DEMOGRAPHICS & White mainline Protestants outnumber white evangelicals, while ‘nones’ shrink.

by Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service, 7/8/21.

White Christian decline has slowed. Mainline Protestants now outnumber white evangelicals. New York is home to several of the most religiously diverse counties in the U.S.

These shifts and findings are among some of the notable revelations documented in a sweeping and exhaustive survey of the U.S. religious landscape by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The 2020 Census of American Religion, released on Thursday (July 8), is based on what researchers called an “unprecedented” dataset that includes hundreds of thousands of respondents surveyed between 2013 and 2019.

Clergy and other faith leaders will be perhaps most interested in PRRI’s finding that religiously unaffiliated Americans, or “nones” in religion demography parlance, have lost ground, making up just 23% of the country. The complex group — which includes atheists, agnostics and some people who say they pray daily but don’t claim a specific faith tradition — peaked at 25.5% of the population in 2018.

White Christians, meanwhile, have expanded their share of the population, particularly white mainline Protestants. That group sits at 16.4%, an increase from 13% in 2016, whereas white evangelicals — who PRRI delineated from white mainliners using a methodology researchers said is commonly utilized by major pollsters — now represent about 14.5% of the population, down from a peak of 23% in 2006. White Catholics now hover around 11.7%, up from a 2018 low of 10.9%.

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

Chart courtesy of PRRI Census of American Religion

The percentage of white Christians ticked up overall, rising from 42% in 2018 to 44% in 2020.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/07/08/survey-white-mainline-protestants-outnumber-white-evangelicals/?

CHURCH REVITALIZATION & Why it is needed more than ever! Researchers discover more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate. Pre-pandemic 75-150 churches close per week!

I have helped 100s of churches turnaround. And I’ve written & taught DMin courses in three seminaries on “How to Turnaround a Church.”

If your church wants to preserve its legacy and grow … then contact me today at http://www.Leadership.Church

“Study: More churches closing than opening” by Yonat Shimron, Religion News Service, 5/22/21.

A new study from Lifeway Research suggests more Protestant churches closed in 2019 than opened — continuing a decades-long congregational slide that is only expected to accelerate.

The study, which analyzed church data from 34 Protestant denominations and groups, found that 4,500 churches closed in 2019, while about 3,000 new congregations were started. The 34 Protestant denominations account for about 60% of U.S.-based Protestant denominations.

“Even before the pandemic, the pace of opening new congregations was not even providing enough replacements for those that closed their doors,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

The study also pointed to the hastening of church closures. In 2014, it found, there were 3,700 church closures, compared with 4,500 in 2019.

…That study, published in April, estimated that in the decade ending in 2020, 3,850 to 7,700 houses of worship closed per year in the United States, or 75 to 150 congregations per week. It also projected those numbers will double or triple in the wake of the pandemic.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/05/26/study-more-churches-closing-than-opening/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Study%3A%20More%20churches%20closing%20than%20opening&utm_campaign=ni_newsletter

reMIX & Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

remix cover

reMIX & People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%.

… What’s dramatically declining in the U.S. is white Christianity. People of color are actually preventing a more precipitous drop in overall church participation. The Assemblies of God, one of the few denominations showing growth, saw its white membership decrease in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014, but nonwhite members increased by 43%, reflecting trends continuing today. One-third of U.S. Catholics are now Hispanic. Without its growing nonwhite members, the Catholic Church would be in free fall instead of remaining at about 22% of the U.S. population.

The nones who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

TRENDS & The primary challenge facing pastors … is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

… The decline of membership in churches, synagogues and mosques cannot be equated with decline in religious curiosity or practice. When nones are asked why they have disaffiliated from any religious organization, only 22% say it is because they do not believe in God. The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

MUSIC & The impact of the faith & music of DMX

by T.C. Moore, Religion News Service, 4/14/21

The Gospel of John tells the story of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, describing him as “the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’” paving the way for Jesus the Nazarene.

Hence, his other, lesser-known title: John the Forerunner. John’s fearlessness and bold announcement of the coming of the Messiah tilled the soil of hardened hearts and planted the seeds Jesus would cultivate into his world-changing kingdom of God movement.

Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was my John the Forerunner.

In the wilderness of my gang-involved teens, DMX was a voice unlike any other, piercing my defenses and opening me up to the work of God that would eventually convert me into a devoted follower of Jesus.

