Your MegaChurch Is Growing? That’s Cute. Cause The Church At Large Is Shrinking

This is taken from Skye Jethani’sThe Divine Commodity” which is required reading for any Ragamuffin.

“In 1990 approximately 20% the population (of America) attended church on any given weekend. By 2004 the figure had dropped to 17%. If the trend continues, by 2050 only 11% of Americans will attend church. Although megachurches have multiplied across the fruited plains, the numbers show that Christianity in America has been consolidating and not exploding”.

Now hear me.
I love my “megachurch”.
But in 2050, when I’m old and wrinkly, I want my grand kids to see the hope of glory and the beauty of His bride.
The Church.
Perry Noble said something at Unleash in reference to denominations shrinking. Something akin to if it were their money that was shrinking, there would be a strategy in place to fix it yesterday.
That is some truth spittin’ double slap right there.
The “Church” is shrinking.
Some of our “churches” are not.
So instead of feeling comfortable about our local church growth, I think we need to step back and take a look from the roof of your local town hall.
Holy crap.  The church in America is dying.

At what point does one sacrifice the success of one’s local church in order to spur the existence of His global Church?

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Author loswhit

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  • SingingNewYorker

    At what point? At no point. Sorry I know it sounds negative but I don’t think it will happen…the American church is very sickly 🙁

  • ahhh – we have been talking about this all week! My church – NCC – did a City Fathers conference just yesterday where all different people from all different denominations literally sat at the feet of all of the different pastors in DC who have had an impact on Washington in the last 30 years. Tons of different denominations were represented. It was awesome — the first pastor — Stuart McAlpine basically said that at the end of his life he hopes that we have all been like an irrigation system spreading the message of Christ — that it is not about one church — but about all of us working TOgether to share the redemption of Christ.

    To me — when we link arms with other churches — we ALL benefit. When it is only about butts in seats for our own church — we all suffer.

    • NathanCachiaras

      I am greatly encouraged by your news! I was at a similar meeting in Baltimore this week. Leaders from different areas and kinds of churches getting together to better each other, add value to each others ministries, and plant more churches in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Blessings on you and your ministry.

  • Is it the institution that is dying? The radical hippy in me says let it. The Pastor in me weeps for it. We look at China, Korea, etc. The “Church” is ballin there. Are we missing real Christians that follow Jesus at all cost? Are we, as many arguments pose, just consumers of Jesus?

  • Brad

    My question is, how does a church define success?

    If success is reaching the lost and empowering believers to do the same – then the local church succeeding is what we need.

    If success is gathering Christians and getting them excited about a certain way of doing church or a certain doctrine, and to hell with everyone else – then let it burn.

  • James Marler

    While I concede the need to not see a local building as “The Church”, I object to differentiating the growth of the (local) church and the Church (universal). You can not do one without the other.
    Beyond all of that, these numbers are not a problem, they are the fruit if a particular way of thinking. Specifically, ” I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian” and “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than (insert your youth pastor’s favorite comparison here). You can’t have decades of that kind of thinking without an affect on church attendance.
    Which leads to the final part of the point, those numbers are talking about church “attendance” and not, in fact, on Church size. So, the growth in attendance at the mega church is “cute”? Ok, but it’s also good and vital (just as is growth in church attendance at the non-mega church down the street.)

  • Laura Detamore Epps

    This truth saddens me. However, all we can do is think & act locally. As a wife and mother with a husband who works a secular job, the only way we can fix the bigger problem is to fix it in our local community. If your local church is dying, do something about it. If it’s growing, thank God for it and for the people doing the work of Christ & join in that work. We certainly can’t ignore the bigger problem, because that is what should stir us to greater works; however I don’t think the bigger problem belittles anything local churches that are successfully reaching people–be they mega or not–are doing.

  • How does it help the church as a whole to not have mega-churches grow? That doesn’t really make sense.

    And frankly, even as a person that has done church research, I am not sure I completely buy the argument that the church as a whole is declining. Because almost every survey I see significant parts of the church are not counted. Some don’t count catholics, some don’t count orthodox, some don’t house churches and lot don’t count small urban, minority churches.

    I remember reading a statistics report about the Boston area. The reporters assumed that the church was shrinking, but when they actually spent the time and money they realized that it was growing faster than any time since the great awakening. The problem is that the growth was in poor, minoirity, imigrant and house churches. And there are not good ways to count those because many of those groups are not part of a larger denomination that counts them.

    While I am all for evaluating methods, evaluating church models, etc., I never worry about the state of the Church (big C universal) because that is the problem of the Holy Spirit. It is only my local church that I have any responsibility for. And even that responsibility is partial.

  • bblande

    Lose the self help sermons, the silly “get them in the door” gimmicks and bring back the gospel and the trend will reverse.

    • Caleb Gordon


    • Some (many…most?) of the dying churches out there are the ones that just preach “the Gospel” and nothing else. Presenting the Gospel as good news and making it relevant to life is the key. Not watering it down, but not pretending like reading the Word in a monotone voice is going to connect with anyone either.

