Yes, if those thinning pates and grey hairs of wisdom are any indication, the COG demographic is sliding inexorably toward elder-status, and in this case elder comes without ordination credentials. In a generation the numbers will be heading on the downhill slide past the point of no return. Indeed, I think I saw the milestone a few kilometres back... but maybe it was a millstone instead. The brash, vital, growing Worldwide Church of God of yester-year only lives on in our memories and nightmares.
But wait, misery loves company, and its comforting to know that COGism is far from alone. Across The Ditch in the fabled land of Oz, the mainline Australian denominations (Catholic, Anglican and Protestant) have been involved in something called the 2006 National Church Life Survey (NCLS). It's full of the usual pacifying pabulum, such as:
There has been a dramatic increase in the proportion of attenders who are aware of their church's vision, goals and directions.
Uh huh... very inspiring if fuzzy around the edges. But before breaking out the grape juice and marinated tofu, consider this Ocker shocker:
A matter of concern is that the average age of church members is going up. It is now...
Take a guess. The average Aussie church goer is, what, in their late forties maybe?
... 53 years.
I nearly let out a whoop. I'm still a youngster! Well, only barely, but I'll take whatever slack I can get!
Mind you, that's Australia, and my guess is that the Kiwi average age is higher. The USA seems, as always, a little different, but in the rest of the English speaking world Christianity is in deep trouble, and it's probably the author of its own misfortunes. I'm mean, take the Anglicans ... please, someone, anyone!
Religions pass their use-by date, and WCG's was probably 1975. On the macro scale Christianity itself has a problem, and circling the wagons fundamentalist-style is a bit like spitting in the wind.
Meanwhile, the mainline churches are - if not spitting - bravely whistling in the dark.
National director of NCLS Research Keith Castle writes, 'Perhaps the church in Australia is moving beyond the sense of despair that has permeated its life (particularly in the mainstream churches) for possibly two decades. I see glimpses of a new determination to present the gospel of Jesus Christ in creative and relevant ways in this complex society in which we live.'
Translation: I'm fresh out of ideas; is it time to panic?
NCLS Research: weblink
Quotes from Brian Schwarz, "Vital Signs", The Lutheran, June 2007.