Your ‘Faith Community’ Matters

The U.S. Religion Census just came out with their once-every-ten-year numbers trekking religious involvement state by state. A decade ago, the state of Washington placed 49th (one position ahead of Oregon—we can’t beat them in football but we can beat them to the pew on Sunday morning). In 2000, 33% of our population claimed religious affiliation to a church, temple, synagogue, or mosque. Now we are in 45th place as 34.6% of our residents are attending religious services—a whopping increase of 1.6%. For comparison purposes, the national average is now just under 50%.

What do we make of these numbers? Remembering that non-Christian groups are included (Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, etc.) makes the percentage of those attending Bible believing churches much less. And then there is this development, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) grew by 50% in the past decade in our state. In 2000, there were only 49 Mormon congregations; that number has grown considerably since—they now have over 500. Muslims grew by 23% and Buddhists are also on the upsurge with close to 50,000 adherents. When you start peeling off some of the main-line denominations that play games with the authority of Scripture (endorse gay marriage, for instance) and are debating (and in some cases already denying) that Jesus is the only Savior—that 34.6% number is looking even more anemic. Should it be adjusted to single digits? Here is the cold reality, there aren’t very many evangelicals living in the state of Washington! Can you say mission field?

The local director of Associated Ministries also believes the 34.6% needs to be adjusted. He believes, however, it should be adjusted to include more. In his interview with The News Tribune (May 2, 2012), he said he believes the vast majority of people of faith in Pierce County have chosen not to join a faith community (and are therefore not included in the 34.6% figure). He goes on to say that these people experience their spirituality through personal devotions, in the environment, at book clubs or at the local coffee shop. “That’s the way it is here. People are looking for community. They’re just not looking for it inside a congregation’s door.”

What is troubling about the 34.6% number is that many included in it believe all is well with their soul because their “faith community” is included in the number. What is also troubling is that many not included believe their soul is well because they sip down a latte on Saturdays in a quaint coffee shop with friends discussing the most recent New York Times bestseller. It does matter that you belong to a “faith community”—but it also matters to which one.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
May 10, 2012  

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