The Seattle Times ran an article Monday that outlined the results of a study that determined some important shifts in how people are identifying and living out their faith.
A survey that took place between February and November last year of 54,000 people states that the percentage of Americans that identify themselves as a Christian has dropped from 86% in 1990 to 76% today.
The biggest shift that has happened over the past twenty years is that people are much less likely to identify their faith through a denominational label. In fact the number of people who describe themselves as generically "Protestant" went from approx. 17 million in 1990 to just 5 million in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of people who use nondeminational terms have moved from 194,000 in 1990 to over 8 million today.
A large shift took place with those that say they have no religion. It is now 15% of our population, so there is a "growing non-religious or irreligious minority."
Interestingly, the North Pacific doesn't have the title for the least religious section of the country any longer, it now belongs to New England where 34% of Vermont residents say they "have no religion." On top of that, the only increase of religion took place in religious minorities of Muslims, Mormons, and movements of Wicca and paganism.
These are all interesting trends. But, I want to add one myself. Many people, including myself, are shying away from the term "Christian" because of the cultural baggage it carries. When I am around people who do not follow Christ and say the word Christian, I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their comments that their perception is large mega-churches with fallen leaders and the political religious right.
They rarely, if ever, say, "Oh, you follow Jesus."
So, now just to be clear, I like to say I follow Jesus or that I am a Jesus follower. This helps to clarify that the most important label to me is the One who started this amazing way of life: Jesus Christ, Immanuel: God in flesh, coming to earth to show us who God is!