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Kevin Graham

Church Growth Trends

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Rhino, the importance of taking the Gospel to people is not just for them to hear of it, or about it. If that were all, we could airplanes to pull banners behind them that said, "Jesus is the way." Then we would have done our duty. We are to introduce the Gospel to them, and when the Spirit converts them, baptize them, and bring them into the Lord's Church. This is a lifelong committment. This has to happen where the Church can be above ground.

I agree with everything you said, except for the last sentence. Christianity is growing like crazy in areas where being a Christian is difficult, if not deadly. These are underground followers of Christ, just as much as I am in America.

Of course, this issue no doubt relates more to our respective concepts of what "The Church" is. That's a discussion for another thread. This one is full enough! :P

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Rhino,

While i agree that there is growth and evangelism in the Evangelical churches there is unfortunately scandal also. Hillsong in my country is forevever getting reported for some scandel either by the church or some member ripping other members off. Hillsong is known and copied by many churches throughout the world. I find many born agains become "'serial born agains" following a popular pastor until they tire of him and then go onto the next one.

What I like about charismatic churches his how they accept all, the Gothic looking kid, the ex-prostitute, the former street kid, the university student, the professional a whole melting pot of classes and races.

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I figured the percentage growth of the church back to 1947, the year the church crossed the one million mark and found this. While it doesn't explain any slow down, it does give information about it. The figures are from the 2003 Church Almanac and the latest figures from lds.org.

2004 2.42%

2003 2.25%

2002 2.87%

2001 2.94%

2000 2.94%

1999 3.35%

1998 3.33%

1997 3.91%

1996 3.79%

1995 3.48%

1994 3.86%

1993 3.39%

1992 3.88%

1991 4.23%

1990 6.12%

1989 8.74%

1988 5.11%

1987 3.69%

1986 4.18%

1985 4.94%

1984 5.41%

1983 3.66%

1982 4.92%

1981 6.05%

1980 5.35%

1979 5.69%

1978 4.98%

1977 6.05%

1976 4.77%

1975 4.76%

1974 3.12%

1972 4.14%

1971 5.46%

1970 4.39%

1969 4.60%

1968 2.67%

1967 5.38%

1966 3.55%

1965 7.20%

1964 5.55%

1963 7.72%

1962 7.79%

1961 7.71%

1960 4.77%

1959 3.88%

1958 4.53%

1957 5.05%

1956 4.38%

1955 4.23%

1954 4.48%

1953 4.82%

1952 3.65%

1951 3.22%

1950 3.03%

1949 3.40%

1948 2.54%

1947 1.97%

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Rhino,

While i agree that there is growth and evangelism in the Evangelical churches there is unfortunately scandal also. Hillsong in my country is forevever getting reported for some scandel either by the church or some member ripping other members off. Hillsong is known and copied by many churches throughout the world. I find many born agains become "'serial born agains" following a popular pastor until they tire of him and then go onto the next one.

What I like about charismatic churches his how they accept all, the Gothic looking kid, the ex-prostitute, the former street kid, the university student, the professional a whole melting pot of classes and races.

You've just hit on one of the most frustrating aspects of evangelicalism for me, as well as one of the most encouraging aspects. Just to be clear, I'm ticked off by the first thing you posted, not the other one :P

Of course, evangelicalism is much more than the charismatic movement. Many evangelicals are Anglican, Presbyterian or Catholic even! Usually not the charismatic type <_<

EDIT: I'll be gone for the weekend, so if anyone responds to my ramblings, don't get mad if I don't respond until Monday! Have a grat weekend, and take care, everyone :unsure:

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We are to introduce the Gospel to them, and when the Spirit converts them, baptize them, and bring them into the Lord's Church. This is a lifelong committment. This has to happen where the Church can be above ground.

Introduce the Gospel - Check

Let the Holy Spirit call all of those that he will - Check

Baptize - Check

Bring them to the Church - Check

Provide converts a lifelong committment - Check

I'm missining something. Why does any of that have to be above ground? Large portions of the church in the 1st Century did all of these while hiding from the Roman and Jewish establishment.

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Dando: Article of Faith 12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

If you are violating the law, you are violating God's law at the same time.

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Dando:

The Church is not in the habit of sending people to their deaths. We go in the front door. Or we don't go.