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 with an utterly unique debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” It was at once a raw testament to DMX’s story of suffering and survival while also sounding a faith-filled and hopeful note.

It wasn’t as if God was a stranger to hip-hop lyrics: Tupac Shakur, whose posthumous 1996 album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” depicted the rapper on a cross on its cover, had often invoked God and heaven, to say nothing of the “Five Percent” theology that pervaded so much of East Coast rap.

But what “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” had that no other could claim was a distinct and overt Christian — maybe even charismatic — spirituality. DMX spoke directly with God in “The Convo,” in a lament worthy of Job (“Why you chose the hood for me?”) and wrestled with satanic temptation in “Damien” as Jesus did in the wilderness. “The Snake, the Rat, the Cat, the Dog / how you gonna see him if you livin’ in a fog?”

DMX wrote hauntingly about death, summoning the anguish of Jesus praying passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane. “You give me the Word / and only ask that I interpret / and give me the eyes / that I may recognize the Serpent.”

The only child of a schizophrenic single mother, I’d experienced more than my fair share of abuse and neglect. For a teenager wrestling with his own inner demons, DMX opened up a way out of the game through faith. If he could loft his questions about the problem of evil directly at God and rebuke the devil who tempted him to sin, maybe I could too. “Somebody’s knocking / should I let him in? / Lord, we’re just starting / but where will it end?”

Later that year, DMX dropped “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which, like “Hell Is Hot,” topped the charts. When the criminal community to which I’d fled for safety began to unravel and my own choices landed me in one too many potentially deadly situations, the lyrics of “Slippin’” hit me like prophecy: “See, to live is to suffer. But to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering.”

About this time, my childhood friend Nate invited me to his baptism at a Pentecostal church. I heard God’s voice through the pastor. It called me like the voice of God in DMX’s music. After I was baptized, I encountered a new version of myself. On repeat on my Sony Discman, meanwhile, DMX was telling the story of a prodigal come home: “My child, I’m here as I’ve always been / it is you who went away and are back again,” he said on “Ready to Meet Him.” I tagged my first Bible with a sketch of myself drenched in blood like the cover of that album.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/04/14/dmx-was-my-john-the-forerunner/?utm_source=

reMIX & Those who enjoy lattes at downtown coffee shops on Sunday mornings instead of singing in church are largely young, hip and white. But the country’s demographic future as a whole is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, and this will impact the religious landscape.

March 31, 2021 by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/03/31/behind-gallups-portrait-of-church-decline/?

For strategies almost any church can utilize to become a church of living color see my and Mark DeYmaz’s Abingdon Dress book: reMIX – Transitioning Your Church to Living Color.

ATTENDANCE & Over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance … with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to #Barna data.

“Higher attendance, lower giving: Survey shows how churches are responding to COVID-19” by Emily MacFarland Miller, Religion News Service, 3/31/20.

…Barna surveyed 434 senior and executive pastors online using its Barna Church Pulse tool, starting one week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency related to the pandemic; 222 pastors responded between March 20 and 23, and another 212 between March 27 and 30.

… Most have moved those services online. Even churches that hadn’t been online previously are trying it out to reach their congregants at home: While 32% of churches were not offering any digital options in the first week, that number had shrunk to 7% by the second week, Kinnaman pointed out.

Just over half of pastors (54%) said their online attendance was higher than their usual in-person attendance this past Sunday (March 29), with fully 1 in 4 reporting it was “much higher,” according to Barna data.

But nearly 8 in 10 (79%) said financial giving is down, with nearly half (47%) reporting it is down “significantly.”j

Still, almost all of the pastors surveyed (95%) felt confident their churches would survive and said they haven’t made any changes to their staffing (71%).

“The church is adapting to the new normal, and they’re starting to use the language about the indefinite future, about working remotely,” Kinnaman said.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/03/30/higher-attendance-lower-giving-new-survey-shows-how-churches-are-responding-to-covid-19/

EVANGELICALS & Scholars Classify 5 Types: Which are you? #InfoGraphic #RNS

How can Christians support Donald Trump?” by Diane Winston, Religion News Service, 12/17/18.

…While conservative white evangelicals are a significant voting bloc and, as such, command cultural cachet, they’re not monolithic. Millions of evangelicals, notably those who aren’t white, didn’t support Trump.

The evangelical world is more complex than news coverage of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham would suggest. A handful of white conservative leaders, even if they don’t all agree, isn’t representative of American evangelicalism’s breadth.

