February 27, 2008

Pew Study

The Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey has been released and has been getting some attention. Here are a few different looks at it:
Brian McLaren
Adam Hamilton
Marta Aldrich (UM News Service)

I haven't had a chance to study the survey numbers myself, and the fact is there are people much more knowledgeable than me who can make better sense of what they actually mean, but I think as United Methodists the bottom line is we can't keep doing what we've been doing. As McLaren notes the question that needs to be before us isn't "What do the customers want?" but "What does God want?" and how will the church be in mission to make that happen?

There is a big challenge before us, because it means a significant shift in the mindset of the institutional church. While the data is sobering in terms of what it could mean the future of the UMC (or potential lack of), I also think there is great opportunity. Part of what the data seems to imply is that people haven't given up on God (atheists and agnostics only account for about 4% of the population); they are just dissatisfied with church. How we address this dissatisfaction is a tough question and I'm not even going to try to suggest an answer, but there is room for hope. We can hope, as long as that hope entails a willingness to seek out God's will and a commitment to doing God's will, especially as it calls us to ministry with the least, the last and the lost.

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