Decline? What Me Worry?

Tobin Grant: the mainline isn’t necessarily declining. It just depends what “decline” means. He notes that the “rise” from 1925 to 1965 was an only increase in raw numbers, not as a percentage of the population. But the last 50 years has been a decrease both in raw numbers and as a percent of the population.

But, hey, it’s not all bad news:

As institutions, as organizations, these churches have grown. We can see this in the number of clergy in mainline denominations. … Over the last half of the 20th Century the number of mainline clergy increased year after year. It has only been over the past decade or so that the number of clergy has leveled off. … The lower number of members does not mean that mainline churches are less able to provide for its members. The decline in members has not resulted in a drying up funding. On the contrary, there are more clergy per member today than during the “rise of the mainline.”

I’m still trying to decide whether this post is some kind of dry sarcasm, or if the posting got hung up somewhere after being posted a hundred years ago from the heart of the mission of the church is to employ clergy and provide for the needs of its members. Christendom. Seriously: Right?

I know about a church whose worship center was built in the 1920s to seat 500 or 600 people. They rented some land to a nearby hospital to build a parking garage with a hundred-year lease. Although they have two full-time ministerial staff, and two Sunday worship gatherings, they’ve “grown” so much that only 160 people worship there every weekend. But all the bills are paid, so no problem.

Update: See also Kent Fillinger, writing in the Christian Standard:

Church leaders need to repent from loving the status quo and ministry comfort more than they love the lost, the broken, and the hurting.

Many churches have given up on discipling believers and developing servant-leaders and opted instead to hire more staff to manage the programmatic machine we call the church. And sadly, I’ve seen many ministry staff members who are content to “phone it in” and to hide behind the guise of busyness to work little and produce even less.


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