It's a Different World: The Challenge for Today's Pastor by Lyle E. Schaller

By Lyle E. Schaller

Is helping church leaders comprehend and successfully grapple with the "new realities" of church lifestyles at the present time.

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While precise figures, or even good estimates of the membership of these independent churches are not available, a reasonable guess is they include 5 million adherents including children and adults who are not carried as members. The Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists accounted for almost exactly 60 percent of all Protestant church members in 1906. Eighty years later these six groups, despite the growth through mergers of the Methodists and Congregationalists, accounted for approximately one-third of the members of all Protestant churches in the nation.

At last four characteristics of this new phenomenon should be of special interest to those who wonder why their children have migrated from mainline Protestantism to a different religious subculture. The clearest deviation from traditional mainline Protestant teachings is that one's personal religious experiences, rather than the promises of God, constitute the central validation of one's faith. A second characteristic, as stated clearly by the Assemblies preacher, is that the centrality of word and sacrament has been supplanted by word and music.

In the Lutheran Church in America the number of new members received from all sources dropped from an average of 510 a day in 1963 to 375 per day twenty years later. A similar pattern prevailed in the United Presbyterian Church as the number of new members received from all sources dropped from an average of 785 per day in 1958 to 444 in 1982. This decline in the turnover rate illustrates a basic principle of church growth. Those churches and denominations that experience significant net growth also can be expected to experience a high turnover in the membership.

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