As my regular readers now, I think a lot about church growth and decline. If I had a simple solution or magic formula, I would share it. Much of the problem lies with the change of society: religious congregations no longer have such a strong claim on cultural influence. Other institutions, as expected as good Internet access or an accommodating coffee shop, brake into religious treasuries: access to information, a meaningful context for living and means for organizing a valuable response. You don’t need church for friends or a cup of coffee. Newcomer certainly aren’t going to support an institution for that. (Rural areas and poor urban areas, with less social infrastructure, may buck this trend for a time.) And it’s doubly true that newcomers will not support weak leadership.
But let’s step back. Some churches still thrive, and it’s clearly not (to me) because they are more or less institutional, more or less dogmatic or more or less authoritarian. Self-confidence seems to be a better distinguishing factor. And how this may be cultivated a good use of time and effort. Why? Confidence says this is good better than self-assertion, and people can feel the difference. And desperation kills.