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Although it may seem that Rhinomelon has taken this thread slightly off course; I think what he is getting at is perhaps the deepest reason why LDS growth trends are dropping.

There really is no real urgency to spread the gospel for Mormons. "If people don't hear it now, we'll get them later". In fact non-believers are better off not hearing anything about Mormonism, that way they aren't at all held accountable for any rejection of the truth.

Mormons don't have any compunction to offer the gospel other than it will make other people's live happier. If all I'm offering people is a little more happiness for at most 60+ years, you're right there's no reason for anyone to break the law in the name of the Gospel.

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I guess what I'm say is this: no pain, no gain. The LDS church is not taking risks for the gospel they profess, so little is coming from the more "play it safe" mentality.

I don't know how many 19 and 21 year old missionaries would want to be placed in those kinds of hot spots.

John

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Dando: Article of Faith 12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

If you are violating the law, you are violating God's law at the same time.

Are you saying that Joseph Smith never violated the law? If you're willing to say "yes", I'm guessing that you will also say "but those laws or officials were unjust."

To which I would say that the same is true in all of the closed countries in the world.

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Dando:

The Church is not in the habit of sending people to their deaths. We go in the front door. Or we don't go.

Rhinomelon has already answered this. Martyrdom is not the goal. No one should be going just to die.

I don't know how many 19 and 21 year old missionaries would want to be placed in those kinds of hot spots.

I've met plenty of 19 -21 year old who do and who have already gone. And where in the Scriptures does it say that missionaries must be 19 - 21 years old?

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rhino, you can't really make the statement "so little is coming from the more "play it safe" mentality." You would have to say that there are no converts and that there are no changes occuring in the lives of the members toward more spirituality. You might like to think that is true, but you are wrong.

Dando, how many times was Joseph convicted of any crimes?

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Dando:

"There really is no real urgency to spread the gospel for Mormons. "If people don't hear it now, we'll get them later". In fact non-believers are better off not hearing anything about Mormonism, that way they aren't at all held accountable for any rejection of the truth."

WHAT are you talking about? Every year we send out 60,000 young men and women to the far flung reaches of the globle. The fact is that we are under direct commandment to preach the Gospel to EVERY living creature.

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And where in the Scriptures does it say that missionaries must be 19 - 21 years old?

I could be wrong, but I think that LDS male and female missionaries must be at least 19 and 21 years old respectively.

John

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JohnBWalt:

I know of no "Scripture" that states missionaries must be of any particular age.

In fact in the early days of the Church we sent married men.

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I know of no "Scripture" that states missionaries must be of any particular age.

I could not find a scriptural basis for an minimum age requirement, but I think the LDS Church has at least set a minimum age of 19 for males and 21 for females. If I can recall the link, I will post it.

John

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Dando:

The fact is that we are under direct commandment to preach the Gospel to EVERY living creature.

"Except those in countries where we aren't allowed to.. . "

I agree that we are commanded to make disciples. Whose commands have more weight? Christ or the Chinese government?

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Dando:

The Lords of course. But we are under no obligation to be martyrs. Interestingly we are working with the Chinesse government to allow active missionary work there.

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We have a minimal age for legal purposes

Why the difference in ages for males and females? What legal purpose is addressed by a difference of 2 years in age?

John

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. . . I know my family in Atlanta has turned into a bunch of hermits over the past few years, having become addicted to the wealth of information . . . .

Anyway, the Church will grow no matter what. I see no chance of it "dying" unless people started to apostasize at an incredible rate.

The problems with faith in much of the developed world might have been summed up, like this:

"For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle

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== And who is doing better in Spain? I think it is the JWs.

So what you're saying is getting numbers on your Church rolls is more important than obeying the law?

== You've hit a nail on the head here. There is urgency to mainstream Christian missionary work, because most believe that there is a high price for not doing so. But even for those who do not believe in a literal eternal fiery hell, they do missionary work in these countries simply because Christ commands it. Obedience is sometimes hard, let's face it!

Please show me where we're "commanded" to break government laws. I suppose you want to toss out the articles of faith in favor of your weird interpretation of what you think we're "commanded" to do; according to the actions of second-century apostate Christianity. We know God won't command us lest He provide a way, but the fact is that the "way" into these countries hasn't been provided yet.

