By Ed Stetzer, The Exchange.
The fastest shrinking category in American religion is still the largest catagory—people who self-identify as Christian, but whose religion is not a central part of their lives. We call these people nominal Christians.
Where I live in Tennessee, nominal Christianity is overwhelming and easy to notice. In the places I’ve lived, like Buffalo or Erie, it’s much less so, but still a large category.
However, this largest category is also the fastest shrinking.
To be blunt: nominalism is dying.
While this may not be good for a culture increasing in secularization, in some ways, it is a good thing for the church. Churches will have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the host culture. Lives empowered by Christ should look different and now they increasingly will.
In spite of the decline of nominalism, there are pockets throughout North American that still have a heavy presence of nominalism. The Bible Belt, pardon the bad metaphor, supports some of these pockets.
Here are some dangers, difficulties, and directives of living in a nominal religious context.
Many American Southerners still possess a religious terminology that expresses they were saved at the age of 8, baptized at the age of 10, and are on the membership roll at the Crooked Creek Pentecostal Church or the Sugar Creek Methodist Church. Many of these individuals based their salvation on being moral, decent, and upstanding citizens, who love their families, their country, and even their God.
Living in such a nominal religious context presents some dangers, difficulties, and directives for believers who are passionately committed to king Jesus.
Dangers of Living in a Nominal Religious Context
The dangers of living in a nominal religious context aren’t the same as living in a zealous violent religious context like regions in the Middle East. Living in those areas can cost one their life. Living in a nominal religious context may not put one’s life in danger, but if not careful it can endanger a believer in other ways that are just as costly—just on a different scale.
There’s the danger of embracing a comfortable Christianity.