Saturday, November 5, 2011

So people are not going to church... what's new about that????

A new... and another survey.... I am hesitant to point out this one... it regards Roman Catholics... but there is something here worth our attention... So let me quote a couple of paragraphs...

A new survey paints a picture of a less-strict American Catholic community, with 86% of respondents stating they believe a Catholic "can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church."
Among the most devout, older Catholics, Mass attendance has fallen from 64% in 1999 to just over 50% in 2011, according to a new survey of American Catholics. 

And as those older Catholics die, they are replaced by a millennial generation that questions some of the church's social beliefs and attend church less often than older worshipers.

"Catholics in the past 25 years have become more autonomous when making decisions about important moral issues; less reliant on official teaching in reaching those decisions; and less deferential to the authority of the Vatican and individual bishops," stated the report's introduction.

and again

"Everyone is a cafeteria Catholic [or Lutheran or whatever] - so what," said D'Antonio. "I would consider a cultural Catholic as someone who never goes to Mass, but they still identity with the religion. That isn't the majority."

and, what I believe is the most important paragraph, and one that certainly relates to us as Lutheran Christians: 

"What concerns me is that the church structure is much weaker than when I was young," D'Antonio said. "We do not have a parish structure that is able bring these people fully into the church. It is a different church from the 1930s to 60s."

The greater cause for concern is that most parish structures are weaker than they were a few generations ago.  The boundaries have been redrawn and are not so easy to see.  The life of the parish is often focused around other things than our life together around the Word and Table of the Lord.  The mechanisms that could draw people back are weaker or not in place at all -- both due to weaker and less formal parish structures and the changing demands upon pastoral leadership AND due to the mobility of our people and their distance also from the natural family structures (or the lack of these structures) in their lives.

Faith has become more private and more personal and more individual for all stripes of Christians.  Congregational connections have grown distant or been non-existent for too many Christians (Lutherans included).  It is not simply that people are leaving but that the means to draw them back is not effectively in place.  Changing to a contemporary worship program will not solve the revolving door relationship too many Christians (Lutherans included) have with the congregation.  People come and go and get lost in the middle of it all and without strong family, community, and parish structures in place to draw them back, they are more likely to remain outside or on the fringes.  This, in my mind, represents the more unique challenges to a Pastor and a parish in this age and at this time....


Anonymous said...

In the past 30 years we have seen a
continued erosion of Christian
beliefs. There is now an emphasis on
generic spirituality in contemporary
culture. As a result people no longer
rely on the one true God nor do they
worship Him.

This Self-Help way of living has
made God irrelevant and penetrated
the mindset of Christians. Our culture is in the post-Christian era.

Sage said...

What I see being hinted at is that the new Christians will be predominately Mexican, Chinese and African. European and ethnic Europeans will fade into the background of self-idolatry. Current churches who have European background sustaining members don't particularly seek out those demographics to proselytize.

I guess we need to decide to accept who God is calling to Himself no matter their skin color or language. Perhaps programs directed towards those who are more apt to listen and accept the message of the gospel would be the answer.

Those of us who are white need to get off our high horse of entitlement and superiority and realize God is working in those we might otherwise consider "not worth bothering with" due to low socio-economic status.

I always keep in my mind a good friend who was a Ukrainian immigrant. She was a math professor in the Ukraine, but came here with no English skills and worked her way back through the American University system to re-earn her doctorate in Math. We worked together for quite a few years and I remember the pitiful, degrading way she was treated because she was foreign.

The take away is that those looked down upon immigrants are quite frequently amazing people. Just take the time to know them.

Just my rambling thoughts, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

"Those of us who are white need to get off our high horse of entitlement and superiority"

Speaking for yourself?

This is really a terrible thing to say considering how much effort is given to the work you say is neglected. God builds his church.

If anything, it is our own children who are most neglected. They live in our own homes and many are sent to anti Christian public schools and school activities are prioritized over and above all other family activities including church activities and Bible study. Voddie Baucham asks parents whether their goal for their children is Harvard or Heaven. It is a good question. If we can't even influence our own children in our own homes, do we really think that we will be awesome at attracting folks from other cultures whom we understand less and have much less contact with?

Jenny said...

As a teen and college student, I was always bothered by those who knew nothing about their church's core beliefs, doctrine, history, etc. The most common phrase I remember hearing was "We're so diverse" or "We've got great music."

Anonymous said...

In this post-Christian society, I do wonder whether the LCMS will share the fate of the Eastern Orthodox in the Muslim world. In the USA, churches are pressured to convert to a liberal or mushy non-denominational theology. Those churches that do not change the theology find themselves increasingly isolated and subject to ridicule and persecution.