  • Dude

    The Global Church is actually growing rapidly, Pentecostalism being the fastest growing form of Christianity at over 400 million, second only to Catholicism at 1.2 billio

    Pentecostalism is also growing in America with Evangelicalism in tow; it is the mainline Protestant denominations that are deteriorating rapidly. Catholicism is also on the rise in America as devout Latinos fill the country.

    So no, I don’t believe there is cause for concern—the form is being replaced with the genuine. And globally, the Church is covering the face of the earth.

  • mpt

    I’m not sure where Skye got those statistics, but they are inaccurate according to all of the research I’ve been doing on this topic for a book I’m writing. Every stat/poll regarding America’s church attendance that I’ve found all state that somewhere between 38 and 45 percent of Americans attend church services regularly. I’d be curious to know who his source is.

    • I agree. I think Skye is using some questionable numbers.

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  • Caleb Gordon

    I think a bulk of the people in the church have a false sense of security.
    I just wrote a blog on this

    See what we have done in our country is we’ve fooled folks into
    believing that if they they go to church a few time when they were kids,
    (maybe even while they are adults) and say a prayer that this will
    secure them a spot in heaven. That is a false sense of security.

  • Ray

    In days past, people would go to church due to obligation or upbringing. We continue to see that type of hand-me-down faith shrinking in the church. People are longer afraid to be honest about their own disbelief.

    We may have smaller churches but I believe the public discourse about faith is much more genuine. In some cultures, like the African American community, it’s still not socially acceptable to call yourself an atheist. That’s kinda scary. Should Christians discourage people from opening up about their doubts?

    I guess my point is.. These numbers don’t alarm me because I know that the church was artificially inflated by people who went for reasons aside from belief. This same type of activity happens in the stock market.

  • m

    we are at the beach enjoying eachother and life while we can

  • Mike

    Those numbers…do they account for other activities besides the weekend (Sunday)? And getting more specific….i dare say that church ‘membership’ is shrinking. what are the perks of membership? Really. But these issues all have a central problem. thats sin. the of complacency, the sin of laziness, and loss of a heart for the destination of the lost. The Church is shrinking is a serious issue…and the answer is more Jesus.

  • shelbyisrad

    Between this and Max Dubinsky’s An Anthology of Madness I am being torn apart.

  • Elgin

    See, I think that “the church in America is dying,” is a bit of an overstatement and a generalization. I think it may be dying in areas. But as for our community, it is thriving. Not just our church. (In two years, our church has doubled, and we’ve seen other local churches grow as well). And in the illinois district of our denomination, we know many churches that are thriving and growing. All that to say, I think the BEST thing for a local pastor to do is not to take a step back and look at what is happening to other churches, but instead take a step forward – dig deep in his church, and do everything he can to reveal Christ to his community. If EVERY local pastor took a step forward in their own church, instead of looking at each other’s churches, that would be a step in the right direction.

  • I mean – just because church attendance is shrinking doesn’t mean the Church at large is shrinking. Though, having said that, the fastest growing religious group in america are the “nones” (those that claim no affiliation). But I’m not so sure these things are all bad.

  • j

    The Church is ever expanding – if we’re going to talk about the Church – then let’s talk globally. it’s Growing! America isn’t the centre of God’s church..

  • R.A. Garner

    I think it’s time to stop looking at statistics, Los. I pastor a small church. So, if I’m going to look at the national statistics in relation to my 150 sheep, the picture can look very bleak. However, part of the problem with America is her reliance on numbers instead of souls. I happen to know the Nazarene denomination worldwide is expanding mightily. I cannot speak for others, however, I have to believe it is probably true everywhere in every denomination. America is definitely not reflective of the bigger picture. However, I think the same arrogance that stands in the middle of New York city or Los Angeles and says, “Man we’ve got too many people, it’s time to start controlling the population in America,” is the same arrogance that looks at the mega church and sees it as how the church should look as a whole. My job is to take one bite at a time out of my part of my world and obey Christ in it. Win those I can and disciple all I can. It’s great to dream of bigger churches crammed full of people. But as much as I admire mega-churches, the church isn’t just about filling pews. The majority of the churches in America are small (if you look at the statistics). I think that is more reflective of the fact that in our impersonal country a lot of people like the benefits of small community.

    While I might like to involve myself in the “nation-wide Church,” the most I can do really is rejoice with all the glorious victories everywhere else or pray for the losses. But obedience to my call and my Savior is my version of success. It might be your calling to look after the entire American Church, but I think “holy crap” is precisely what you have on your hands when you keep your eyes on the church as a whole instead simply doing the best you can with the part He has given you.

  • Bobby Marchessault

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s actually a bad thing that the church is shrinking. Bad thing to say as a church planter, I know. But it’s no longer the cultural norm to just go to church. So are we really just losing the people that weren’t really following Christ anyway? If the numbers of attendance shrink, but our disciples and community impact grows, we actually just might be on the right track. Maybe?

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