Culture At Large

Protestant loyalty: toothpaste vs. denomination

Jerod Clark

This morning in the USA Today, I saw a headline that caught my eye. "U.S. Protestants more loyal to toothpaste brand than church?" Yes, it ended in a question mark as if the writer was thinking, "Say it ain't so."

The article cited a study done by an Arizona group which found:

16% of Protestants would only consider a single denomination 22% of Protestants would only use one brand of toothpaste 19% of Protestants would only use one type of toilet paper

The researchers concluded that denominations are facing the same problem as many consumer products. There are so many different choices, but in the end many people can't see a difference between them. It's sort of like going to the store to buy laundry detergent. There are a lot of brands, but they all clean your clothes.

A pop culture professor in the article said:

Those distinctions, which seemed so important as the various Protestant churches were identifying and evolving...are really not that important to the average churchgoer in the United States.

Finally, the article pointed to research done by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which found that 44% of Americans have switched from one faith, or one denomination, to another.

All of this leads me to the question: Is the denominational name of a church losing importance?

Looking at my own life, I'm all over the Protestant denominational spectrum. I grew up United Methodist. I work for the Christian Reformed Church. And I attend an Evangelical Free church. When my wife and I were looking for a church, we cared more about the pastoral teaching and church mission than the denominational label. I'd never really heard of the EFCA, until we attended our church.  That said, we also visited a huge church that appeared to be non-denominational, but was actually part of a denomination we aren't theologically in line with.  In that case, denomination mattered.  We were out the door.

I can see the importance of the denomination in terms of support for it's individual congregations and as a partner for doing ministry. But when it comes to picking which church to attend, does the denominational tie really matter?  What do you think?  After all, the big trend for churches now is to rename themselves to take out the denominational element.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, News & Politics, North America