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
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
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.
"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....