Just 16 percent of Protestants surveyed said they are exclusively loyal to one denomination, while half (51 percent) preferred one denomination but would be open to another. By comparison, 22 percent of Protestants said they would use only one brand of toothpaste and 42 percent indicated a preference for one brand while being open to others.
Similar levels of brand loyalty exist for bathroom tissue (19 percent would consider only one brand and 40 percent had a preferred brand), pain reliever (16 percent and 42 percent, respectively) and soft drinks (14 percent and 56 percent).
Rod Sellers, head of Ellison Research argues that denominations have poorly developed their brand loyalty:
"Church denominations certainly are not the same as hotels or soft drinks, but some of the same rules apply," Sellers said. "The brands that develop stronger loyalty tend to do a better job of differentiating themselves from other brands and demonstrating key elements of the brand very clearly."To which Bill Leonard, the Dean of my Wake Forest Divinity School, opines:
"Fewer religious Americans think of their primary religious identity in terms of a denominational identity," Leonard said. "Loyalty to local congregations as the primary source of religious identity seems to be increasingly normative."
He added, "Many folks can switch denominations as readily as toothpaste, I suspect."
Exactly. The other day, I argued that hyper-denominationalism had its hand in the American individualization of theology. Here is another consequence. Denominations over-fragmented during the last century and a half, and this has caused theological confusion among the laity. The average church goer cannot tell the difference between their denomination's theology and another denomination's theology. Without strong theological and denominational differentiation, the average church goer approaches church-finding with a consumeristic mentality: i.e., who has the best church music, the best children and youth programs, the best community atmosphere, and the like.