I'm still in a bit of a "post 9/11 10th anniversary remembrance funk", so I watched a DVD that came with a recently arrived book, What We Saw. In this film from a book that includes text and images from CBS News' coverage of the events of that day, I watched the managing partner of a financial firm tell how he survived losing over a third of his staff that day. He said was was determined to have "a high threshold for the small stuff." That's what enabled him to begin the process of healing and rebuilding his firm.
I was a part of a conversation about what many "traditional, mainline denominational churches" are going to do in the next five to ten years regarding their declining (and aging) memberships. As a famed Russian revolutionary once wrote: " What is to be done? "
One thing that must be done is for those who want to attract new members to lose their sense of neediness, the sense that "bodies at all cost" will solve "the problem." Those bodies, unless sent and directed by God, will not solve any problems and may, in fact, create a host of new problems.
God, through Jesus Christ, builds the church, and that church is fed and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Do any of us think we can accomplish this through our natural ability? Gimmicks may "bring them in", but gimmicks won't keep them in because true seekers already know their lives are messed up and won't honestly accept someone telling them they can be saved from themselves and from sin without making radical changes under the direction of God.
Nobody likes the idea of getting smaller (from an organizational standpoint) and nobody likes the idea that there are more empty seats than full ones on Sunday morning or at a mid-week service. It doesn't look right, and it may feel like failure.
Failure or success is God's call, not ours. Our call is to be faithful to the faith once delivered to the saints, to authentically and unashamedly witness to the power of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and to let the chips fall where they may. If those chips don't call our way and our numbers shrink, results are in God's hands and care, not ours. Regardless of outcomes, we can say we have been faithful servants who have done only our duty and no more.
I am confident God will always give supreme care to the one who says: I carried out your will, dear God, without worrying and wondering why it looked and felt as it did. I have done my duty.
Let us keep our standards and trust God to send those who seek truth through Him.