Author Topic: The Declining Mainline  (Read 5381 times)

Richard Johnson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #30 on: July 03, 2007, 12:39:06 PM »
I'm wondering how it is that a topic like this has been started, has had lively discussion, and is still not showing up at the top of the topics page on the "Your Turn" page?

I'm wondering why you apparently haven't read the answer to that question, which has been asked and answered at least five or six times over the past few months.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

MMH

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #31 on: July 03, 2007, 01:20:11 PM »
Yes, but we are not dealing with mathematical abstarctions, but with populations.  One of the first things you learn in a population ecology course is that if dP/dt ? 0 then the population will die.

No clever mathematical paradoxes or asymptotes apply.

Matt Hummel+
This is only true in a fully closed system. Congregational membership is not a fully closed system because there is population outside of the system which could theoretically become part of the system, and as many endangered species have shown (closed systems, but not necessarily fully closed), if reproduction is possible (a big if, I know), the system could theoretically turn the delta to the positive.

Eric-

1) I was using be to denote the population of denominations, not congregations.
2) You can set the systems as "open" as you want.  If dP/dt ≤ 0, the population dies.  It may take a while, but it is an inevitability.
3) Things can be done to shift the equation, but that is another thread.

Matt Hummel+

bmj

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #32 on: July 04, 2007, 01:31:54 AM »
I put together the charts below to compare trends in various 'populations' over two time frames (1980-2006, and 1925-2006 for some).

Notes on membership charts below:

* All data 1980-2003 taken from: http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/Families/denoms.asp.  This is the best website I have found for data on religious bodies.  There is much much more you can do with this site than the simple membership charts below.  For instance, compare religion demographics between countries (US-Germany http://www.thearda.com/internationalData/compare/compare_90_234_1.asp).

* The 2006 membership numbers are taken from: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/070305yearbook2007.html

* US Population data taken from http://www.census.gov/popest/archives/1990s/popclockest.txt

* US population is now over 300 million according to http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html

* There is no data equivalent membership number for Assemblies of God in 2006.

* No data computed for PCUSA prior to 1983 merge.

** Data for 1980-1987 for "ELCA" computed by adding membership of LCA, ALC, AEL.


LDS = Mormon
JW = Jehovah's Witness
RCC = Roman Catholic


ELCA + LCMS + TEC Membership 1980-2006 (see notes above on ELCA numbers)


Including Other Mainline Protestant Denominations


Including LDS, JW, and 7th Day Adventists


Adding in RCC membership trends 1980-2006


RCC only membership since 1925


RCC + ELCA + US population trends since 1925


Overall the population of the top 25 bodies is growing at about .82%.  Sadly the growth rate is below the US population growth rate.

Dadoo

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #33 on: July 04, 2007, 09:20:44 AM »
Quick math wizards, if you decline numerically at a rate of only 1.4%, what is your life span?
Forever. Mathematically, if something declines 50% each year, the numbers go on forever. There's some term for such mathematical phenomenon that are true in math, but realistically aren't practical. Another example is to stand some distance away from a wall, and every five seconds move half the distance closer. Mathematically, there will always be a number. Practically, it will become such a small distance that it becomes meaningless, e.g., 1" - 1/2" - 1/4" - 1/8" - 1/16" - 1/32" 1/64" and so on forever.

Brian,

THis is philosophically true but mathematically irrelevant.  Membership numbers have to be integers- whole numbers in other words.  After  one gets to (1) the decline is over since the next decline (1/2) is no longer a integer- it is no longer a real person if you think in real word terms here.  If the ELCA shrunk 50% every year the there would be (1) person left after 22 years- we could theorize who that  person was if you like. 

Peter
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Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2007, 01:07:04 PM »
Impressive. Thank you. My hat is in my right hand, my head is bowed, you have "out-posted" us all, Br. Dadoo!

