The church in America is in crisis.
All the stats confirm the fact. Here are just a few of the numbers. As you read them – like the prophet Jeremiah – may they cause you to weep.
- Over the past twenty years every mainline Protestant church has been in significant decline.
- In the first half of the 1900’s there were 27 churches for every American; today there are less than 11.
- Every year approximately 1,000 new churches open their doors, while approximately 4,000 close theirs.
- Despite an increase in the US population over the last ten years of 11.4 %, the combined membership of Protestant denominations over the past ten years has decreased by 9.5%.
- Despite all the efforts of church planting and church revitalization, every year another 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity.
- According to a 2012 survey, the number of Protestants has fallen below the 50% mark for the first time in American History.
- Twelve hundred Evangelicals leave the faith each day.
- Over 20 million believers no longer have anything to do with the church.
No matter how you parse the numbers, like a skier on an alpine slope, the numbers are rapidly moving in a downward direction.
I’m saddened and alarmed by the condition of the Church. Granted, there are a few promising, bright spots. But in general the church is not well.
Yet, I have hope.
Many are saying that the church may be in a season of reformation as significant as the days of Martin Luther. Theologian and history professor, Phyllis Tickle, is one of those voices. In her book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, she proposes that about every 500 years the church goes through a “great” transformation. She supports her premise by…
counting back 500 years from the present to the Great Reformation,
and then 500 hundred years from the Great Reformation to the Great Schism,
and then five hundred years from the Great Schism to the monastic movement,
and then five hundred years from the monastic movement to the first century and time of the apostles.
She makes the observation that when these violent cycles of upheaval occur, there are always at least three consistent results:
a more vital form of Christianity emerges
the organized expression of Christianity becomes more pure
the church ends up with two new expressions rather than just one.
I, along with many others, agree with Tickle. The church is in the throes of another great reformation.
So I invite you to follow along with me over my next 4 to 5 blogs as we take a look at The State Of The Church and Some Ideas For Reformation Within The Church.
But first you need to know something about me.
I’m not a naysayer or a doomsday prophet. I’m a “church guy.” I love the church. I believe in the church and have a high theology of the church. I’m a student of the church and a practitioner within the church. Undoubtedly, the church is going through major convulsions but I still have tremendous hope for her.
Do you? If so why? If not why not?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.
Ken L Roberts