Friday, March 13, 2009

More Americans giving up on religion

A church member pointed me to this article in the Asheville newspaper. There are some interesting statistics about mainline denominations and the obvious decline of organized religion. The quote that caught my attention was:
The current survey, being released today, found traditional organized religion playing less of a role in many lives.
Being part of "organized religion" this strikes pretty close to home. Nobody likes being told they are irrelevant, but that seems to be more and more the case. Don't get me wrong, I love pastoring and I love the work of the ministry. In the future, though, it looks like the role of the traditional minister will look a lot different than what it does now, if the role continues to exist.


selahV said...

Hi Tony, the Fox News did a spot on that report the other night. They said that their numbers are not real to what multiple polls are saying in America. I think we are relevant. And we will continue to be relevant. Who are the first responders to Hurricanes, Tornadoes, devastations? Disaster Relief teams. People know we are here. The problem is coming, I think when government will become more relevant because folks won't have any money to support the churches.

You just keep on preaching Jesus, Tony. You'll never go wrong and He is always relevant. Big blessings to you all. selahV

Tony said...

I did not realize this story was as widespread as it is. As a matter of fact I had not even heard about it until Wednesday evening when the church member brought me a copy printed from the Internet.

I think we are relevant and the post was written in a fit of despondency. I do think the face of traditional ministry will change dramatically over the coming years as our culture sways farther and farther away from traditional expressions of it.

Karma Shuford said...

The church IS relevant, unfortunately, a large portion of society doesn't think it is.

I'm reminded of some photography buddies of mine that see absolutely NO need for Christ in their life. Therefore, organized religion is totally irrelevant.

There are probably millions of blogs, thousands of books, and a gazillion sermons on why, but I think a large part of the "disenchantment" is that we as Christians become so entrenched with being "right" that we totally forget to love.

People today don't want something that is "just" church. I think they are looking for something that is totally real.

Jesus is totally real, but we seem to have forgotten how to show HIM. When we can establish a relationship with people and be genuinely interested in them, as a church, then the church once again become relevant to those who are seeking.

And with the potential of going even more off topic, several years ago I was at a mall in AVL and there were several goths standing out front (this was before goth was "cool"). My first thought was, "What a bunch of hoodlums."

Almost immediately, I remembered the song "Tell Me the Story of Jesus," and I realized that what I see as rebellion, weirdness etc. in many ways is a cry for Jesus.

Tony said...

You are right, Karma. I would also attribute it to how insular the church has become. When we see those kids in rebellion, that is usually ALL we see. We don't see (or hear) the desperate cry for help that their rebellion really is giving mouth to.

So we could really attribute that attitude to fear; the average church member (at least the average church member I serve) doesn't know how to reach that culture.

All that said, I think the face of ministry as I know it is going to need to change in order to make a difference in the lives of that culture.

The key of course is love, but how to go about showing love to that culture when to many of them, being shown love is tantamount to condescension and arrogance, that "holier than thou" attitude when it really is not meant that way.

On a tangent about the "weirdness," C found a great article some time ago explaining that that lifestyle can also be attributed not just to rebellion but the fact that the kids do not know how to express themselves and so they let clothing style, funky hairstyles, tattoos, piercings etc. express themselves instead.

Anonymous said...

Putting aside the labels churches get.. every church can't be everything to everyone. People are searching and when they don't find what they need,they will create what they think they need and bad mouth the others.

It is our job as Christians to stay true to our beliefs even when we are being persecuted and rejected. We have to be ready when people do turn back to the church when they find their way doesn't work. I try to be an example and encourager to those I am in contact with.

I agree with Karma about showing more love and interest in the individual person. Christians tend to come off as judgemental.

I had a Chaplain tell me you have to meet the people where they are at in their life.

selahV said...

Tony, I agree that the church as we know it will probably have an entirely different face in years to come. Oh, there will be some, but most will change with the culture. And really, that is fine with me. But much of what some today think is "new" is not new. People have been doing these things as long as I've been in church. Drama, role play, praise music, choruses, small groups in homes. So much of what folks think is new today, is no different than many churches have seen.

I believe Karma has the perfect answer here. The relevancy of Christ is the manifestation of Christ in the lives of His people. Folks aren't interested in the do and don't. They are interested in the why. Above and beyond the do and don't, why should I? What's in it for me?

We are living in one of the most self-indulgent, self-centered generations of all time. But it is suppose to be. The closer we come to the close of the age, the more decadence and self-seeking we will become. And unless we show the love of Jesus in every way we talk and walk, we will never reach the people who want what they want when they want it.

Even we, I included, want all there is in life. But if I don't have it, I still have Jesus. I almost wonder if our financial collapse in this world will be one of the most beneficial things in our history for bringing people to Christ. The less we have, the more that is stripped away, the more Jesus is shown forth. He is our portion, our strength, our power, our provision. But most of us don't know that till we reach the point of total impoverishment of emotion, health, wealth and dependency upon ourselves.

I am excited that we are all coming to the point in our faith that we are seeing this. Even in all the ranglings and debating, it all comes back to the fact that Jesus is the absolute. The Good News. Jesus. He is the only relevant thing there is. And we are His church. We are the Church. So we must be relevant to others or Jesus will not be.

Sorry for the soapbox. But you and Karma inspired me. selahV

selahV said...

By the way, Tony. Have I told you yet that I'm glad you're back? selahV

Tony said...


I have gone through exactly what you are talking about in your first graph. Recently some folks left the church I serve to go to another church and in so doing they were looking for a reason to leave. He stopped by my study one day to talk about it and I quite literally BEGGED him to stop bad-mouthing our church. I told him, "If the Holy Spirit has impressed it upon you to leave our church and go to another one, then that is reason enough to go without finding a negative reason to justify your departure so as to make yourself feel better" (long story short).

You are right in that we must cultivate as welcoming an environment as possible; who knows when that prodigal may return or when a seeker may show up? Love and compassion are key; I mean, that's what Jesus had (Matthew 9:36).

Mrs. V,

I'm glad to be back, too. Thanks for the welcome. And no trouble on posting your thoughts here. I am glad Karma and I inspired you. Karma has had some good thoughts here in this thread and the last one. And you are so right...Jesus is the only relevant thing there is!