The Times They Are A-Changin’

I was listening to the AND Conference from Granger Community Church and found some stats in a video they produced quite revealing. And, yes, the soundtrack was a Bob Dylan song which was very appropriate.

  • Polling usually shows that 40-50% of Americans attend church once a month. The real answer?
  • Less than 20%. And that number is shrinking
  • From 1990 to 2050, church attendance is expected to grow by 10 million people
  • The population is expected to grow by 272 million people
  • The church is China has grown from 200,000 to an estimated 120 million while facing intense persecution under the Communist regime
  • In 1900, an estimated 9 million Africans were Christians
  • By 2025, that number is expected to grow to 633 million
  • 15% of American churches are growing but less than 5% are growing by new Christians
  • In a recent five year period, 10,000 American churches disappeared

And, from my own denomination, the United Methodist Church:

  • The median age of the population in the U.S. is 35
  • The median age of attendees in the UMC is 57
  • The average age of UM pastors is 52

The times are changing. These stats, ultimately not about numbers but the church’s effectiveness to reach real people with real needs, bring up all kinds of questions in me.

Are our churches equipped to handle the change? Are our leaders ready for a vastly different culture and climate to be Christian? Will the center of Christianity move from the West to China or Africa? What will church be and do in 2050? How do we create a church that is able to adapt to a rapidly changing culture while still carry the timeless truth of Jesus?

On my good days I have hope that we will adapt in time to the changes; on my cynical days I do not believe many church structures, including my own, can adapt and change fast enough to meet the needs of 21st century people.

Today, though, is a good day.

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