== And there won't be a church support basis until the army of teenagers (or trained, seasoned older missionaries) creates one.

Since the Church is more focused on the selfish purpose of getting teenage missionaries home safely so they can grow old and live in "joy" with their family, who do you expect to take on these renegade missions against the will of the Church? You? Why don't you go into Iran armed with Arabic scriptures. I'll pay for your ticket if you promise to serve faithfully as you've been bloviating that the "Church" should do.

== Chicken and the egg.

Pot and the kettle.

What are you waiting for? Promise me you'll show every bit of "urgency" as you think a "real Christian" has and should. Start your own "underground" Church and report back with your success stories. What do you say?

People are dying out there with nothing but hell awaiting them. What do you say?

Time's a tickin!

== Perhaps you should read your history. The edict of Trajan comes to mind, as well as the policies of Septimius Severus.

I've read enough history to know both Trajan (second century) and Septimius (turn of third century) ruled long after the original apostles were dead. I also know Paul used his citizenship to save himself from death. Seems like he was somewhat concerned about his own safety. Septimius didn't institue new laws or policies against Christians; he simply honored the laws that were already on the books.

== There are other examples as well. And let's not forget the apostles, who were beaten, imprisoned, etc., because they refused to follow the authorities and stop preaching the gospel.

Uh huh, and we see what good that did; the apostasy ensued. But they were not breaking any "laws" by simply preaching. They were arbitrarily killed without trial.

== I realize that, but does that belief still mean that Christ's command to take the gospel to all peoples is invalid? And if the LDS church is a true restoration of the original church, then the apostles obviously would have believed that as well.

So what are you saying, that the LDS Church must not be true since the First Prsidency hasn't decided to order a "shock and awe" wave of suicide missionaries into forbidden territories?

== The problem is that the apostles routinely went against the established authorities in order to preach the gospel, while the LDS church doesn't.

Routinely?

1. Beginning of Christianity until Death of Nero, 68 AD:

At first the presence of the Christian faith was unknown to Roman authorities. It appeared first merely as a reformed and more spiritual Judaism; its earliest preachers and adherents alike never dreamed of severing from the synagogue. Christians were only another of the Jewish sects to which a Jew might belong while adhering to Mosaism and Judaism. But soon this friendly relation became strained on account of the expanding views of some of the Christian preachers, and from the introduction of Gentile proselytes. The first persecutions for the infant church came entirely from exclusive Judaism, and it was the Jews who first accused Christians before the Roman courts. Even so, the Roman government not only refused to turn persecutor, but even protected the new faith both against Jewish accusations and against the violence of the populace (Acts 21:31 f). And the Christian missionaries--especially Paul--soon recognized in the Roman empire an ally and a power for good. Writing to the Romans Paul counsels them to submit in obedience to the powers that be, as "ordained of God."(Rom 13:1) His favorable impression must have been greatly enhanced by his mild captivity at Rome and his acquittal by Nero on the first trial. The Roman soldiers had come to his rescue in Jerusalem to save his life from the fanaticism of his own coreligionists. Toward the accusations of the Jews against their rivals the Romans were either indifferent, as Gallio the proconsul of Achaia, who "cared for none of those things" (Acts 18:12 ff), or recognized the innocence of the accused, as did both Felix (Acts 24:1 ff) and Porcius Festus (Acts 25:14 ff). Thus the Romans persisted in looking upon Christians as a sect of the Jews. But the Jews took another step in formulating a charge of disloyalty (begun before Pilate) against the new sect as acting "contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:7; compare 25::P. Christianity was disowned thus early by Judaism and cast upon its own resources. The increasing numbers of Christians would confirm to the Roman government the independence of Christianity. And the trial of a Roman citizen, Paul, at Rome would further enlighten the authorities. The first heathen persecution of Christianity resulted from no definite policy, no apprehension of danger to the body politic, and no definite charges, but from an accidental spark which kindled the conflagration of Rome (July, 64 AD). Up to this time no emperor had taken much notice of Christianity. ( International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

== In LDS thinking, the church today is still unwilling to sacrifice like the early Christians, even given the escape clause of postmortem evangelism.

I would hope that the restored Church would play it smart and not drive itself into the ground as the early Church did; which consequently allowed it to be hijacked by a ruthless string of Byzantine emperors.

