Statistics on churchgoing at Christmas

Complete-church-midnight-mass_(3135957575)Over half of Americans will go to church on Christmas day.  Of those who don’t, 57% said they would be open to an invitation to go. [Note the opportunity.]

A LifeWay Research study of churchgoing at Christmas also found that 89% of churches will hold services even though Christmas falls on a Sunday.  [But over one in ten won’t.  See our discussion.]

Lutherans are the most likely to hold Christmas services on Sunday (94%), while Pentecostals are least likely (72%).  [Why is that, do you think?]

Also, while Catholic and Orthodox services see a big upturn in attendance for Christmas services, even when on a Sunday, Protestant congregations as a whole report poorer attendance.  [Why is that, do you think?]

The study has lots more fascinating information about worship and church practices over the holidays, including statistics about which churches also hold services on Christmas Eve (again, Lutherans lead) and New Year’s (Lutherans are less likely than the Reformed).  [Why is that, do you think?]

Details after the jump. [Read more…]

Theological music for Christmas

Ken Myers has written a wonderful post on Christmas music, emphasizing particularly how it is sung by choirs and its connection to worship in the liturgy.  He includes a fascinating discussion of how music can be a contemplation of divine mysteries, as in the harmonies of this piece, “Mirabile mysterium” to this text:

“A wondrous mystery is declared today, an innovation is made upon nature; God is made man; that which he was, he remains, and that which he was not, he takes on, suffering neither commixture nor division.”

The composer is Jacob Handl (sometimes called “Gallus”), not to be confused with George Friedrich Handel.  Read what Myers says about it after the jump.

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Cancelling church on Christmas

Trinity_Lutheran_Church,_Friedheim,_Missouri_altar,_Dec_20,_2013Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  So once again, many congregations are CANCELLING SERVICES!  That boggles my mind.  You should go to church on Christmas even when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday!  But when it does, why wouldn’t you go to church as you usually would?

OK, I understand about opening presents, making the Christmas dinner, and all that.  I understand someone missing church, though that’s not to condone it.  But what I cannot understand is a church that would not open its doors on Christmas day, that would not worship Christ on the commemoration of His birth.

I guess this practice is more common than I realized.  I’ve heard the reason given that Christmas is a family time, so we are going to be “worshipping” by spending time with our families.  But that’s just more secularizing of the holiday.  Maybe someone can explain it to me.

UPDATE:  Here is a defense of the practice, one that slams us critics.  Do you find it convincing?  I guess the big difference is one of theology.  The defense portrays worship as something we do–hard work that we sometimes need a break from–with little sense of what we receive when we worship or of Christ actually being present when we worship.

After the jump, Jonathan Aigner, gives 8 reasons NOT to cancel church services on Christmas.

Just as it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas, it’s important to keep “mass” in Christmas.  In fact, doing the latter is the best way to do the former.

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Theology & church growth

Boston_Garden_church_serviceCanadian researchers conducted a study of mainline Protestant churches (Anglican, Presbyterian, Uniting, and Evangelical Lutheran [the liberal denomination, as opposed to the confessional Lutheran Church of Canada]), comparing traits in congregations that were growing and those that are not.

They found that congregations that were theologically conservative are growing, and those that were theologically liberal are not.  (Go here for the complete study.)

After the jump, religion columnist Terry Mattingly reports on the findings, giving the breakdown on specific theological points that growing churches affirm and shrinking churches reject.

Notice that this study applies to mainline Protestant churches; that is, to denominations that are, on the whole, already on the liberal side, at least in their national leadership.  I’m curious about conservative denominations, some of which (such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and even, as I recall, the Southern Baptists) are stalled in their growth, though they aren’t declining as much as their liberal counterparts.

Granted that growth is not the main measurement of a church’s effectiveness and that growth is contingent on many different factors, such as location and demographics, this at least shows that orthodox theology is NOT an obstacle to growth, as has sometimes been implied. [Read more…]

“Even if they are fools, they shall not go astray”

camino-santiago-1180770_1280More prophecies of the coming of Christ for our Advent contemplation:  Isaiah 35, yesterday’s Old Testament reading.  I give the chapter after the jump.  It’s about how God “will come and save you,” and what this will mean for “the redeemed,” those “ransomed by the Lord.”  This includes those who are weak, infirm, and “anxious.”  I take special comfort from verse 8:  “even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”
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Thomas Oden, ex-liberal theologian turned classical Christian, has died

Thomas OdenThomas Oden has died.  A prominent liberal theologian who replaced pastoral care with psychotherapy, Oden converted to classical, historical Christianity when he read the church fathers.  An Oklahoman (whose life in many ways paralleled mine), Oden gave us the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, insightful work on postmodernism, and much more.

Please read my review of his autobiographical memoir, A Change of Heart:  A Personal and Theological Memoir.  Then read that book for an inside look at how liberal theology took over the mainline denominations and how he broke free through the Gospel of Christ.

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