There is a rhetoric going around our world and in our churches that sounds much the same.
In the world it is that inequality is growing, people are not as well off as they once were.
For churches, it is that we are shrinking, losing members and people are forgetting about us.
These statements accurately describe our current situations. Yet, what I find interesting is how most people then predict where we are going to end up.
In the world, the prediction seems to be things are getting worse, inequality will grow. The rich will get richer and the poor poorer.
In the church, the prediction is that churches will just shrink forever. And eventually all the “old folks” will die.
And this is where I think I might see things differently. 100 years churches were not really taking off. Sure many were being started, but people didn’t attend every week. There was farming to be done, weather to contend with, distances to travel. And then the world wars came and following in the 1950’s church attendance exploded, people started flocking to the institution.
In Canada and US two decades ago, real estate was touted as a safe financial bet. Pay of your mortgage and you will have saved money while the value of your house rose. And in the US the housing market collapsed, leaving people with home values much lower than their mortgage debts. We are on the cusp of a slow correction in Canada, where prices will drop after reaching all time highs.
But what I find interesting is that very few people saw it coming. Everyone thought the future would just continue on in the same direction indefinitely. Churches will shrink, houses will continue to gain value.
Just as home prices are about to fall (sales are way down nationally), the church will likely slow its shrinking. But we can’t see it. All we can predict is more of the same, despite all the evidence of history telling us that our world more patterned and rhythmic, and less stuck in ever spiralling trends.
What does this means for us Lutherans? I think it means something pretty simple: Most of us have no idea why people started drifting away from church. We point to all sorts of reasons, but in the end we really don’t know.
Well, the same will happen the other way. I could be wrong, but I think, maybe I even have a gut feeling, that people will just start drifting back.
And we will have no idea why.
And I am pretty sure that is the way God wants to keep it.