Friday, February 29, 2008

The Pew Report

There's lots to chew on in the recent Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

I've played around with the numbers a bit. What I'm interested in the relative decrease (or increase) in childhood versus current affiliation of adults in the different denominations. The Pew Report stated the absolute amount of the decline or increase. That doesn't help us to understand gains and losses in the different denominations relative to each other. My numbers on the percentage loss or gain among denominations, comparing current affliation of adults to their childhood affliation:

Methodist 25.3% Decline
Catholic 23.9% Decline
Presbyterian 20.6% Decline
Lutheran 16.4% Decline
Pentecostal 12.8% Increase
Non-Denominational 200.0% Increase

The labels, of course, cover major differences. The LCMS has seen a decline in overall baptized membership of around 8 percent since the early 1970s (not including losses from churches leaving the denomination due to the Seminex controversy). So it appears that liberal Lutheranism has seen a more serious decline than conservative Lutheranism.

Nonetheless, why should the LCMS experience any decrease at all? There is, of course, a huge amount of attention being paid to evangelism. But for all the smoke, I'm unsure how much fire there is yet.

One temptation might be to look and see what non-denominational churches are doing. And I don't think there's any problem with looking to see if there's something to learn. The thing is, if we look at Joel Osteen's church, the apparent reason for the growth is an Stuart-Smally type, non-confrontational message, "How to Become a Better Me."

But there seems to be some bimodality in growth patterns. I recall research by a University of Oregon professor who saw growth in churches that placed real demands on their members.

So the irony is that growth may be bi-modal -- you grow if you water down the Gospel, but you also grow if you preach an uncompromised Gospel. If true, then the worst church model is trying to mix approaches.

But that's just speculation.


Blogger gyoung said...

I think you mean Joel Osteen?


February 29, 2008 4:51 PM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Sort of like hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Btw, what does 'afflication' mean? Is that a statistics term?

February 29, 2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Man, tough readers!

March 01, 2008 12:01 PM  

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