Mike Breen – I haven't met him but I like him. He is a true Kingdom "hero"…he is passionate about the Body of Christ and is leading a life of discipling others to disciple others (I know that is redundant but it is fun to say). Mike posted on his blog some "predictions" for the coming years regarding "church world" in the West. I think it is worth taking a peek at his entire blog post (HERE) but take a gander at this one prediction:
Church attendance continues to decline
People do not wake up one Sunday and decide to leave their church. They phase out; they begin by attending less frequently. This problem is pervasive throughout the North American church. While myriad individual, spiritual reasons exist why people attend less, decreasing frequency of attendance is the single biggest macro reason for overall church declines. For example, a church has 400 people that attend four out of four weeks. This attendance frequency equates to an average attendance of 400. But if this same church has 400 people that attend two out of four weeks, average attendance is cut in half to 200. To reduce the problem of declining attendance frequency, church leaders will begin to track not only how many attend, but also how frequently they attend as well. I am not advocating legalistic superciliousness — that every time the church doors are open people must be there. But the family that once attended almost every week and now attends 10 times a year is gradually leaving the church.
One thing I think Mike misses is that people are continuing to see their journey in spiritual community as just an "option" versus something that is necessity for growth and discipleship faithfulness. As Christian Smith wrote in one of his fine books, "religion operates in the background of the wallpaper of options in a person's life"…in other words, people are busy. They work hard…play hard…have complicated lives…sitting in a church building and consuming religious products that can often be accessed online or in other ways is not that "imperative" in many respects. It is not that church worship needs to be more compelling…in other words, it isn't about the "show"…it is rather about the importance of community. It is about connecting with people…living in the love of "one another"…discpling one another to be faithful to the call of Jesus. The Jesus movement was never meant to be lived in isolation…it is a tribal movement that demands communal expression and participation. Church attendance may continue to decline…Mike has some good points about why…but the main reason, at least in my humble opinion, has more to do with growing individualism and the proliferation of busy-ness and a dwindling sense of urgency about community. You can chime in if you want…otherwise, read some more of Mike's thoughts (on the link above).