A new survey conducted by “The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life” was recently released. This new study surveyed 35,000 adult Americans, a rather large sampling of people. One of the findings of this survey stated that 44% of American adults have left the denomination of their childhood.
When I read that finding, I began to write this article, but decided to delay a couple weeks. I wanted to allow myself time to think through some possible causes for such a finding. While there are several factors that could contribute to such a large number of people changing their religious practices, the overwhelming factor, at least in my judgment, is Consumerism.
It’s a manifestation of the Post-Modern times in which we live. People are shopping for religion. They have a “shopping list” of things they want, and they have gone searching for those items. If the church of their youth doesn’t provide those items for which they’re looking, they apparently have chosen to abandon it in favor of a church that “meets their needs.”
While I certainly feel the church should do its best to reach out to the world in the most effective ways possible, I don’t believe we accomplish that by sacrificing truth to meet the selfish whims of “religious shoppers.” The mission of the church is not simply to make people happy, but to make them holy. Not to offer recreation, but reconciliation. Not to encourage people to seek therapy, but to seek authority. People shouldn’t be more acquainted with the 12 steps of recovery than they are with the steps to salvation.
So what should the Lord’s church do in light of the findings of this survey? The answer is simply this… “Let the church continue to be the church.” Stop placing more emphasis on being relevant to a secular society, as some have done, than on being Scriptural. But what if that’s not what “religious shoppers” are looking for? Well, it seems to me that I read somewhere that we were to preach the word “in season and out of season.”
If we are indeed living in an “out of season” time, our message should remain the same. Please don’t abandon truth for what the world sees as relevant. The fact of the matter is, being faithful to God’s word and preaching his truth is being relevant, whether the world realizes it or not.