Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do You Think???

Statistics, being what they are, may or may not inform but they surely give us a chance to speculate.  Under all this speculation must be some measure of wisdom and truth for us to ponder -- though I am not so sure what it is.

I read where the Methodists have continued to lose people.  The church has lost 2.89 million members in the United States since 1970, dropping to 7.8 million today. The authors of a report on this loss say the drop is killing the church's effectiveness.  Perhaps they have it wrong; the church's effectiveness (faithfulness?) in proclaiming the Word of God may be killing the denomination and causing its loss.  Just a thought...

Dan Dick, Methodist blogger and former researcher for the Methodists' Nashville-based General Board of Discipleship, agreed. "If we don't know what to do with the ... people we already have, there's no reason to believe that we'll do any better with another million people."  Now there is an honest statement.

Thomas E. Frank, professor of religious leadership at Wake Forest University, said developing better Christians, not more churchgoers, should be the goal.  "I am concerned about a creeping theology that says what's important is to get people into the church," he said.  Hmmm... What a terrible theology, indeed, that would suggest it is important to get folks into the Church.  Could such an awful theology might be part of the problem or, just maybe, its solution?  Just a thought... 

Now, before you go ragging on those Methodists, I am sure we could find equally inane comments by Episcopalians and Lutherans on the cause and effect of losses within these denominations as well.  It is a curious fact that when we focus on statistics, we often find the purpose of the Church blurred and our attempts to undo the spiral of loss often pushes us further and further away from clarity about who we are as the Church and what we are supposed to do...

It occurs to me that the answer to such problems cannot and will not be found by staring at our statistics or by looking over the fence to see if there is any green grass there.  It occurs to me that we might look into the Word of God for some answers.  It occurs to me that it would be good to take up the cause of preaching, sacraments, and the liturgy.  But I am sure that occurred to the reader long before I mentioned it...  Sadly, it will probably not occur to those who are right now pouring over the sad statistics of their own denominations.  And that is why the impetus from most national headquarters will do little to stem the tide of loss...


Anonymous said...

The mission of the church is to make
disciples of Christ. Disciples are
life-long followers of Christ who are
continually learning and growing in
God's Word and strengthened by the
Sacraments. The short-cut is to get
plenty of church members to sit in
the pews for the purpose of attendance statistics. The problem is
these people are not the same as
fully committed disciples of Christ.

Pastor Peters said...

Why would a disciple not be in Church? Why would we assume that church members sitting in the pews were not disciples? I am not saying it does not happen but why do we assume this distinction? Is that not part of the problem?

Anonymous said...

In our culture all committed
disciples would be church members
sitting in the pews. But not all
church members are committed
disciples. Look at your own parish
do you observe the same level of
commitment to Christ in every "
church member"? Perhaps we are
talking about the visible and
invisible church which CF Walther

Anonymous said...

Birth control?

Ted Badje said...

There is a danger of Pietism to try to distinquish a disciple from a pew-sitter. It is not by certain actions a person does, but the impact of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. I think anyone can see the damage of a few Church Growth movements, and even people who really would list themselves as 'cultural Christians'. A question should be asked in most sermons, "Why do you believe, and how do you react to the love of Christ?" in order to convict people of the Gospel message.