Sixteen percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, making “unaffiliated” the fourth largest religious category.
That’s according to a survey from Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
They’re telling us what we may already know. For one thing, many people are moving between denominations freely. The denominational loyalty of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s is largely gone.
It’s not surprising, then, that among the fastest-growing groups is nondenominational Protestant Churches, which are largely evangelical. Megachurches are still growing fast, according to the survey, as are Pentecostals and the Holiness Church movement.
“The trend is towards more personal religion and evangelicals offer that,” commented Stephen Prothero of Boston University. He added that those offering impersonal religion are losing out. Even the megachurches succeed only when they offer smaller ministries within.
But many are simply leaving organized religion altogether.
People surveyed are not generally becoming atheistic or agnostic, but simply describe themselves as “nothing in particular.”
Some things we can learn:
- In general, Americans are not leaving religion, only organized religion.
- Americans crave personal religion.
- Denominations no long rule the religious horizon.
So how do we respond?
Jesus walked the earth during the heyday of organized religion. Remember how the Samaritan woman questioned why her people couldn’t worship on their own mountain? Meanwhile, the Pharisees tithed even the herbs from their garden.
Jesus didn’t even assemble his own church but he went out among the people with compassion, bringing the truth and offering the scent of life and freedom. His passion was for people, not religious props or church structures. He sought out the unclean and the unlovable.
That church of the unaffiliated needs the presence of Jesus. And he left us here to bring that to them.
He replied, "You give them something to eat."