No matter what media you turn to – Christian or secular, everybody is talking about the recently released report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life on American religious landscape. Christian radio, tv, magazines, blogs, emails etc are filled with commentary and ‘expert’ opinion about the future of religion in America. Even many secular media dissecting this report with much delight, especially in light of Presidential election.
I had blogged on the same day as this report came out with some of my initial observations. But there is so much in it and many analysis continue to emerge. I am confident that for many months church and ministry leaders are going to chew upon this and try to understand its implications for themselves.
Mainline Protestant denominations continue their plunge downward through mediocrity to total irrelevance. No surprise there. Non-denominational evangelical churches continue to grow.The “unaffiliated” camp shows a rapid increase. Roman Catholicism is declining more quickly than any other “faith tradition” in One in four adults age 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with any religious institution.
One comment really caught my attention recently. Greg Smith, the researcher at the Pew Forum behind these report stated, “There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in the past few decades toward evangelical churches. They are now the mainline of American Protestantism.”
It could mean two things: Evangelicals have taken the center stage in American Christianity or it is predicting the soon coming demise of evangelicalism like that of current mainlines. In many circles both of this reality is becoming more evident than ever before. Younger evangelicals are dropping out of established and mega churches. Emerging movement seems to be gaining strength. Religious leaders are throwing up their hands in the air at the challenge of the postmodern generation.
We are truely living in dangerous and exciting times! Leadership challenges we face have no precedents. How do we make sense of tumultuous shifts in demography? What does future looks like when faith allegience is so fickle? What do church leaders do when people are change churches like changing clothes? Something to really think about.