Tuesday, January 29, 2008

After The Baby Boomers

I am halfway through reading the new and latest book by sociologist of religion
Robert Wuthnow called "After The Baby Boomers: How Twenty and Thirty Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion." www.amazon.com/After-Baby-Boomers-Thirty-Somethings-American/dp/0691127654/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201632753&sr=1-1.

If you are likewise reading or have read it, what did you think?

It is heavy statistic-laden; reminds me of reading Lyle Schaller with so much packed in. A very good corrolary I think to the analysis and interpretation presented from a more conservative position by George Barna in his book UnChristian, and in the earlier book Revolution. In some ways for moderate and liberal church leaders there is hope within the statistics, but just because things might not be so awful for them as the mainstream media portrays, at least in comparison with the evangelical conservative churches. But beneath it all, ala Barna, there are signs of major quakes coming that will hit all established churches hard, once the baby boomers age out (as we will, you know, we really will, it just seems like it never will happen :) ).

My overall thought at this point in the book is that church leaders will read it avidly and quote it a lot and will try to structure their "growth plans" and "plants" accordingly, and in so doing will again be replicating the past and what the sociology shows of the glimpse into American religion which occurred from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, the period of time most up to date in the research Wuthnow uses. This is the bane of relying on sociologists (which also has its blessings) and not on theologians, on sociology that is and not on theology, for driving evangelism and the shape of God's people in the coming days. Statistics capture the way things were, and give credence to the ones who feel they need to have the assurance of numbers and analysis in order to plant. But we should be casting our nets in the waters roiling beneath us now and in what and where we see God leading us for the future. You might say that at least the figures and analysis are on the trends and stats of the past ten years and not like so much of our default mode actions and reactions on church growth come from by the boomers and olders who are doing the planning, and that is the trends and stats of thirty or more years ago....but ten years ago is still the ago, and increasingly is as remote as thirty years or more ago. I say spend time with the bible, the early church historians, and theologians, and a little at most with the sociologists, and let that guide us in mission.

But I will post more and say more as I get all the way through the book. End.