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Let's talk declining church attendance and basic economic theory. Fun, right?
Following the Reformation demand for Bible instruction was high, but supply of Bible instruction was low.
So, you found the most educated person in town, gave him a Bible (it was always a him back then), and sat under his teaching every Sunday.
This teaching-based model of church has endured among Protestants for 500 years & it's based on high demand for Bible teaching & low supply.
It also emphasized one aspect of pastoral leadership above all else—preaching & shifted worship from sacrament to word focus.
Most agree it was a revolution in communication tech that fueled this change. The Reformation could not have happened w/o the printing press
We are seeing another revolution in communication tech today w/instant global access to everything. Access to Bible teaching is everywhere.
Now there is a diminishing demand for Bible teaching & and over-supply. I can engage good Bible instruction 24/7 if I want to.
That's a serious problem for churches that put massive resources into Sunday services built around teaching.
The supply/demand equation that worked for 500yrs doesn't hold up any more. But most of us who preach are in a state of denial about it.
We'd rather blame youth sports, commitment-averse Millennials, or disinterest in God for declining attendance rather than adjust how we work
Bible teaching remain very important, but how people receive it has changed. Most do not rely on a Sunday sermon the way they used to.
Yet we still put 30+hrs week into it and most church $ and resources into the preaching event on Sunday. What if pastors used some of that..
...time & effort to help their people curate the endless amount of teaching that's already available out there, & then reimagine...
...what people really need from an incarnate Sunday morning gathering in order to grow in their faith? But first we need to release the...
...ego satisfaction that we get from having people gather to hear me monologue every week. Simply put, the pastor's heart must change...
...before the church can change, to be more effective in a world that's changed.
I'm not apposed to preaching, & I believe strongly in pastors applying Scripture to their local congregations.
However, the proportion of resources devoted to sermons in time, space, money needs to be rethought in light of the supply/demand reality.
Equipping people w/tools to navigate the ocean of Bible content they have access too may be more critical today than writing a 40min sermon.
Teaching remains an undeniable aspect of the Church's mission to "make disciples," but the assumption that preaching = teaching is wrong.
& research is clear that listening to lectures does little to change behavior. Rather than asking- Are ppl coming to hear me talk on Sunday?
We should ask- How can I best utilize ALL of the tools available to me to help ppl become disciples? Including beyond my church programs.
& in light of the strong Bible teaching out there, how do we reallocate time/space on Sunday AM toward growth & connection w/God & neighbor
I'm not offering specific answers here. That's for each leader/church to determine. I just want more to wrestle with the right question.
Responding to declining attendance w/o seeing shift in supply/demand is like asking why ppl don't go to bookstores w/o talking about Amazon.
Just as worship fundamentally changes post-Reformation bc of tech (printing press), it will change again in the decades ahead bc of digital.
We need to be wise about these changes and not allow tech to further disincarnate the church. Starts w/asking right questions.
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