Thinking Out Loud

December 5, 2014

Proof That Your Local Mainline Church Isn’t Dying

Introducing:

Thinking Out Loud’s
Positive Research Service
For Mainline Churches

Tired of being told your denomination is declining?
Depressed by statistics the spell the end of your local congregation?

Our Positive Research division selects only the few churches in your denomination that are seeing growth, and then we use them as our entire sample size.  While other researchers will tell you that the sky is falling, our theme is optimism and each page of our report has a smiley face in the bottom right corner. Don’t delay, call or write today for a research report that sounds just like what you want to hear.

Call 1-800-555-123 or send check or money order to Box 130467

February 12, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Snake Handling Church Disclaimer

Here’s this week’s collection, with the hope that you’ll be my Valinktine.  Click anything below and you’ll find yourself at PARSE, the link list’s exclusive official owners and operators! (Or just click now, it’s easier to read there.)

After winning the silver medal in linking at the 2008 Bloglympics, Paul Wilkinson settled into a quiet life of writing at Thinking Out Loud.

Burning Church

If you watch all four parts of the documentary about Burning Man linked above, you discover that all photographs taken at the event become part of a commons that photographers agree to share. It’s part of an overall philosophy that guides the event and why there’s no photo credit here.

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

July 15, 2010

Currently Reading: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites

Since this is a book about statistics, may I begin by saying that I am about 64% through this book, having just started yesterday.

Whereas unChristian by David Kinnaman is a book about those outside the church, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley R. E. Wright, PhD (Bethany House, 2010) is very much a book about those inside the church, especially Evangelicals.

But there the similarity ends, because while Kinnaman is a researcher for Barna Group, Wright, a sociologist, takes direct aim at many Barna Research studies, the manner in which they are published, and the spin that alarmist Christians and headline-hungry press put on them.   (And since one of the bullet points in my recommendation of unChristian was its affiliation with Barna, it really undermines the credibility of that book by default, even though isn’t footnoted in the chapters I’ve covered so far; the author does reference Barna Group’s Revolution several times.)

In Bradley Wright’s view, the sky is not falling, the church is not necessarily decaying, and there no substantiation for giving up hope.   This flies in the face of people like Josh McDowell, author of The Last Christian Generation, a book and writer that Wright refers to, but not by name (you have to read the footnotes.)   Wright’s detesting of statistical manipulation is evidenced from the opening chapter.

This is probably the best book I’ve seen for North American Evangelical pastors who want to better understand who exactly is sitting in the pews on Sunday (and who is away that week!)  But it’s far from a leadership book; anyone who wants to be conversant on where the church is heading, or has a concern about the so-called “last generation” should read this.   There are many graphs and charts and explanation of the sociological method, but it should not deter anyone from getting some benefit from this thorough work.

I did some post-review research here to see if David Kinnaman and Bradley Wright are linked anywhere in the blogosphere; one writer connected the two in passing back in 2008,  the same year Wright himself reviewed Kinnaman’s book.   More recently,  Louis McBride tries to connect some dots in a July 4 blog post at the (biased) Baker Book House Connection blog, and a day later, an excellent review is posted by Scott Sidusky.   You might also enjoy the 18-minute interview at the Drew Marshall show; click here and scroll down to May 22.

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