Good news, bad news for the US church

Istock 000005012478XsmallThe Christian Century has some bad news for the US church. . .

Every year about 3,700 churches close their doors in the US. That's one in one hundred churches. That makes 3,700 new churches required each year in the US just to maintain the status quo - if you forget about population growth.

Now for the good newsย - a 1% mortality rate is pretty good for an institution. Rates of closure for secular organizations are higher.

The bad news? This doesn't mean that the church population is particularly healthy relative to other kinds of organizations.

Whereas in other arenas the weakest organizations shut down, the weakest churches have ways of staying alive for a longer time. So a very low mortality rate doesn't necessarily mean a superhealthy church population.

The research reveals that up to half of the closed churches are new churches that did not survive. That's bad news? No that's good news!

David Olson says, a "surprising fact" is that mainline churches tend to have lower closure rates than evangelical churches do. He sees an inverse correlation: the fewer churches that close, the more the denomination declines; the more churches that close, the more the denomination grows.

Go figure!

When you've worked it out you'll understand the difference between a dynamic movement and a dying institution.

The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of over 200,000 Churches (David T. Olson)