== For mainstream Christianity, those who are most able to be helped by the gospel are often those who have never heard it, i.e. closed countries.

Hogwash. Just how well is the Church doing in Muslim Africa? Do you know? What about Russia? Do you know? Compare these figures with Christian South America, which is booming so much that it had to build extra MTCs there. You're putting too much stock into Evangelical claims of mass conversions in these forbidden lands, which typically involves a microphone, a religious zealot and 170,000 cheering Nigerians. In less than a month a traveling AOG minister can chalk up a half-million "Christians" to his list. You think they're truly "converted" because of these drive-by religious "revivals"? The LDS Church is having enough trouble trying to figure out why activity is so low in the more developed countries. I'm glad it hasn't tried to tap into new territories for the sole purposes of boosting membership figures.

== While the LDS view says that those who need the gospel most are those who won't have to sacrifice much for it. Perhaps a blunt way to put it, but that is the general trend I'm seeing in this thread. I apologize if I inadvertently offended anyone.

You are offensive.

== Also, in terms of limited resources, I think missionary resources are limited only because the LDS church won't allocate the funding. The LDS church has a staggering amount of financial resources at its disposal, but it uses them for buildings and the like, and invests a great deal as well.

The LDS Church has the most expensive missionary program known to man.

== Send more missionaries to places that have never heard the gospel.

The Church is gradually getting there. Sorry, if it isn't according to your preferred time-table.

== In short, the problem, in my opinion, is not that the LDS church's resources are too limited, but that they are badly allocated.

Is that what is keeping you from sacrificing yourself like the early Christians? Church won't pay your way?

== But if everyone needs the gospel, why does the LDS church focus almost exclusively on areas that have already heard?

I think it is smarter to send the missionaries where more baptisms would result, like Latin/S. America. Why send a thousand missionaries to Morrocco when we know it would result in virtually zero baptisms? (no Evangelicals are not experiencing mass conversions there) These same missionaries would averag 6-20 baptisms if they served in the West somewhere.

Is God going to be upset with me because I baptized 30 people in S. California, instead of the 1 or 2 I may have landed in Bosnia? What is most important, the quantity of souls saved or their place of residence?

== Why not go to the fields in India, for example? Persecution for white missionaries over there is usually negligible.

Tell that to the relatives of Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was burned alive along with his two sons (ages 8 and 10) by Indian Hindus. ast month the Pope expressed concerns for the rampant murders of Christians in India. Negligible huh? Read dozens of articles about how "negligible" the persecution is in India: http://www.persecution.org/newsite/country...p?countrycode=3

== Looking at the people of the New Testament, safety was apparently not one of their high priorites either

They also thought the second coming would happen in their life-time. In many respects, the first Apostles were not too bright. It seems Jesus was always rebuking them every time they said anything. After he died, they had a difficult time accepting the claim that he was resurrected. Gee, isn't that precisely what they were preaching all that time beforehand?

== There was a funny story I heard at college about two gung-ho missionaries who wanted to preach in the toughest places. Basically, they wanted martyrdom. But everywhere they went, people didn't kill them! They came to faith in Christ! How disappointing...

Well, if that is a good enough example for the Church to follow, it is certainly good enough for you and your boys as well. What are you waiting for? North Korea is calling your name. They desperately need the gospel. Are you selfless enough to give it to them?

== But where does the LDS church put its faith?

Same place you're putting yours, apparently. So get of your hypocritical butt and start teaching those militant Hindus. You said it yourself; they need the Gospel more than the Amazonians. Your logic is absurd though. Since Christians already exist in Brazil, missionaries teaching Amazonians should instead be tracting in Kiev.

== If the borders of China are ever opened to LDS, it will be because of the Christian church already operating within its borders.

Are you seriously that deluded? If this happend it would be because Church leaders like Gordon B. Hinckley has made official visits with Chinese politicians on their own soil. Your little band of suicidal Evangelicals only make things more difficult for the doors to be opened. It tells the Chinese government that Christians are a bunch of underhanded trixters who are only interested in their own religious cause. They have no respect for Chinese law, anymore than the Muslim terrorists respect US immigration laws.

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I figured the percentage growth of the church back to 1947, the year the church crossed the one million mark and found this. While it doesn't explain any slow down, it does give information about it. The figures are from the 2003 Church Almanac and the latest figures from lds.org.

