Posted Without Comment…

From USAToday (emphasis added):

The faithful are restless, a new study of Protestant churchgoers suggests.

They’re switching from church to church, powered by a mix of dissatisfaction and yearning, according to the study by LifeWay Research….

Most of the switchers who changed their house of worship without making a residential move (58%) say their old church failed to engage their faith, or put their talents to work, or it seemed hypocritical or judgmental.

But 42% of the people say they switched because another church offered more appealing doctrines and preaching or the preacher and church members’ faith seemed more “authentic.”

UPDATE: Okay, one comment: What *should* the criteria for switching churches be?

10 thoughts on “Posted Without Comment…

  1. If the USA today online quick question is an inicator of the sleection criteria for this poll. It is definitely missing some choices. It needed “Felt apathetic about going to church”, for one…

  2. Matt, you insensitive clod! Didn’t you read that Kevin wanted to post this without comments?

  3. Kevin,

    “Itching ears” (Paul to Timothy) is alive and well in our Church (albeit perhaps not as much) as in many others. It’s hard to evaluate what is being taught in another religion on a Sunday by Sunday basis, but it is apparently continuing to assist parishioners to look elsewhere.

    A simple answer to your question should be, a search for the truth. All too often though, it is that we cannot “endure sound doctrine” so we ” heap to ourselves, teachers”.

    I think we manifest this in the Church when we think the Brethren are out of touch. But even that can be worked through if we are willing. For my own hope at salvation, I am still working through a few things I heard in conference. I’m searching for the truth but not for a new religion.

  4. I would think that the quality of the sacramental wines would be a reason to switch churches. :-)

    Seriously, though, if I weren’t able to find satisfactory answers to questions pertaining to my salvation, I think I would want to switch churches. I mean, who wants to belong to a church that teaches you will go to Hell if you do “A” or “B” (insert your favorite sin here).

  5. Anyone who has read The Churching of America by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark will not be surprised by these poll results.

    Though the wording of some of the poll results is a little vague.

  6. I took from Kevin’s post that every convert needs a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing in the good word of Christ.

  7. I mean, who wants to belong to a church that teaches you will go to Hell if you do “A” or “B” (insert your favorite sin here).

    But, what if that happens to be *true*? This is the point I’m trying to get at–why wouldn’t ‘teaches correct doctrine’ be higher priority when deciding on a church, instead ‘teaches more *appealing* doctrine to my ears’?

    If you have three history books: one says the North won the Civil War, one says the South won the Civil War, and one says there never was a Civil War in the US. What criteria would you use in deciding which book to use in your history class? What would you say if a class in, say, South Carolina chose the second because it was ‘more appealing’? Why would religion be different? It’s one thing if you genuinely don’t *know*, but the question of ‘correctness’ never seems to even occur–or matter–to a lot of church-goers…

  8. But, what if that happens to be *true*? This is the point I’m trying to get at–why wouldn’t ‘teaches correct doctrine’ be higher priority when deciding on a church, instead ‘teaches more *appealing* doctrine to my ears’?

    I think people are flocking to preachers and churches who preach appealing doctrines. Why are people choosing this over ‘teaches correct doctrine’? Good question. I guess for some people it must be easier to settle for the things of the world over the things of God.

  9. This is one problem with the survey: “appealing doctrines” is vague and I would like some clarification on what respondents meant by this.

    Go read the book I mentioned above. As Finke and Stark show (and the book covers from 1776 to 2005 to show this is a consistent pattern) that “appealing doctrines” (in the sense of easy, comforting doctrines) are the least among many reasons for people to go to church. The doctrines most people seem to find “appealing” are those that deal with getting into heaven and staying out of hell.

    Finke and Stark clearly and rigorously show that people go to church (mostly – there are always exceptions) to get to heaven and be involved. They do not go to be comforted or fed easy doctrines. Churches that demand the most from their followers are the most successful.

    That’s why people are switching churches to ones that “put their talents to work” (another reason I think the megachurches are ultimately doomed).

    Finke and Stark show that the most successful churches maintain a tension between accommodation and separation from mainstream culture while demanding time, talents and strict obedience from the members. Churches that “mainstream” and lose the rigorous doctrines lose “market share” (as Finke and Starke put it) like there’s no tomorrow.

  10. Considering how many people are switching between churches that share nearly everything other than the address (and architecture) of their nearest facility, and the name and style of the pastor, I’d suggest that if you’re switching only between such options, that your primary considerations ought to be the physical location and the leadership. Or if you really can’t stand the one lady who sings off-key in the choir. Even my friends who’ve moved from a non-denominational church to, say, a Presbyterian or Methodist church have mostly done so for such considerations: one received a mug for her trouble when she officially became a member of the new church. When she left to join a church with younger people, I think she got a t-shirt at the new place.

    If you’re going to change religious categories, or make a major change within a particular tradition (I mean, basically, Catholic/Lutheran to anything other than Catholic/Lutheran, Mormon to anything else or anything to Mormon, Judaism or Islam to anything else including each other, anything to or from the Buddhist, Hindu, or neo-Pagan traditions, anything strict to Unitarian Universalism, Reform Judaism to Orthodox or the other way around, etc.) then questions like “do I feel like these new people will help me grow closer to God” and “do these people have The Truth” (incidentally, I doubt many Americans actively worry about that issue anymore) are more applicable, though in general you’re adopting a lifestyle as much as a doctrine, and it’s probably a good idea to ask yourself if you can stand to give up coffee, bacon cheeseburgers, wine, dancing, electricity, an end to partial nudity in public, taking out your tongue ring, or whatever else it might be.

    But seriously, the differences between the churches, on a daily level, are so minor in a doctrinal sense that it really comes down to personalities, styles, and who else has joined (or left) lately. What’s interesting is when a choice made on that basis ends out having a more profound spiritual impact: when the preacher you picked because he’s friendly or his church has a coffee hour for which everyone stays after, turns out to really inspire you to repent and think seriously about the things you need to change in your life. I strongly suspect that’s kind of why so many non-denominational groups (and the very subtle differences between various mainline Protestant churches) are tolerated so well (and why they’re willing to work together,) though I also find myself increasingly uncomfortable with some of the tactics employed to get people in the doors in the first place and I’m still creeped out by megachurches and televangelists.

    I also agree that we — that is, strict “you must convert, and there are words and ancient ceremonies involved, and now you have to learn to not eat something” style religions — benefit from easy-meaningless-switch religion; I think it works for some people for a while, and then they notice that things are very similar and they tune it out, opening the door for more doctrinally and culturally challenging religious traditions to step in and be appealing in a way that “God Wants You To Be Rich!!!” sermons can’t manage. There are a surprising number of adults in industrialized Western nations signing up to become hard-core Catholics or Orthodox Jews, despite those groups no real efforts on proselytizing.

    BUT, I also don’t think most of the people in that survey are making the kind of life-changing conversion decisions Mormons tend to view all religious changes as being. I think it comes down to “my friend goes there,” “the music pastor has finished getting his PhD and has moved to Italy to do opera and now the choir stinks,” and “the ceiling has scary-looking chandeliers, and that other church down the street reminds me of my grandma’s living room” kinds of decisions. Maybe even a bit of “they don’t have us kneel” or “we get to do responsive readings every week!” stuff gets thrown in.

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