Faith Communities Today
New Fact Information
The major metropolitan areas of the northeast United States have a very different religious context than the one that Adventist evangelism usually operates within. Less than five percent of the residents are adherents of a conservative, Protestant or “Evangelical” church. The largest share is made up of the “unchurched,” those who have no affiliation with any organized religion, and inactive or nominal adherents.
In some cities the largest segment of the population is made up of adherents to the Catholic Church, but official data show that in each case the majority of these adherents are “lapsed Catholics” have not attended mass, made donations to the Church or otherwise participated for many years. The percentage of the population who are adherents in mainstream Protestant churches is usually two, three or even four times the number who are affiliated with Evangelical churches. In most cities adherents to religions other than Christian—Judaism, Islam, etc.—are a larger share of the population than the Evangelicals.
People who come from a Catholic, mainstream Protestant or non-Christian background have a quite different religious experience than do Evangelicals. They do not use the same Bible translations that Evangelicals use. Different kinds of music are used in worship and the style of worship is different. The approach to religious instruction, the logic and teaching methods used, are also quite different.
Yet, Adventist evangelism activities in these cities typically uses a Bible translation familiar to the five percent (Evangelicals) and unfamiliar to the 95 percent. The music is usually from the tradition familiar to the five percent and unfamiliar to the 95 percent. The style of public evangelism meetings, the logic of presentations and the teaching methods are all usually of the types familiar to the five percent, but unfamiliar to the 95 percent. Consequently, Adventist evangelism gets a limited response in these cities with the notable exception of immigrant churches made up of people migrating to the cities from countries in the world that have a much larger percentage of Adventist members than is true for the U.S. The sources of these data are multiple.
1. What is the nearest urban/suburban area to our church?
2. How many zip codes near our church do not have any Adventists living in them?
3. Where do many of the people near our church work–how many commute to an urban/suburban area for work?
This is just one item from Mission in Metropolis, a comprehensive new study of the current status of the Seventh-day Adventist mission in the major metropolitan areas where four out of five Americans live. The Center for Creative Ministry is introducing the book at the Adventist Urban Congress that begins July 22 in Huntsville, Alabama. The book includes thousands of surveys, hundreds of interviews, the results of more than 40 experimental outreach projects and many other sources of information blended with many practical findings and stories of innovation. The author is Monte Sahlin, and scores of research assistants and project directors have worked with him for ten years to provide the results published in this volume. This book is very timely since 2007 marks the shift of the majority of earth’s population from rural areas to urban/suburban. As you read this issue and others in the series, I welcome your comments as we search for ways to better share the of the Gospel.Paul Richardson
Center for Creative Ministry
Creative Pastor e-Newsletter, August 2, 2007, The Center for Creative Ministry