Survey: Denominational Affiliations Will Become Less Important
- There are at least hundreds of Christian denominations in the United States. One estimate I saw places the estimate at approximately 1200. Suffice it to say that there are lots of Christian denominations in America. Since we have such a large number of these variations of the Christian faith, relative to what was first delivered to us by way of the Bible, one would assume that church denominations serve practical and necessary functions.
A majority of pastors affiliated with denominational churches believe denominations do serve a vital role. That’s the finding of a survey conducted by LifeWay Research of 900 American Protestant pastors. The findings were published last Tuesday.
Generally speaking, church denominations do serve practical and necessary functions. Some of the disagreements that divergent Christian bodies have with each other are so profound that they can’t function effectively as one Christian body. Same sex marriages and the ordaining of gay pastors, for example, have resulted in serious infighting within some mainline denominations. In such cases, splinter groups from those parent bodies tend to formulate their own movement within Christendom to facilitate the practice of their faith.
Even though the pastors who participated in the abovementioned survey said denominational churches play a vital role, they also said they believe that the importance of denominational affiliations will decrease in the next 10 years. Overall, sixty-two percent said they believe this will be the case. Several factors seem to influence a pastor’s outlook:
Pastors of larger churches are most likely to agree (strongly or somewhat) that the importance of Christian denominations will diminish over the next decade.
Pastor’s with less than a bachelor’s degree are more likely to strongly disagree than pastors with at least a master’s degree that denominational affiliation will lose importance the next decade.
Although the majority of all age groups agree that said importance will decrease, pastors 65 and older constitute the age bracket most likely to strongly disagree.
Though I believe that church denominations do serve practical and necessary functions in our diverse and complex society, I also believe church denominations should not be regarded as a silver bullet for all serious infighting within the Christian body. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” we have been commanded (Ephesians 4:3, NIV). Hence, when disunity exists within the Christian body, the decision for a divergent group to go its separate way should be viewed a last resort.
- LifeWay’s survey was limited to pastors of denominational churches—it did not include pastors of non-denominational churches.
Copyright ©2011 by Frank King. All rights reserved.