2004 2.42%

2003 2.25%

2002 2.87%

2001 2.94%

2000 2.94%

1999 3.35%

1998 3.33%

1997 3.91%

1996 3.79%

1995 3.48%

1994 3.86%

1993 3.39%

1992 3.88%

1991 4.23%

1990 6.12%

1989 8.74%

1988 5.11%

1987 3.69%

1986 4.18%

1985 4.94%

1984 5.41%

1983 3.66%

1982 4.92%

1981 6.05%

1980 5.35%

1979 5.69%

1978 4.98%

1977 6.05%

1976 4.77%

1975 4.76%

1974 3.12%

1972 4.14%

1971 5.46%

1970 4.39%

1969 4.60%

1968 2.67%

1967 5.38%

1966 3.55%

1965 7.20%

1964 5.55%

1963 7.72%

1962 7.79%

1961 7.71%

1960 4.77%

1959 3.88%

1958 4.53%

1957 5.05%

1956 4.38%

1955 4.23%

1954 4.48%

1953 4.82%

1952 3.65%

1951 3.22%

1950 3.03%

1949 3.40%

1948 2.54%

1947 1.97%

So anyone know what was so special about 1989 to make membership spike the way it did then? Maybe if we can figure out what we did then we can figure out more what we can do now.

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== So anyone know what was so special about 1989 to make membership spike the way it did then?

I do.

I wrote an article on this a couple years ago with the help of Jan. I made some calls and found some interesting info. I was also informed by the manager at the Church office of Membership and Statistics, Glen Buckner, that during 1989, the Church went through a tally transition whereby the counting process was fully automated, as opposed to the manual hand count similar to that of voting ballots in Florida. This easily explains the dramatic increase in membership in the baptism figures of 1989-1991. The automation corrected the huge undercounts that had been calculated for more than a decade prior. The significant undercounts can be verified by doing the math in the charts I provided.

http://www.kevingraham.org/chartz.htm

== Maybe if we can figure out what we did then we can figure out more what we can do now.

Unfortunately, the jump in numbers didn't reflect an actual gain in membership. It was just a natural correction for previous miscounts.

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Hey everybody, I hope you all had a good weekend. It seems I have some catching up to do! I hope you'll bear with me.

Dando: Article of Faith 12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

If you are violating the law, you are violating God's law at the same time.

Equating God's law with the laws of the worldly authorities has always gotten the church in a lot of trouble. What happens when the laws of the authorities and the laws of God are directly opposed? Too many Christian churches went along with Nazi Germany because the Third Reich was the governing body of Germany. Many people point to the reign of Constantine as a big downturn in the life of the church, precisely because he made Christianity the government supported religion.

Yes, we are taught in the New Testament to obey the authorities, but we are also told to fear God above all others. I believe it is truly undeniable that the New Testament gives us examples disobeying aspects of the worldly law to follow the higher law. After all, for the sake of the gospel, Paul was beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, stoned, and eventually beheaded by the governing authorities of his time. All the apostles (besides John, who was exiled) ran afoul of the governing authorities precisely because they preached the gospel. As Paul said, "Woe to me if I do not preach!" Read Acts, and note how many times people were jailed, killed, or beaten by the authorities for preaching.

If government authorities tell you to do something that you know is against the laws and moral principles taught by Christ, would you simply go along with it?

I don't know how many 19 and 21 year old missionaries would want to be placed in those kinds of hot spots.

John

I am willing to bet (if I were a gambling man :P ) that if going to new countries that weren't that friendly were an option for missionaries, more of them would want to go than you think! I am always surprised by how many people, especially young people, want to go that route.

rhino, you can't really make the statement "so little is coming from the more "play it safe" mentality." You would have to say that there are no converts and that there are no changes occuring in the lives of the members toward more spirituality. You might like to think that is true, but you are wrong.

I don't want to say that at all! Obviously the church is growing, but not as much as it could be. I'm just saying that by ignoring about half the world's population (who are just as much in need of the gospel as those in Europe and South America and Utah), the LDS church is shooting itself in the foot in terms of church growth and membership.

I am also making no comments about the spirituality of current members. I am focusing on the missionary aspect of the LDS church.

More later. It looks like Kevin Graham has some good thoughts. Take care, everyone <_<

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