The Lutheran Church is in Decline. Why?

Last I checked, all major Christian Churches in the United States, Canada, and Europe are in decline.  The Lutheran Church is no exception.  And for the following discussion, my former Church, the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, is in decline.

The question is, why?

One explanation is that as western society has become more prosperous, people have become more materialistic and more self-absorbed.  They don’t need the Church.  They don’t need God.  But other studies show a more disturbing trend for Christianity:  in the last few decades,  the Internet is responsible for a significant increase in the number of people becoming less religious and even non-religious, by exposing believers to evidence that counters the supernatural claims of their Church.  I am one of those people.

Below are a few excerpts from the most recent online newsletter from my former Lutheran Church, written by my former Lutheran pastor.  He gives his theory as to why the Lutheran Church is in decline:

The Lutheran Church has witnessed the freefall of infant baptisms and confirmations since the 1960s. Confirmations have become almost extinct. They have virtually no cultural role within families. They are not anticipated, rarely discussed and quickly fade as a distant, nevertobespokenofagain occasion. And when confirmations do happen, like several I attended before arriving at Grace Lutheran,  its  hardly  a  big  deal  for  the  parents.  Likewise  with  the  church celebrations of confirmation (indeed, if the church even celebrates the confirmations that take place in their midst).   At the same time that there are fewer baptisms and confirmations, Sunday School has collapsed. Outside of parochial schools, the Church has lost almost all contact with children and teenagers. But then again, parochial schools are frequently chosen simply for the usually outstanding education they offer, not necessarily for the Christian worldview they purport toinculcate.

Gary:  So who or what does my former pastor blame for the decline of the Lutheran Church?

—With the collapse of church culture for children, the Church takes the blame  for  being  irrelevant.  Rightly so. The Church has, in large part, brought this dilemma upon herself. Rather  than maintaining and extolling the  features that distinguish the Church from everything elsespecifically, celebrating the sacramentsthe Church has been monkeying the entertainment culture of a consumerist society.  Amuse kids, has been the response.  After all, education can be fun. Why not take up your cross andfollow Christ Jesus?   Youth groups bear all the markings of entertainment culture.  Hardly could the typical youth group be characterized as a serious study session or as fortifying a gospel culture. Instead, it’s a crazybest-friend youth pastor cracking eggs on his head, throwing pizza parties, and giving kids the times of their lives until that time of their life is over and out the door they go, at a rate of 90% tonever come back.

Meanwhile the polling data has evidenced the fact that throwing programs at youth is utterly ineffective. There’s no indication that the decline in baptisms,  church  attendance  and  confirmations has  abated  in  recent  years  even  with a  gush of youth pastors running around hosting pizza parties and pumping the pipeline with programs galore. This model doesn’t work and it cant work because there’s nothing substantive there. Simply put, the Lord has made no promises regarding pilgrimages toSix Flags® in the way he hasdone so with the sacraments.

What’s the answer?  Forging, once again, a sacramental culture.  

Gary:  So what is my former pastor’s solution to the steady decline of the Lutheran Church?

Answer:  More superstition!  Teach children, over and over and over, that an invisible ghost god endowed them with supernatural powers in their baptism, and, that the same ghost god demands they eat him every Sunday to re-energize those supernatural powers, immediately after a Lutheran pastor has muttered some magic words—over a glass of chardonnay and a tiny cracker.

How sad that such an intelligent, good man is filling the impressionable young minds of children with this ancient, superstitious hocus pocus!

This is why every ex-Christian who has been freed from the brain-washing power of this religion must speak out—so that fewer and fewer children are exposed to these nonsensical superstitions.


3 thoughts on “The Lutheran Church is in Decline. Why?

  1. Gary,

    I don’t know if you would respond to this, but it seems that your article headline is correct, it is the Lutheran Church that is in decline. I don’t think there is much to significantly differentiate Lutheranism and other Protestant denominations, thus young adults and children go simply go to another Protestant or evangelical Church. The information is further evidence that there is high turnover rate in mainline Protestant denominations. They could either become another form of Christian (such as evangelical or Catholic) or simply become unaffiliated.

    The data here may interest you if you haven’t looked at it.

    Only 45% of children raised as mainline Protestants remain mainline Protestants. Remaining in this sense can be an Episcopalian becoming a Lutheran. 19% of the cohort become Evangelicals while 4% become Catholics.

    Youth groups and pizza parties would not contribute to retention. I think intellectual engagement is a necessary component. I study philosophy and I am a Muslim convert, and I think about theology philosophically. Most people are not philosophically inclined, but they can support someone (an intellectual champion) on their side, defending their beliefs. It is much like Dodger fans like Clayton Kershaw or Steeler fans liking Ben Roethlisberger.

    Do you have any thoughts about William Lane Craig and Robert Baron, two Christian apologetics?

    Peace be upon you.


    1. Of course, you will say that in the end the intellectual arguments of any form of theism are not compelling. I recently came across Michael Behe’s son (Leo) story of how he became an atheist. He was intellectual curious and read books like the God Delusion and realized that they offer good objections to God’s existence. He deconverted from Roman Catholicism in about six months.

      It doesn’t seem like these groups even try with intellectual engagement. I think it requires a group of people with a certain intellectual disposition and knowledge to be competent in this.


    2. I am not impressed with William Lane Craig’s approach to the study of Christianity. He has even said in one of his books that the (internal) “testimony of the Holy Spirit” must always take priority over objective evidence. So debating him regarding evidence is pointless. If backed into a corner on evidence, he will always pull out the “testimony of the Holy Spirit” card.

      I prefer reading the work of respected New Testament scholars, such as NT Wright and Raymond Brown. Liberal and conservative scholars highly respect their work. Both are Christian believers in the bodily resurrection of Jesus but their work demonstrates their respect for evidence.

      I would encourage you to check out some of my recent posts reviewing Brown’s book, “The Death of the Messiah”, or better yet, get the book and read it yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

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