Christian commentators and researchers reacting to a recent
study on religious demographics in the U.S. say the findings reveal
more than is being discussed about the downtrend in
religious demographic survey from the Pew Forum asserts that a
record number of Americans profess no religious affiliation, and
that Protestants are now a minority in America. The study is being
widely reported as showing that a growing number of people are
rejecting at least organized religion, that Protestants are
receding in importance, and that America is becoming more and more
But Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion
& Democracy, points out another important aspect of the
statistics - one he says is being essentially ignored.
"The study also shows that most of the
religious unaffiliated still believe in God and still pray -- and
although very few have commented on it at all, it also shows that
about the same percentage of Americans are still attending church
regularly, close to 40 percent, which remarkably has remained the
same across 80 years now."
Tooley says the Pew survey does not mean necessarily that
America is going the way of Europe and deserting religion. "I think
the study mostly just illustrates the implosion of denominational
loyalties and affiliations, especially among the mainline
Protestants, but among Protestants and evangelicals as a whole," he
offers. "Even those who are very devout increasingly don't express
any strong loyalty to any particular denomination or
Tooley concludes that "what the study illustrates should not be
A need to reach across generations
The same Pew Forum poll shows a disconnection between youth and
the church, suggesting that one-third of adults under age 30 have
no religious connection. LifeWay Research's Ed Stetzer tells OneNewsNow
people do tend to show a connection with religion as they go
through phases of life.
"But there are some disconcerting numbers here, and it's not the
first one, but where we see a lesser commitment and interest in
things of faith to young adults and youth," he remarks. "And I
think it reminds us that as Christians the need to redouble our
efforts to engage and reach across generations."
The key to that, he believes, is discipling children within the
framework of the family.
"We've shown studies at LifeWay Research where we've found the
number-one correlative factor to students being engaged and
remaining engaged in church and ministry and life is having two
parents who are married, who go to the same church, and who are
engaged in the spiritual formation of their children," the
"And so I think we don't want to ever lose sight that this is
not just a church issue, though it is; this is [also] a family
issue. That's the fundamental unit of discipleship."
Stetzer believes Christians should examine "how we live as
agents of God's mission; how do we seek to be those who represent
Christ in our community -- not simply those who go to church on
Sunday, but people who represent [Christ] and live for him every
The list of pastors willing to challenge the Internal Revenue
Service's rules for maintaining tax-exempt status is growing in
advance of Pulpit Freedom Sunday this weekend.