my memory serves me well it was preaching on the resurrection, not acapella singing, that got the apostles thrown into jail. And, it was that message that caused people by the thousands to declare their faith in Jesus and then make it public by being immersed in water.

    Forget all the labels. If you look past all the fluff, the churches that are growing are those who are preaching that same ancient very good news about Jesus Christ to every one possible with urgency. Those churches, without regard for their names, that have forsaken what Paul said was “of first importance” are slowly fading just as the churches of Europe have.

    Preaching morality, ethics, generosity, and other high ideals are not bad, in fact they are good, but they cannot make a sinner fit for heaven.

    His peace,
    Royce Ogle

  14. dannydodd says:

    I agree with you Steve. Several years ago Richard Hughes in his book Reviving the Ancient Faith (which is a history of Churches of Christ) called us a demonination and came under great fire for it.

    While we do not have the traditional structure of a denomination- we think like one.

    To me Royce has made THE point about preaching the resurrection. When we get off message we simply cannot live and convey the power of God to save.

  15. preacherman says:

    I believe in the future the things that the Church of Christ will debate over and fuss over won’t be instrumental music but it all be home churches, communion meals, laying on of hands, community scripture reading, women taking a more active role in community prayers, candles and group confession, and time of meditation, drama, reading poetry, painting pictures of Jesus, the resurrection, focused medition on what Christ has done and what we can do for each other during the week. Sermons being more story telling in nature. Leadership actually caring for the flock. I believe authenticity is the key. I think these things over the next year, two years, 5 years, decade or longer will be discussed and the Church of Christ will really change in the way it looks and worships and connects with God. Our services will be more missional in nature yet focued on the Almighty. Of course these are non-denominational in nature which I think should excite us as Christians. I believe this new restoration movement is a wonderful thing that God is using to bring more and more into His Kingdom. Are we ready to adapt? Are we willing to change and get out of our comfort zones? We must change the way we do everything. I stress over and over again that the message must never change. Jesus is the same today, yestday and tomorrow. But we must be willing to reach out to this culture who needs and is seeking God. We must do it in a way that meets them where they are in their life and connects them to God. We must emerge and go back to Bible. Not being legalistic in nature but understanding the story of God’s love and grace offered to mankind through Jesus Christ.

    I believe that the church of Christ may be move toward the emerging movement. I think it is an exciting time. The fasted growing churche are the emerging churches.

  16. preacherman says:

    Danny,
    I want to let you know this is a great post and discussion.
    You are great about discussing things that really matter.
    I apprecaite that about your blog brother.
    Keep up the wonderful work.
    I hope you have a blessed week.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  17. Allen Coker says:

    Danny,

    I posted some findings and ideas about this on my blog, http://www.onhisheels.blogspot.com. Thanks for provoking this conversation.

    Allen

  18. dannydodd says:

    Thanks Kinney for the props.

    And borther Coker is in the blog house. Welcome. I will check out your post.

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