“I’m about to do a new thing… .Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)
Paradigms of the church have shifted over time. “During the late ’40s and ’50s, a growing church followed a growing population into the exploding suburbs. However, church growth was more of a sociological than a religious phenomenon. Going to church was what respectable people did, and associating with the right church was the way to get ahead”(Wilson, 1996). In the ‘60s, things changed with the emergence of a secularized baby boom population, many of whom represented a “newly affluent middle class.” Instead of attending church on Sundays, boomers opted for recreational activities. Canadian and American research studies showed that “most citizens still believed in God and still counted on the church for liturgical observances of life’s transitions. They were not angry with the church, but felt no need to be part of a sustained Christian community” (Wilson, 1996). Wilson noted that “in the ’70s and ’80s, at least in the Episcopal Church, we [the church] began to see some recovery.” But the perceived recovery did not stem the decline. By the 2000s, millennials reported they had no belief in absolute standards for right and wrong, as many of them continued to leave the church (Pew Research Forum, 2010). According to many sources, the church as we have known it in the past is in a state of decline (Jones, 2021).
A new question arises: What does it mean to be the church (the body of Christ) when the brick-and-mortar institution is in a state of decline? Historically, people have associated “the church” with buildings, offices, organizational arrangements, budgets, ministry, leaders, theology, doctrine and visibility (Pillay, 2020). Churches have changed since the beginning of the pandemic, and many former parishioners have no intention of going back to the old ways of doing things (Adamy, 2021). It just might be time to try something new. The 21st-century church is in a good position to spread the gospel in the digital space.
Adamy, J. (2021, 11/12). Churches changed during the pandemic and many aren’t going back. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/church-pandemic-covid-online-11636728162
Jones, J. M. (March 29, 2021). U.S. church membership falls below majority for the first time. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx
Pew Research Forum. (2010). Religion among the millennials. Retrieved from https://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2010/02/millennials-report.pdf
Pillay, J. (2020, 10/6). COVID-19 shows the need to make church more flexible. Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0265378820963156
Reed, J. R., & Reed, L. C. (2020). Cyber outreach: How to develop and evaluate your digital ministries. Center Street Publishing: Chicago, IL
Wilson, C. R. (1996). Sustaining the new small church. Anglican Theological Review, 78(4), 549.