California is in a severe drought. Normally it rains in the time from mid-October to March, but for the past few years it has been bone dry. Some say we may only have a year of water left. We are thirsty.
There’s little for us mainliners to celebrate in this new Pew study. We’re losing people, and fast. I appreciate Heidi Haverkamp’s realistic-yet-hopeful words here and Rob Rynders’ there. But, like them, I’m not interested in spinning an argument that the numbers are somehow lying.
The numbers are clearer, however, than the reasons for them.
I often think I hear colleagues asking, “How could we attract nuns to our church?” Actually they’re talking about “the nones,” of course. One of the clearest findings of the Pew Forum’s new religious landscape study is that fewer and fewer people have any religious affiliation at all. Catholics and mainline Protestants show the biggest drop.
The Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard shows that 85 percent of multisite churches are growing. The study of 535 multisite churches released last fall shows that struggling churches’ chances of survival are best when they merge with a multisite church. Megachurches are taking note of the trend. Jeff Bogue, senior pastor of a megachurch in the Akron, Ohio, area, says that multisite churches are a way of taking the church to where the people are, rather than making them come to you. It is a way of relocating the local church (Akron Beacon Journal, April 4).