Choosing a Church – New Research

Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a report titled "Choosing a New Church or House of Worship: Americans Look for Good Sermons, Warm Welcome." (I encourage you to read the full report or the associated detailed article about the findings.) It's Personal This new report is incredibly valuable to me for both professional and personal reasons.  Professionally, I have served eight Mainline Protestant congregations in a variety of roles.  Personally, my wife and I have been searching Read More …

Seminary Size – Evangelicals are #1

How large is large when it comes to a seminary student body in America? The primary accrediting body, Association of Theological Schools (ATS), accredited 246 institutions during the 2015-16 school year with an enrollment of just over 37,000 students (full-time equivalent) in the USA. Earlier this month Chelsen Vicari mined the ATS data to determine the largest seminaries in the USA.  Based on full-time enrollment numbers for the 2015-16 school year she found The top ten Read More …

Summer Reading: Changes Ahead

In recent days I have heard the three words "back to school" enough times to know that summer is drawing to a close for many of my readers.  With the change of seasons in mind, I offer the ten best books I read this summer: (5+) The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones (Simon & Schuster, 2016) (5) Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern (Public Affairs, 2016) (5) Vital Vintage Church: How Read More …

Perspective: Visiting Dozens of Churches

Over the first four decades of my life I had the opportunity to participate in worship in around 30 different communities of faith (not counting those I joined on special occasions or for events other than their normal weekly services).  Most of my adult life was spent serving congregations in a variety of lay and pastoral positions. Over the past twelve months I have participated in worship in over 30 different communities of faith in Texas during one of their normal Sunday services.  This Read More …

Farewell to White Protestant America

Last week I noted how old Mainline Protestantism has become here in America.  Back in 2011 I reflected on a group of pastors from one Mainline denomination that labeled their own tradition "deathly ill."  Today, I recognize that death has come not only for that denomination or Mainline Protestantism but also for the Protestantism I have known and lived that is broader yet: White Christian America. Obituary  Robert P. Jones', CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, new book "The End of Read More …

Mainline Protestantism = Old

Until around the year 2000 I always thought of the group of churches to which I have belonged as Mainline or Mainline Protestant.  Over the last several years I have heard a variety of terms used that convey the considerable decline in membership and cultural capital. Data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study shows just how old the Mainline/Sidelined/Oldline Protestant traditions have become.   Mainline Denomination Median  Age Percent of Members Age Read More …

Search for a Church: The Final Four

The search for a church for my family is nearing completion.  After visiting 30 churches in our geographic area, my wife and I have agreed to consider four as possible communities of faith for intentional and ongoing involvement. For obvious reasons I won't name the congregations.  I will, however, share that they don't all look alike: Memberships range from 120 to around 2000 Average weekly worship attendance ranges from 75 to around 1,000 (in 1 to 4 services) Senior pastor tenure Read More …

Mid-Year Update – Popular Posts

According to Google analytics statistics for So What Faith (based on view counts from January 1 to present) Most popular blog posts published in 2016 Search for a Church: 9 Months & Counting (May) Mainline Members – Political Leanings (February) My 2016 Search for a Church (January) Reflections on Average Worship Attendance (February) Top Religions by State (January) View from the Pew: 12 Sacred Spaces (June) Most popular posts so far in 2016 (regardless of date of Read More …

Take Sides – Seek Justice

Faith without works is dead (see James 2:17 if you want a Christian text to support the claim). I am not big on religious language, but sometimes it just makes sense. Some Christian traditions include prayers of confession that mention sins or wrongs of omission alongside those of commission. Sins or wrongs of omission - of not acting - are just as troublesome as those of commission. Take a Side I was saddened over the weekend to learn of the passing Holocaust survivor and Nobel Read More …

View from the Pew: 12 Sacred Spaces

Most followers of the Way of Jesus have a primary sacred space in which they gather for corporate worship.  Opportunities to experience elsewhere with another group of people are typically few and far between. While these words describe the norm, I have been living the exception since last September.  Over the last several months I have visited a new sacred space and worshiped with a new community of faith most weeks. Previously, I have shared images of my earliest experiences on this Read More …