While a majority of pastors recognize the importance of denominations, they also believe the importance of being identified with a specific sect of Christianity will lessen throughout the next decade.
According to a recent study conducted by Lifeway Research, 78% of pastors believe being a part of a denomination is vital – and 77% believe that their congregations agree with them on this matter.
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The study also found that 63% of pastors believe the importance of identifying with a denomination will decline over the next ten years.
This coincides with a growing minority of Christians within the U.S. who identify as non-denominational or non-specific Protestant, which has risen from 9% in 2000, to 17% in 2016, according to Gallup data.
This data also identified a quickly shrinking population of people who identified with a specific Protestant denomination, shrinking from 50% to 30% in the same timeframe.
According to Pew, millennials are the age group most attracted to non-denominational churches, making up 30% of non-denominational congregations. Lifeway’s report echoes that information, “3 in 5 nondenominational church members are Generation X or younger.”
Photo from Gallup
J.D. Greear, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says the shift towards non-denominational churches might be due to the stereotypes associated with them.
“While many say they prefer a nondenominational church, I think their biggest concern is not wanting to be a part of a church that fits their stereotypes of certain denominations,” Greear said.
Pew Research noted that those who identified as non-denominational rated higher than any denomination on both absolute certainty for the belief in God (91%) and belief in absolute standards for right and wrong (57%). They were also more likely than most denominations to pray daily (83%), attend religious services at least once a week (64%), read their Bibles at least once a week (70%) and believe religion to be very important within their own lives (81%).
Protestant denominations began with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, where believers broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in opposition to various Catholic teachings. Some denominations trace their roots back to this moment, such as the Reformed, Anglican, and Lutheran denominations. Other mainline denominations, such as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Episcopal, trace their roots to other eras.
Denominations exist to help define the general beliefs of the Protestants who hold to its specific beliefs. Though Protestant denominations will all affirm that it is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that people are saved (as expressed in Ephesians 2:8-10), the denominations differ on interpretations of various Bible topics, such as the role of God’s sovereignty vs. free will, baptism, communion, eschatological view, church leadership, spiritual gifts and more.
Despite these differences, Protestant denominations unanimously adhere to the “five solas,” a doctrine which states that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone by the work of Christ alone as revealed in the authority of Scripture alone, all for the glory of God alone.
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