Another great post by Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings:
This from the Bob Smietana and The Tennessean. You can read it all here….
When it comes to the numbers, the difference between mainline churches in Middle Tennessee and those in the country as a whole are striking, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.
From 2000 to 2010, the Episcopal Church declined 15.7 percent nationwide but grew by 26.7 percent in the Nashville metropolitan area, which includes Franklin and Murfreesboro. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was down 22 percent nationally but up 8.8 percent locally. United Methodists declined 9.9 percent nationally but grew here by 9.2 percent.
David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said that churches in general benefit from being in the South, where religion is still an important part of life.
Churches that act like churches also have an advantage, he said.
While most people in American say they are Christian, many don’t have ties to a specific church. Those who do go to church want to be part of a religious group and not a social club.
Funny. We are told by national jurisdictions and mission planners that churches that act like churches are dead or on their way there. Maybe not. Bob Smeitana, a great religion beat reporter, wrote a story on liberal churches in Nashville that are bucking the trend of decline prevalent on the national level. Among the things he wrote is that these churches are not one issue churches and they have not shed the ordinary churchly identity because of their liberal stance. They emphasize good worship, they have Bible study, and they look, act, and sound like real churches — not social clubs or political organizations.
Imagine that. Churches growing because they do not look, act, and sound like anything but a church! Perhaps we might get the message that we do not have to ditch all the familiar trappings of church in order to reach people and grow. It seems we are getting signals from all sorts of voices outside the regular channels telling us just that. Will we listen? I am not sure. I hope so.
It seems like forever we have heard it repeated over and over again that in order to grow we have to ditch the very things that identify us as church — liturgical worship, Biblical preaching, confessional identity, catechetical training, etc… Our new LCMS missions have more in common with the side shows of the evangelical emergent church than with the churches whose mission support pays their bills. The time is now to challenge the common wisdom and return to the uncommon wisdom of churches unafraid and unashamed to be church.
Without debating the rightness or wrongness of their theological opinions, these congregations act churchly and so they suggest to us that changing the design of our worship service, church music, pastoral appearance, etc… is not THE key to growing. A focus on people, a commitment to excellence in worship, an embrace of the churchly identity, and Bible classes and teaching works even in a more liberal context to reach and keep people. Imagine, just imagine if you will, if we Lutherans capitalized upon those strengths — people focused, the best in liturgical worship, church unashamed of being church, and the evangelical and catholic center upon Scripture and the Confessions — why, we might even impress ourselves!