Churches are spread along Macon, Georgia’s busy Vineville Avenue — Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ and others. This town can make a strong case for being the buckle of the Bible Belt.

But the sign in front of one of these fine edifices stopped me in my tracks. The former Primitive Baptist Church building is now the Islamic Center of Macon.

Perhaps others who drive along Vineville — with its center lane that changes direction to assist commuters going in and out of downtown — will risk a quick glance at the sign too. Their surprise will likely be that a large enough Muslim community exists to occupy such a prominent building.

Yet growing religious diversity is just one side of the sign. The other is that as some religious groups are increasing in number and influence, others are in decline.

While stopped to snap a few photos of the new sign and former Baptist church house, I made a call to church historian Bill Leonard of Wake Forest Divinity School. The scene before me was yet another clear illustration of what he has been saying in addresses such as one he gave earlier this year in Athens, Ga.

Primitive Baptists, who are strict Calvinists, “don’t trouble the baptismal waters like they use to,” said Leonard. “Long a minority, their number, like their faith-based culture, is dropping like a stone.”

Major demographic changes — brought on by declining birth rates, increased mobility and broad communication — are not limited to major U.S. cities or any one region of the country. Globalism is even in churchy old Macon.

In fact, it is happening everywhere; just look for the signs.

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