Dadoo

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #35 on: July 04, 2007, 01:17:55 PM »
Impressive. Thank you. My hat is in my right hand, my head is bowed, you have "out-posted" us all, Br. Dadoo!

I'm  sorry.. I'll try not to do it again.. :P   ;)

Peter
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #36 on: July 04, 2007, 01:58:46 PM »
Also, like a typical Lutheran, you left off pentecostals and it would have been interesting to see a denomo like The Vineyard on it... Good work though.

bmj

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #37 on: July 04, 2007, 02:30:21 PM »
Also, like a typical Lutheran, you left off pentecostals and it would have been interesting to see a denomo like The Vineyard on it... Good work though.

The problem I had was when I looked here - http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/Families/F_94.asp - I really did not know which one(s) to pick.  If you can point me to the "major group(s)" I will add it and post the result.  There are no summary stats for the whole group.

Thanks

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #38 on: July 04, 2007, 02:52:25 PM »
Also, like a typical Lutheran, you left off pentecostals and it would have been interesting to see a denomo like The Vineyard on it... Good work though.

The problem I had was when I looked here - http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/Families/F_94.asp - I really did not know which one(s) to pick.  If you can point me to the "major group(s)" I will add it and post the result.  There are no summary stats for the whole group.

Thanks

Sorry, bmj, I thought it was dadoo. Good work.

One of my points is that there are whole denominations which didn't even exist before we began our slide like:

 The Association of Vineyard Churches is a conservative evangelical fellowship founded in 1986 by evangelical teacher John Wimber (d. 1997), formerly associated with Calvary Chapel.

Membership Data
Year Clergy Churches Members
2003 1,200 600 140,000

And, yeah, you betcha, they got plenty of former Lutherans.

http://www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1502.asp

The main classic Pentecostal denoms are Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), The General Council of the Assemblies of God (was established in 1914 at a gathering of Pentecostal ministers in Hot Springs, Arkansas), Church of God in Christ (1894).Also, the Foursquare Church of Ammie Semple McPherson should be there http://www.foursquare.org/ Of course there are thousands more!

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #39 on: July 04, 2007, 03:39:35 PM »
And, yeah, you betcha, they got plenty of former Lutherans.
Which doesn't grow the kingdom one bit.

I think that a more significant statistic is what percentage of the population are church members and/or attending church on a regular basis. I did that in our area. (Data at http://www.thearda.com/) In one county, between 1990 and 2000 the percentage of church adherents decreased from 31.9% to 30.7%. In the other county the numbers are 29.2% and 25.9%. Even though there are a few congregations who have grown, that growth seems to come primarily from transfers from other churches. The "Christian" witness in the counties is not effective. The harvest is plentiful with 70-75% of the population unattached to any church; but workers are few.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #40 on: July 04, 2007, 05:41:04 PM »
And, yeah, you betcha, they got plenty of former Lutherans.
Which doesn't grow the kingdom one bit.

I think that a more significant statistic is what percentage of the population are church members and/or attending church on a regular basis. I did that in our area. (Data at http://www.thearda.com/) In one county, between 1990 and 2000 the percentage of church adherents decreased from 31.9% to 30.7%. In the other county the numbers are 29.2% and 25.9%. Even though there are a few congregations who have grown, that growth seems to come primarily from transfers from other churches. The "Christian" witness in the counties is not effective. The harvest is plentiful with 70-75% of the population unattached to any church; but workers are few.
Bear in mind that the goal is faith, not church membership. The two go hand in hand in a way, but are not coterminous. Many church members may not have genuine faith and be saved, and many non-members may have saving faith. That is why the proper distinction between law and Gospel is so critical. One former LCMS pastor I know (became a charismatic, claimed to have gotten saved at a revival long after he was a pastor, later defrocked) has as his biggest complaint against Lutherans the idea that the pastors just declare that everyone in the pews is saved, effectively unburdening themselves of the duty of shepherds of God's flock. Though he was messed up about a lot of things, he was onto something about the overly-institutional nature of mainstream denominations. In a way today's Church Growth movement is the opposite of the previous generation's charismatic movement. The charismatics over-emphasized the idea that regular church-goers may not actually be saved, thus creating doubt in many minds where there once had been faith. They spent too much time discerning between Christians and "real" Christians. Today the pendulum has swung and we do not bother with the distinction at all, even though it is important. We no longer distinguish saved and unsaved, but churched and unchurched, with the assumption being that the churched are saved. So the methodology is no longer to get people to repent, but merely to get them in the pews, which means finding out how to lure them there with what they already like. A little bit of God talk justifies a whole lot of nonsense. So, put up a John 3:16 banner behind the goalposts at the game and you can say you had 70,000 in church on Sunday. 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #41 on: July 04, 2007, 06:12:20 PM »
Bear in mind that the goal is faith, not church membership.
What is faith? Can that be our goal? I don't think that it's something we have to give. It is something that comes from God.

