Religious Competition

Sam Rainer

February 29, 2008

The Pew Research Center recently released a massive (35,000 people) study on the religious landscape in the United States. Below are two data blurbs I find sobering:

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 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.

There’s lots of discussion out there in Internet hinterland regarding this study. Other good dialogue on the issue can be found here and here.

What do you think? Has “religion” in the United States become part of our commercialized-competitive-consumer culture? Are we as pastors really playing a zero-sum game with people, winning a person at the expense of another church losing them? What can we do as churches, pastors, and lay leaders to solve this problem?

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