losing my religion

A study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life today claims that Americans are increasingly switching faiths or leaving faith entirely.

Here are a few excerpts from the "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey":

Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion -- or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the biggest gainer in this religious competition -- the unaffiliated group. People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4% of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group. This means that more than half of people who were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group. In short, the Landscape Survey shows that the unaffiliated population has grown despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all "religious" groups.

In addition to detailing the current religious makeup of the U.S. and describing the dynamic changes in religious affiliation, the findings from the Landscape Survey also provide important clues about the future direction of religious affiliation in the U.S. By detailing the age distribution of different religious groups, for instance, the survey findings show that more than six-in-ten Americans age 70 and older (62%) are Protestant but that this number is only about four-in-ten (43%) among Americans ages 18-29. Conversely, young adults ages 18-29 are much more likely than those age 70 and older to say that they are not affiliated with any particular religion (25% vs. 8%). If these generational patterns persist, recent declines in the number of Protestants and growth in the size of the unaffiliated population may continue.

CLICK HERE to read the full report

So, Americans float around a bit and get restless easily, no surprise there. Did you notice how quickly the numbers are shifting to the "unaffiliated" camp, and the dominant age ranges of those claiming no affiliation?

We have to ask ourselves some serious questions.
What must the church do to reach the younger generations?
As a follower of Jesus, what is my responsibility to the younger generations?


...and the greatest of these is love

"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in the world today than for bread"
Mother Theresa

We were created for companionship. We were made for love. Something within us cries out to belong. We have an inborn desire to be loved, accepted, and valued.

At some point you may have been told that you were unlovable. Someone may have said cruel things to you. Maybe you have been trying to live up to someone else's definition of beauty and you feel like you just don't measure up. Maybe you've been in hurtful relationships and you feel like damaged goods. Maybe you feel like you are "on the outside looking in" when it comes to true love.

I was reading in Ephesians the other day and came across a wonderful passage. Paul writes beautiful words of love and acceptance to the believers in Ephesus. These gentile believers were used to feeling like they never quite measured up. They weren't accepted by Jewish believers, and the non-believing gentiles thought that they were strange. They were accustomed to feeling like outsiders.

Paul writes down the following prayer for them:

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

It seems like back then the common knowledge about the church was that they were narrow, elitist, and reserved their love and acceptance for a select few. Sound familiar?

Then Paul brings these words; depth, height, width, length. These words sound vast, and expansive, not limiting, and reserved. To me it sounds like Paul is describing an ocean. Something you could swim in. Something you could become immersed in, covered in it.

If you've felt unlovable, if you've felt damaged, if you feel like you somehow missed the boat on love, know this; God's love for you is huge. It is deep. It is high. It is wide, and long. Let it cover you. Allow yourself to become immersed in this love. This is what you were made for.

If you sense that you have somehow expressed your love in a narrow fashion, if you've acted unlovingly except to a select few, allow yourself to be used as a conduit of God's expansive love for all. Experience the freedom of expressing this deep, deep love.

My prayer for you today is that you would experience love, and that you would express love. Not sparingly, but extravagantly.

Tell someone you love them.