This study profiled by CNN last week suggests religion might be extinct in Canada within 100 years.
More and more people are affiliating themselves with the category called “unaffiliated”, which I think is the technical term for ‘no thanks’ when it comes to Christianity and religion.
The study doesn’t surprise me, but it does distress me. I thought we’d unpack this on the blog a bit – the implications are huge.
When tough things occur, I’ve seen church leaders approach the issue from four principal positions.
The blamers deride minor hockey games on Sunday, Sunday shopping, the kids who left who just weren’t loyal, the government, the education system, the growth of the ‘mega-church’ (which is a bit of a misnomer in Canada anyway) – essentially anything and anyone that moves who isn’t them. The future is rarely built by people who blame.
The justifiers explain why our demise is inevitable. They sound a lot like the blamers, but they’re not as angry. It’s not their fault that the church is dying – clearly it’s someone else’s issue. And there’s a thousand reasons for it (none of which are their fault in case you didn’t catch that). They’ll tell you all about it.
The resigners are the least passionate of the bunch. The demise of the church, while regrettable, is almost logical. In a post-modern, post-Christian, pluralistic world, the church really can’t compete. Perhaps it’s just best to plan a quiet, dignified funeral.
The repenters are the rarest group. They see the problems and the cultural shift, but rather than point blame outward, they assign responsibility inward. They confess the sins not of the culture, but of the church. Or more specifically, they confess their own sins. They realize the problem is that when we have a sacred truth that isn’t connecting, the problem isn’t with the sacred truth, but with those who bear it. They pray, fast, weep and then they do something even more remarkable. They change. They reform. Did you ever notice the Reformation started first with confessing the sins of the existing church? People repented and out of repentance came renewal.
When you adopt the mantra of repentance, anything and everything can change. If you start with repentance, it never ends there. Blaming, justifying and resigning yourself to things ends possibilities. Repenting releases fresh possibilities. I believe a church that confesses will be around 100 years from. They might even reverse the trend completely.
What do you think the predominant response of the church has been to our pending demise? What would it take to move more leaders to repentance?