May 092011

Question: “how would I find a listing of the least churched cities in America?

Answer: In casual conversations, I’ve heard the following cities mentioned as being among the least churched cities, aka most unchurched cities, in the United States: Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, New York City, Salt Lake City, Portland[2], Philadelphia, even Reno. Curiously, a comprehensive list wasn’t easy to find using a search phrase like “least churched cities“; a few more results did show using a search on “most unchurched cities“. Here’s what relevant data I could find about the least churched cities and the unchurched:

The 1000s of church leaders gathering at the Exponential Conference – National New Church Conference (Orlando, April 2010) probably have the answer, the lists, and more data than you can imagine. Until then, we’ll keep on the search.

Can you help? Add a comment and make the the definitive list of the top unchurched cities more available to the masses!

[update 10/17/10] On the Learnings @ Leadership Network blog, Most and Least Unchurched Cities, Dr. Warren Bird listed findings from a Barna report:

Cities with the largest share of unchurched adults (polled as: had not been to a religious worship service in the last 6 months):

  • San Francisco (44%)
  • Portland, Maine (43%)
  • Portland, Oregon (42%)
  • Albany (42%)
  • Boston (40%)
  • Sacramento (40%)
  • Seattle (40%)
  • Spokane (39%)
  • New York (38%)
  • Phoenix (38%)
  • Tucson (37%)
  • West Palm Beach (37%)

Cities with lowest share of self-identified Christians:

  • San Francisco (68%)
  • Portland, Oregon (71%)
  • Portland, Maine (72%)
  • Seattle (73%)
  • Sacramento (73%)
  • New York (73%)
  • San Diego (75%)
  • Los Angeles (75%)
  • Boston (76%)
  • Phoenix (78%)
  • Miami (78%)
  • Las Vegas (78%)
  • Denver (78%)

[cf. February 2010 Gallup Poll results for church attendance by state. 10 states with lowest church attendance: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington]

[update May 2011] Using a number of sources (U.S. Census, the yellow pages, the number of volunteers, the amount of money donated to religious organizations and spent on religious books), Men’s Health Metrogrades identified these 10 (out of 100) cities as the least religious:

  • Miami, FL
  • Newark, NJ
  • Manchester, NH
  • Fargo, ND
  • Jersey City, NJ
  • Portland, ME
  • Hartford, CT
  • Boston, MA
  • Providence, RI
  • Burlington, VT
Mar 262009

pic_qja_mWhile in Austin last week for SXSW 2009, I enjoyed great food and good conversations at Galaxy Cafe. All 4 of us happened to order French Toast, unbeknownst to each other; Gideon Tsang, Paul Wang, Sam Lee, and me. The 3 of them are connected to Vox Veniae, an incarnational missional community in East Austin.

One of the conversations that came up was the health of the American church. Gideon asked if it was healthy or unhealthy, referring to large “big box” churches in the United States. In retrospect, I thought that was an unfair dichotomy, and I emailed back this addendum:

djchuang >> To elaborate on the question re: large churches being healthy or unhealthy– I’d add that size is not a determinent of whether an organized church is healthy or not.

Part of the social dynamics in the real world we live in, is power dynamics, personal and institutional. Given that there is power to be stewarded, would it not be better that followers of Christ steward that power than unfollowers? It can certainly be stewarded differently than how some of the spotlight churches are doing it, and that also be a good thing to explore– how can a large big box church be an advocate and champion for the marginalized, the orphans, the widows, the poor, the hungry.

pic of Gid and SamThen, Gideon Tsang replied back (note: these are just initial reactions, not well-formulated thoughts) :

I agree that size is not a determinant to health. I also agree that when power is given it needs to be stewarded with shrewdness.

However, what I disagree with is American Christianity’s addiction to, longing for and blatant uplifting (through conferences and growth organizations) of power and size. In American Christian culture there’s a trickle down paradigm (similar to right wing financial politics) that’s being sold to church leaders where if we can rise to the top as Christians and influence at places of power, then we’ll impact more people and in the end change the entire culture.

This in itself, is not logically flawed, but problematic for several reasons: (1.) money and power are not neutral. (2.) the paradox of the gospel.

The Kingdom of God is different than the Kingdom of America where we are called to be the last and the least. These should be our goals, not power and influence. Humility and grace, are the paradoxical forces that change human hearts. Centuries after Christ, the American church is still asking to sit at the right hand of the father. Those are the wrong questions and the wrong goals.

If the American church could detox from power and influence (and the toxic christian sub-culture we’ve created) and develop local, indigenous and sustainable communities, gracefully, humbly loving our neighbors and neighborhoods in the name of Christ, the power of the church will be subtly unleashed.

Regarding Big Box Churches (Walmart Churches) I could go on a lengthy discussion about how they’re taking other’s wineskins, thus removing life and character from faith (much like big box stores do to cities) how they require and exponentially more resources that are not sustainable (that’s why all these churches leave the city to build their walmart churches on large plots of land in the suburbs, using more energy, requiring people to drive further) and how they’re bad for local churches …

What would you add to this conversation about power and the American church? What kind of “carbon” footprint is the church leaving behind? Should the church be concerned for how it wields and stewards its power?

[The email thread above is posted with permission.]

Jan 202009

// [update] video of Rick Warren’s #inaug09 prayer @ + watch 1/21 AM’s national prayer service @ C-span link //

All the world’s attention has centered on Washington DC today, as Inauguration Day 2009 brings forth a new President of the United States (POTUS), Barack Obama. While the day is not yet over, there are a few thoughts from my fellow Asian Americans floating around on the Web:

Inauguration Morning
Kevin Doi

… this may very well be the most significant historical event of my lifetime. … The sight of millions of people on the Mall is nothing short of breathtaking. … Obama represents a different kind of change. For one, he’s the first president of a new generation. Along with significance for African Americans in this country, he is a president for a multicultural, hi-tech, grassroots generation of people who have a different worldview about race, a different way of communicating, and a different expectation of a president. … With a new generation awaiting its new president, America expects nothing less than authenticity in its leaders. With that, Obama may very well be the only kind of president who can unify, inspire, and involve the country…

The Inauguration and the Third Culture President
Dave Gibbons

We are celebrating what many consider a dream fulfilled. Of course, there are still conflicts, racism, prejudice and stereotyping even in the church but it is a new day when the most powerful political person on the earth is Black. This is a historic moment for the world to celebrate. But before you simply see this as a race thing . . . how about seeing it also from the lens of culture or rather, CULTURES.

Third culture is about the fusion of multiple cultures, the art of adaptation, dialogue rather than dictation, diplomacy over strong arm tactics, and the embrace of discomfort as part of the journey to real community.

… the world is focused upon NOT either/ors BUT both/ands. . . people and leaders who can live in the intersections.

… It’s a third culture world. How are your third culture skills? President Obama is just the beginning of a whole new wave of leaders who will have significant impact in a world where the rules have changed or are changing.

And I can always count on Eugene Cho for color commentary on current events:

what advice would you give to president obama?

… Everyone’s talking about the historic nature of his election, inauguration, and presidency. Certainly… but I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head and heart around it. It’s so new.

… Someone asked me what advice I would give to Obama if he asked me to be a pastoral/spiritual adviser?

… Be a global leader. You’re not only the President of the United States but also a global leader. Reach out your hand…

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