Thursday, June 07, 2007

Exhibit A to the Previous Post

The mainline Presbyterian denomination in the United States (the PCUSA) reported today that total denominational membership fell by another 46,544 in 2006. This drops the PCUSA's total membership count below 2.3 million and continues a trend of steady membership losses going back uninterrupted to the 1960s, when total membership once stood well over 4 million. While the PCUSA's membership has declined by 2 million people in the last 40 years, the total population of the United States has increased by over 100 million during the same period.

In the coming days, there will no doubt be extensive opining about this. There will be folks who will try to convince us that the decline isn't all bad, and that the glass is actually half-full (the head of the PCUSA OGA has already tried to make this argument today). Then there will be those who view this as one more nail in the coffin and use it to conduct a post-mortem on the denomination. Regardless of how one chooses to spin the statistics, one thing is clear, at least to me. The grand vision of Kingdom restoration given to us in the OT prophetic material bears precious little resemblance to the mainline contraction. Trying to spin the severity of the contraction completely misses the point. Scripture's vision of restoration is comprehensive, overflowing, abundant, and bless-filled. This is the standard by which we should be measuring the health of our congregation and/or denomination. That so few want to subject their status to Scripture's expectation of Kingdom may well be part of the reason why the Kingdom doesn't seem to be advancing very much.


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