So, I was thinking that the Church is dead. If not totally dead, it is as Miracle Max from The Princess Bride would say at least “mostly dead” or in very critical condition. I know you probably don’t read a pastor’s blog expecting to hear this kind of thing. You were perhaps hoping for something a little more uplifting. Sorry. The vital signs are, it seems weak.
When it comes to belonging to a church, the fastest growing group of people in our culture simply don’t. 5% of the population said they were “unaffiliated” in 1972. Today it is 16%. People are not choosing other churches, mega churches, new churches or old churches; they are not picking more conservative or more liberal churches, when they leave one church, they are not going to something “better” – they are choosing to do away with church completely. They are often called “nones” because they check “none” on surveys about religious affiliation This is happening to every single segment of the Christian Church – Protestant, Evangelical, Roman Catholic — it across the board.
More facts: 70% of mainline Protestant households have no children; 91% of those same congregations are white (unlike our society). The median age of people in church is steadily and quickly rising (averaging over 62 years). Congregations are getting smaller and smaller on the whole. Only 27% of “members” actually worship each week. Only 7% of Christians have actually read the whole Bible.
The truth is that things have changed in every aspect of our world – economic, political, cultural and yes, religious. The Church that we all remember from our youth is dead, mostly. Think back to the way things used to be:
- You were born into the faith and stayed in your tradition
- Faith was a way of believing, so you learned beliefs first – memorized, understood.
- Christian faith was expected of most everyone
- Institutions played an important part in our lives
- Authority was given to those who had studied – experts
- Keeping the faith = Keeping the traditions
- People seek spiritual connections and religious life on their own.
- Faith is a way of living – doctrines and “truth” are understood to be negotiable or dialogic. So, spirituality is about living daily
- Christian faith is no longer a cultural norm
- Institutions/Denominations have lost their power and are fading
- Seminary training and official teachers are suspect
- Keeping the faith = living with integrity