People ask me this question all the time. I get asked that question a lot because it's becoming obvious. In the past, it wasn't obvious what was happening in the other churches in a given area, so struggling churches felt like it was just them. Now it is obvious what is happening everywhere.
According to Thom Rainer here, between 6,000 and 10,000 churches are dying every year. I've seen similar numbers in other reputable sources. Churches are dying all over the place.
The church I pastor is a restart. It was one of those 6,000-10,000 churches except they closed intentionally as a path to reopen 1.5 years later. I've had a window into this because we're living it. And I want others to see what is happening before it is too late.
If you want to see and understand the state of churches and the culture, I've got two tips for you:
- Go and look at the statistics profile of any random Southern Baptist Association. Keep looking until you find a yearly report (many put them on their websites) and then look at the trends for those churches over the last 10 years. Look at the current size of the majority of their churches. Do that for other denominations in the same area (Presbyterians, Methodists, and Lutherans are harder to get this info from, though). When you see a group of 30-60 churches and only 3-4 have attendance of over 100, then you will see how widespread the issues are.
- Read John S. Dickerson's The Great Evangelical Recession and Hope of Nations. In the first, he diagnoses 4 inescapable trends affecting churches today and gives a prescription for Christians and churches. It is more hope- and faith-filled than the title suggests. Hope of Nations is a follow-up to the first and traces out where those trends will go and how Christians and the church have Jesus, the hope of nations, on our side, so we don't have to live in fear.