How can we know if God has given faith? The sacraments. In some ways, for Luther, the willing reception of Holy Communion indicated faith. He stated that those who, with nothing to hinder them, did not receive communion at least three or four times a year should not be considered Christian.

Thus, when people have gathered together in Jesus' name, have heard the Word proclaimed, and come to receive Christ in the sacrament, my assumption is that God is working in their lives.

Quote
A little bit of God talk justifies a whole lot of nonsense. So, put up a John 3:16 banner behind the goalposts at the game and you can say you had 70,000 in church on Sunday.
If you could get those 70,000 to respond to an altar call, which for Lutherans means coming forward for Holy Communion, I would say that they have been at church.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Eric_Swensson

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #42 on: July 04, 2007, 10:03:34 PM »
What is faith? Can that be our goal?

1) "... faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

2) "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"  (Romans 10:14)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #43 on: July 05, 2007, 12:20:15 AM »
1) "... faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

2) "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Romans 10:14)
Yes, we proclaim the word. We do not create faith. God does that. If we assume that we are preaching the word of Christ (or law/gospel), do we conclude that everyone who hears has been given faith by God? Isaiah says that God's word does not come back empty (Is 55:11). If so, we would have to assume that every person sitting in church has faith.

I assume, and have said it in sermons, that God is active in every person who is in church that Sunday; that God, in some mysterious ways, brought them to that pew today. I don't see them as people to whom I have to bring God to. (I used to think that when I traveled on gospel singing teams. We viewed the "audience" as people we had to convert.) I think of them as people who may need reminding and reassured that God is indeed part of their lives. (God's presence, like God's word comes as law and gospel. It convicts of sin and it forgives sinners.)
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

ptmccain

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Re: The Declining Mainline
« Reply #44 on: July 05, 2007, 05:48:17 AM »
I don't see them as people to whom I have to bring God to. (I used to think that when I traveled on gospel singing teams. We viewed the "audience" as people we had to convert.) I think of them as people who may need reminding and reassured that God is indeed part of their lives. (God's presence, like God's word comes as law and gospel. It convicts of sin and it forgives sinners.)

What a remarkable comment to consider and then place in stark contrast to our Lord's words, "GO and make disciples."

People who are not in Christ do not have "God as part of their lives" other than as the one to whom they are completely dead in trespasses and sins, at enmity with, as lost and condemned creatures.

Ours is the privilege of going and making disciples by baptizing them and teaching them....bringing Christ crucified to them, displaying His bloody hands, feet and side to them and saying, "Behold your God. This is the lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world. Repent and believe the Gospel."

Of course a person who can not affirm and teach clearly the historical facts of Christ's life, death and resurrection and is uncertain that apart from Jesus Christ people will spend all eternity in hell, eternally punished and separated from Christ, then I can understand why this would be considered an antiquated approach and why they take such interest in what progressive scholars have to say about the Bible.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2007, 06:23:17 AM by ptmccain »