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April 23, 2014


Interesting that the leaders seem to be fighting the need to be relevant with the changing culture...by staying relevant to themselves.

Karen, Thanks for the comment. You've caught a real paradox that many of our churches unknowingly face. The constant cry is to be relevant and to attract an unchurched population, especially the 30-something and younger crowd, but we consistently refuse to engage in any kind of meaningful conversation about the issues that really matter to them (i.e. homosexuality, creation care, peace, etc). We continue to provide the same old resources at greater levels (i.e. evangelism strategies, rock n roll worship concerts, bigger facilities, etc.). After several decades of asking young adults what their "felt needs" are, it feels like that's the one question that's completely being ignored these days. (We say, "Don't tell me what you need, I already know what you need.") Thanks again. -T

(Edit: This is a comment that I copied over from my Facebook. Thanks to Carolyn Wise for providing a great perspective here.)

I think it's important to drill down what the statistics actually show in order to understand more fully what is going on in the American Church, and what is not. Jason is correct that it is mainline (white, liberal) protestant churches that are closing up shop at an increasingly rapid rate, unable to sustain themselves due to declining attendance. Even the Washington National Cathedral here in DC (an Episcopal Church) has had to take drastic measures and layoff many of their staff to keep its doors open in the face of declining financial support and attendance. Meanwhile, doctrinally conservative churches, especially in metro areas with large populations of millennials, have maintained largely steady attendance, or are growing. The interesting story (one that was personally true for me) is that conservative orthodox churches (Catholic, Greek Orthodox) are seeing an increase in membership, especially among young people (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/.../43a4c988-c8b3-11e3-b81a...). I was blessed to be one of them this year; I found many of the "holes" in evangelical theology filled by the rich tradition and theological soundness of the Catholic faith. I think this shift is largely a response to the theological squishiness of mainline churches and many "progressive" evangelical churches that are "seeker-oriented". There is something to be said for the fact that the churches that still preach the full Gospel - sin, redemption, discipleship, holiness - and have not changed their "doctrine" to fit cultural changes, are growing in strength and numbers, while those that tell followers what their itching ears want to hear are slowly but surely losing influence. Again, it's not that young people are less spiritual - by all accounts they are more apt to believe in God - it's that they don't want to waste their time on something that isn't authentic. If there is no claim to Truth, why bother devoting your life and love to some changeable god that evolves with the whims of culture?

(Edit: This is my Facebook response to Carolyn regarding the preceding comment)

I couldn't have said that better. Thanks for sharing your story. And I wasn't aware of the National Cathedral issues, thanks for that. Multiple surveys are showing the growth of historic orthodox churches. I really think Evangelicals should take note as the 30 and younger crowd show again and again that they are looking for substance, depth, authenticity, history, etc. We Evangelicals are caught in a never ending dilemma of chasing church growth, appeasing non-church folks, holding to strict doctrine, and patching up the "holes" you mention. I'm still hopeful that there will be a fresh wind of the Spirit in all of this. You might be interested in this book if you haven't seen it already.

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