Data pointing to a dwindling percentage of Americans who identify with a specific Protestant denomination has spurred calls for churches marked by God’s “presence and power” and for reemphasis of biblical doctrine.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines said a strong denominational identity doesn’t seem to hinder the church he pastors or the SBC. Still, the manifest work of God in a church is far more important than its denominational identity, he told Baptist Press (BP).
“We are ‘Bellevue Baptist Church,’” Gaines said of the Memphis-area congregation he leads. “I don’t believe the word ‘Baptist’ hinders our ministry. I don’t believe being part of the SBC hurts us. I believe if what is happening in and through a specific local church is Christ-honoring and Spirit-anointed, people will come and get involved regardless of what the name of the church is or what denomination it is part of.”
According to the Gallup polling organization, just 30 percent of American adults identified with a specific Protestant denomination in 2016, down from 50 percent in 2000. Over the same timeframe, the percentage of Americans who regard themselves as Christians without claiming a specific denomination rose from 9 percent to 17 percent, a July 18 news release stated.
“I’m convinced that we should seek to have churches that are marked by the supernatural presence and power of God,” Gaines said in written comments. “If people sense the presence of Jesus at a church, they will come and be part of what God is doing. And they won’t care whether that church is part of a denomination or not.”
Gallup claimed the shrinking percentage of Americans who identify with a specific Protestant denomination stems from two realities:
– “There are fewer Protestants of any kind in the American population today.” Thus, “the pool of those who identify with a specific Protestant denomination is smaller.”
Protestants shrank from 57 percent of the population in 2000 to 47 percent in 2016, Gallup stated. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who do not claim a religious identity of any kind rose from 10 percent to 20 percent.
– Those who self-identify as Christians increasingly put themselves in the “non-denominational category.”
Of Americans who do claim a specific Protestant denominational identity, Baptists are the largest group with 10 percent of the population. Some 3 percent identified specifically as Southern Baptists in 2016, down from 8 percent in 2000.
Gaines said the lack of denominational loyalty seems to parallel a lack of loyalty to corporations and brands among Americans, with workers frequently transferring “from company to company” unlike they did in previous generations.
“Whether [the lack of organizational loyalty] is good or bad, I don’t know,” Gaines said. “But it is reality. That’s why many churches have chosen to remove the name of their denomination from the name of their church. Many churches in the SBC have removed the word ‘Baptist’ from their identity. Again, I can’t say whether that is right or wrong. That is between them and the Lord.”
SOURCE: David Roach
Baptist Press / via The Baptist Recorder