The latest Pew surveys suggest that American religious affiliation is down, but, according to Sam Chand, religion itself is alive and well.
“If somebody asks, ‘Hey, what church are you a member of?,’ you might say, ‘I’m not a member of any church,’ ” Chand said. “So somebody taking the survey would put you in the ‘non-affiliated’ category, but that does not mean that you do not go to church once or twice a month. It does not mean that you are not a believer. I think people are more engaged in the church, but not in the traditional understanding and definition of engagement.”
Chand will discuss these and other elements of modern Christianity in a lecture titled “Emerging Church” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.
The emerging church is not a particular denomination, but rather a kind of church that provides experiences and services that appeal to modern believers, Chand said.
“The emerging church is epic, it’s experiential, it’s participatory,” he said.
According to Chand, these churches also tend to skew survey results because they do not emphasize official membership and may have some members that attend multiple churches.
“What I want to do is to say to the people, ‘Hey, listen, church is not like you used to know it,’ ” Chand said. “If you go into a church looking for what used to be your daddy’s church and the way things used to be and the way services used to be handled, [you won’t find it].”
Chand served as president of Beulah Heights Bible College for 15 years. He now serves the renamed Beulah Heights University as president emeritus and works as a “dream releaser” and “leadership architect,” mentoring pastors, ministers and business leaders. Chand is the author of 13 books on the subject of leadership development.
While changes in church demographics are often attributed to millennials, the formation of the emerging church is not due to any particular age group, Chand said.
“There’s a lot being written right now about the millennials, and while it might be so, I think the implications are beyond certain age groups,” he said. “It has to do more with a way of thinking. Modern Christianity is more alive, well, thriving, vibrant and life-giving today than ever before.”
To Chand, these new ways of thinking are a sign that the best is yet to come, despite any data that suggests the opposite.
“I think the the biggest misconception is that the church has somehow seen its best days,” he said. “I think the best days of the church are still ahead, because a lot of stuff is going on that people don’t even know about, and there are great, great leaders out there that nobody’s ever even heard of.”