Monday, February 25, 2008

The Survey Says...

Read through that article, because it is very telling. While I live in a different country (Yes, Canada is not a state) we are intimately tied to our Southern Cousins.

The general tone of the article is this: religion is not cutting it. There are few converts (across all faith's), and those that are 'wins' are merely cross-pollinated from another denomination. Catholics suffering the worst from this symptom.

Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. "Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms."

Let's unpack that a little bit. Notice how the problem here is not with faith in general, although one could argue that the assault on faith is beginning to take it's toll, but rather the problem is with organized religion.

If you've talked to me at any point in time during the past 8 years, you know I'm no fan of 'organized religion.' I don't think that Jesus mandated it, and I don't think it has any place in Christianity. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the Church should be dissolved, and any source of authority removed. Rather, I'm stating that the four walls of church's should be demolished, and the big front doors torn down.

Instead, we should meet in the streets of our communities, meeting with the people who live there, learning their needs, and then meeting them. We have become an increasing irrelevant faith. We talk about how much good we do, but then what do we actually do?

The majority of the unaffiliated — 12 percent of the overall population — describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them. Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.

Notice that. 12 percent say they have no religion, that means a staggering 88% classify themselves as having and actively believing in some faith. Another 6% are saying that faith is at least somewhat important to them. Where are those 6% falling? Who is meeting their needs?

Many Americans have vague denominational ties at best. People who call themselves "just a Protestant," in fact, account for nearly 10 percent of all Protestants.

This is also a very significant trend, and something I have stated time and time again -- denominations are not cool. Yes, we need to identify with something, and we need to have clearly defined beliefs. But why on earth (pun intended) are we dividing ourselves over such trivial things? Would Jesus, Paul, Peter or the countless others really be satisfied with these divisions, or would they condemn us for being legalistic and, dare I say it, pharasitical?

Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the "unchurched," the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

Note that statement right there. You know what that screams at me? We aren't doing our job. People keep searching for the depth they long for, and they aren't finding it. They go from one nuance to another in hopes that it will revitalize their dying selves, and in reality they are looking in all the wrong places.

We must live our our faith. Not in the talk about it, preaching kind of way. But in the practical saving lives, handing out food, talking with our neighbours kind of ways. These are the things that make the difference. Digging under the skin, asking the hard questions, pushing through the difficulties of a relationship and showing people that they are worth it.

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