Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some sobering thoughts. . .

I was tossing out some papers from the pile on my desk (that seems to multiply beyond my control) when a sheet of paper from a free magazine (so you know it was worthwhile) dropped out into my lap.  It was a publication from an evangelical generic source that tells you what you need to know to grow your church.  This was the introduction to an article on Growth Strategies to use to maximize your congregation.
  • White people are dying faster than they are being born
  • Whites make up 62% of the population but they account for 78% of the deaths
  • All minorities are growing but the non-Hispanic White population is declining
  • While the pace of US population growth is slowing, it continues to become more diverse
  • Non-Hispanic Whites were the only segment with a higher death rate than birth rate
  • Minority population gains account for 95% of the US population increase (due to Asian and Hispanic immigration and birth rate)
  • Millenials make up the biggest generation (those born 1982-2000) - 83.1 Million or 25% of the population; outnumbering the Boomers by 8 Million
  • For the first time in US history, Whites are a minority among those under age 5
  • Since 2010 the overall ages of those under 20 is declining while the numbers of seniors increase as well as those of working age
  • From 2015-2060 we will lose something like 23 Million US born Whites and gain 118 Million racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants
  • In 2060 non-Hispanic Whites born in the US will account for 40% of the population
  • Foreign born Americans will rise from 13% in 2015 to 19% in 2060
  • About 2040 or before native-born Whites will become a minority
For a long time now President Harrison has been preaching to the LCMS the changing demographics while people snicker about him saying all we need is to have more babies.  I am not ready to say we should not have more babies but clearly he is not pulling the statistics out of his ear.  The LCMS is about 93% White (the ELCA is even more White) and the statistical declines in numbers of children baptized and confirmed as well as the declining numbers of those marrying or sitting in the pews has something to do with numbers and a population trend such as this.

Demographics cannot solve the problem but it can tell us where not to spin our wheels. Of course the solution is not simply to have more babies (but where might we be if we had not adopted birth control as the norm, taken marriage out the realm of love and sex, and legalized abortion?).  But before we go beating ourselves up and saying that the reasons for our decline has to do with failing to be current, relevant, and contemporary (especially in worship), maybe we need to think about this a bit more.  The biggest church in the US (and the world) uses a liturgy very similar to ours, their priests wear vestments, and they have sacraments but they are growing.  Could it be that the problem is less about Sunday morning and more about our failure to speak the Gospel to those who do not look like us?  I am not talking here about foreign missions but the mission to the neighbor across the street who is not attending any church.  Could it be that we need to adapt ourselves less to the individual or group cultures of the unchurched and assimilate them into the culture of the faith -- speaking the Gospel, showing to them Christ's love, and being an example of faith and faithfulness?

The best cross cultural outreach is one which does not choose one culture over another but brings to people of every culture the transcendent culture of heaven on earth -- the Divine Service -- and proclaims the glimpse of heaven that is in our midst every Sunday morning.  How might things be different for us if we really believed this?  The Gospel is not simply cross-cultural but has its own culture that addresses every race and ethnicity.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

This article on demographics is reinforced by observation. When one walks through the mall these days in many communities, you can see that the presence of white Americans is overshadowed by many other ethnic groups. So long will they refer to the other groups as "minorities," when in fact the white Caucasian is rapidly being outnumbered? Now we can understand how native Americans felt when they saw an endless number of ships coming from Europe to colonize and rule what they had believed was their eternal homelands and birthright. It is a matter of demographics indeed, populations shift, new cultures arrive, and social tensions rise. These things are out of our control in many ways, and a part of God's sovereign design for the growth and existence of nations. However, today we have a weak political class of inept leadership which has no idea how to control borders and orderly immigration, and unassimilated groups who do not respect our sovereignty. While most groups do eventually assimilate peacefully, the radical Muslim elements do not, and will direct violence and terror against those who do not share their psychosis and sordid religious extremism.

David Gray said...

White demographics are down because the bulk of the white population has embraced a culture of death and sterility, as evidenced by abortion and a fixation on birth control. God says children are a blessing but white Americans think now that they know better and a more affluent lifestyle is a greater blessing. Also contributing is a toleration for divorce and remarriage (arguably the one major error of the Reformation).

Chris said...

I've been to many LCMS weddings where the issue of children is brought up in the service as an "if." "If" with God's will, children are produced. And here's the rub. These young couples who are married don't have kids saying it must not be God's will. When you make child-bearing into an "if" instead of an obligation that comes with marriage, what do you expect? My idiot brother is married with no kids thinking that marriage is only about love for a spouse. I was married in the traditional Greek Orthodox Rite where the producing of children is mentioned everywhere as an integral part of what constitutes a sacrifice to one another and an embracing of God's gifts. So, the next time you complain about the LCMS in particular about lack of kids, look to your own service books and your own rites of marriage and maybe consider that there is a link.

David Gray said...

The Book of Common Prayer gets it right, which is what we were married with:

...duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy againſt sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

Mabel said...

Perhaps LCMS could do more to attract more Millennials (the only demographic group in the prime childbearing age, 18-35) by promoting family friendly perks. Such as low cost day care, assistance in purchasing minivans and child safety seats and diapers. The Millennials aren't making a lot of money and are burdened with heavy student loan debt and many aren't even able to move out of their parents' basements. Many might like to have children but don't see it as more than a pipe dream. Old guys grumbling about birth control are not going to influence 25 year olds to reproduce.

David Gray said...

Providing day care is essentially subsidizing people's decision to not raise their own children.

You write like a pagan. People understanding God and the nature of the world God created will influence 25 year olds in a way that encouraging them to leave their children will not.

But what would I know, I only have five children ages ten and under.

Jorge Viramontes said...

The LCMS needs to invest more resources evangelizing Latinos living in our neighborhoods rather than going overseas to Africa to appease their conscience.