|Primary data from Loren Mead, Transforming Congregations for the Future, |
with more recent statistics added.
However people may parse the causes and debate the responses, it's been clear to me since the get-go that a response is needed. And given the "inertia" stored in a system with such a long-term shape to it's life (spanning at least two generations) I've always expected that the response will need to be very, very significant if it is to "turn things around" in any meaningful sense.
My own response has been to explore the possibilities for Christian missional community outside the core conventions of congregational life: pastors, property, programs and presentational (large group) worship. This led me initially to folks in the house church movement, and more recently to those who are focusing on making disciples per se.
They have a nifty saying: if you plant a church, you may or may not get disciples. But if you make disciples, the Church will arise.
So, I am now moving my top ministry priority into directly discipling and equipping leaders. Not just "church leaders" in the typical sense. Leaders who will directly disciple and train others. I am learning how to do this from the folks at 3dm, as I have found their material and approach to be excellent, and their theology to be wonderfully lean and hugely resonant with Lutheranism.