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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Demoninational Drift-Interesting take on changes in denominational attendance over at Mr. Bradley's digs, where mainline churches have been bleeding members while Catholic and evangelical churches are growing. I'll run a replay of what I said a year ago today on the issue
Rather than show where the culture has go astray, the mainstreamer will modify the church’s theology to be easier on the ears of the parishioners. If people are offended that they are sinners, don’t mention it. If staying celibate before marriage isn’t going over well, chuck those fornication passages. If “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father but through me” is too divisive, we’ll leave that out, too. Thus, there won’t be much difference between a mainstream sermon and an Oprah show. Since she does a better job of speaking to the masses, why should they listen to some stodgy sermon? If the church starts to reflect culture rather than critique it, it becomes irrelevant. There is a reason that mainline denominations are losing people and evangelical churches are adding them. If you have multiple ways to spend your Sunday morning, you’ll only spend it in a sanctuary or Sunday School classroom if you get more out of church than playing Nintendo or watching Sam and Cokie.
There are some interesting numbers in the Bradley piece. (1) Are there 10 or 8 million Methodists? I know there is a lot of dead wood on the membership rolls at my parent's Methodist church; about a third of the members don't attend at all, and only about 40% show up on any given Sunday. (2) "The EV Frees were up 57.2% (104,000 members)"-About 1% of that change in Midland EV-Free which is on the verge of becoming a megachurch; they went from about 200 to 1400 over the last decade. I was part of a single's Bible study there that led indirectly to meeting my wife Eileen (a fellow member went to a Vineyard young-adult group as well, which led to me going to a Saturday Night outing where I met Eileen). They're becoming the first stop for evangelicals coming in to work for Dow Chemical or Dow Corning (two different beasts) who aren't Pentecostal or hard-core Baptist. (3) The Catholic population is up 9 million. A good hunk of that might be from Hispanic immigrants and their American-born kids rather than conversions from Protestant folks. However, I do know one good Catholic gal from Midland who was raised high-church Episcopal then married a Catholic guy; she's in the old-school camp. I'm not sure how much of that growth is from blended families having the non-Catholic spouse come on board rather than have the Catholic one go to the other spouses church.

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