There's no doubt that religion in America is a fascinating topic of study, what with its cycles and its larger-than-life personalities. The time we're in right now is, as it has been, both the same and different.
Are we too liberal? Do we have enough arbitrary rules to halt the decline and sustain a stable membership? These are questions that should be qualified by being asked in light of the most important question: Are we following Jesus faithfully?
Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.
While the target audience in this case consists of Protestants, a.k.a. "Mainline Protestants," many other kinds of people "living faithfully" in religious communities could recognize themselves in the issues involved, if not in the "selfie" portraits of potential "aliens."
The goal of following Jesus has never been the kind of growth that satisfies the ecclesiastical bean counters anyway; it's about doing what you believe -- were he to find himself in the same position -- Jesus might do.
Year-over-year, our loss of Total and Participating Membership sits close to 20 percent, but that our Average Worship Attendance is only a little over 4 percent. That is a shocking loss to absorb in a single year.
What is in store for the Mainline Protestant churches, as well as for the more evangelical, fundamentalist, and/or charismatic Protestant denominations and independent churches? Reason might suggest that both groups should move a little to the religious middle.
Bob believed in democracy, and he believed that Christians should fight for the common good. It was devastating to learn of his sudden death this week in a dark time when his prophetic vision has never been more sorely needed.
The death of George McGovern -- the son of a Methodist minister and himself briefly a seminary student at a Methodist institution -- is a reminder of the good of that Protestant reform impulse, rooted in the Social Gospel movements of the early and mid-20th century.
I've always felt we religiously unaffiliated "Nones" were a tiny minority. But here we are, surging in an America that's been steeped in religious dogma, where Republican politics has been overrun by zealots hellbent on controlling women's bodies and discriminating against gays.
Haven't we all met the Christian who's so compelling to us that his or her presence inspires our faith? And haven't we also met that sister or brother whose words, actions or attitudes cause us to literally doubt our faith?
While many mainline churches say "we want young people," they don't really. If young adults actually showed up and joined their church for good, the change they'd naturally bring with them would be stark, even off-putting.
I imagine Rob Bell feels a lot like I have on many occasions: it's not that the critics have understood what I'm trying to say and have explained why they disagree. They've misrepresented what I'm trying to say and have explained why the misrepresentation is audacious and ludicrous.
The point is not that Televangelists are scoundrels, or that many Christian pastors are hypocrites, but that these grand ministry failures represent examples of what many mainstream churches have, in desperation, come to believe is relevant.
The future is uncertain, but I'm convinced that there is a future for the essence of mainline Christianity -- a healthy, meaningful future that will continue to play a role both in society and in the hearts and minds of individuals.