That’s why a group of scholars, including evangelicals, former evangelicals and non-evangelicals who are black, white and brown, met regularly this fall to discuss and develop a typology that would describe the complexity of American evangelicalism. Those discussions eventually led my colleagues and me at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California to create a short guide on the varieties of American evangelicalism.

Illustrations classify five types of American evangelicalism. Image courtesy of USC

…The guide breaks evangelicals into five groups: Trump-vangelicals, Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelicals, iVangelicals, Kingdom Christians and Peace and Justice Evangelicals.

We used three sorting criteria.

First, each group shares a basic agreement on evangelical theology. Second, they each understand themselves as existing within the larger tradition of American evangelicalism, whether or not they refer to themselves, their churches and other organizations as “evangelical.”

Third, their theology motivates how they act in the world, including social and political activities, and their attitudes toward people who do not share their faith.

Trump-vangelicals are the most visible inheritors of the religious right’s mission to make America a Christian nation. The majority of this group is white, but some Latinos, Asians and African-Americans also belong. Many are not just concerned with electoral politics but also see their work as preparation for the Second Coming. Members stay connected through educational and media networks, including Fox News, and look to men like James Dobson, John Hagee and Franklin Graham for leadership.

Fundamentalist Evangelicals share the same worldview as Trump-vangelicals but cite moral and theological reasons for not supporting the president. However, they appreciate Trump’s making good on their agenda, and many voted for him, some holding their noses.

Unlike the Trump-vangelicals, neo-fundamentalists strive to be politically pure, motivated only by Christianity’s teachings. Notables include Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and Tony Evans of the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.

iVangelicals, the largest division of American evangelicals, belong to megachurches. Mostly white, they also include Latinos, Asians and African-Americans. Though socially conservative, they are more concerned with church life than politics. Social change, they say, comes from individual conversion: people need to be saved before political structures change. Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston represents this group, as do T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House Church of Dallas and the leadership of Hillsong.

Kingdom Christians are the most racially and ethnically diverse of the groups. Churches tend to be urban and hyper-local, and members are active in their communities, working for grassroots changes that mitigate human suffering. Because of their local orientation, few leaders are nationally known.

Peace and Justice Evangelicals make up a small but growing movement of older leaders, mostly white men, and young adherents who are racially and ethnically diverse. Though many are pro-life, they part company with other evangelicals by focusing on issues such as racial justice, gender equality, immigration reform and “creation care” — what the rest of America calls environmentalism.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/12/17/how-can-christians-support-donald-trump/

NEED MEETING & For some churches, food trucks are a vehicle for serving the poor

Allen Lutes, center, an associate minister at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church, and founder of its new ministry: Five & Two Food Truck, serves food with other volunteers. Photo courtesy of Arlington Heights United Methodist ChurchBy SARAH ANGLE

c. 2015 Religion News Service

FORT WORTH, Texas (RNS) Allen Lutes wipes his brow as he prepares another plate of food. The culinary school-trained chef is serving grilled chicken, fresh vegetables and rice pilaf.

But this isn’t a typical restaurant and Lutes isn’t a standard chef; he’s an associate minister at Arlington Heights United Methodist Church and founder of its new ministry, Five & Two Food Truck. It was named after the biblical story of five loaves and two fishesfeeding the multitudes.

The converted 1995 Chevy plumbing truck shines in the hot Texas sun as Lutes’ dinner guests trickle up to the window — meekly at first — guiding their children as they reach up to take a hot plate of food.

Twice a month, the food truck serves Presbyterian Night Shelter, a homeless shelter in Fort Worth. Tonight, it’s at the nonprofit’s shelter for women and children; the majority of the women here are victims of domestic violence.

Teresa, 42, and her 16-year-old daughter say “thank you” as they grab a plate and some bottled water and head inside the shelter to eat with the rest of the families and church volunteers who have come not only to serve but to share a meal with these families.

“It’s good,” said Teresa, as she takes a bite of chicken. “The last time we came here we had chicken fingers and they were really hard. But you know, you can’t complain, because it’s food.”

Faith-based food trucks are building momentum across the country. In St. Paul, Minn., Lutheran pastor Margaret Kelly’s church is actually a food truck, providing free food and prayers to homeless and impoverished members of the community…

Read more at … http://unitedmethodistreporter.com/2015/08/06/for-some-churches-food-trucks-are-a-vehicle-for-serving-the-poor/