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Filling the pews and reviving a stagnant church

One of the dangers of success is complacency. Take, for example, Bethlehem Steel, once the pre-eminent manufacturer of bar steel. Confident of its position, it ignored the inferior product of Nucor until Nucor put it out of business. What Bethlehem Steel missed was the "disruptive technology" Nucor established and improved upon until it was a significant competitor producing as good or better a product at a lower price. In a similar way, argue Methodist Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., theology professor L. Gregory Jones, and the Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones in an article written for Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Leadership Education, so-called Mainline Protestantism missed what was happening on the periphery while it occupied the center of American religiosity. Confident of their "business model," the Mainline churches failed to see how American culture and the broader world were changing and producing innovations in religious organization and expression; and when they did notice, they tended to dismiss what they saw as an inferior product producing inferior results. Today, as the mainline churches continue to lose membership, they suffer from a crisis of confidence that could be remedied, the authors assert, by learning the difficult lesson of how to embrace the disruptions that produce new techniques and tools with which to touch and transform lives. Read the article for suggestions on how to revive a stagnant or failing church. Also explore the notion F&L coined, "traditioned innovation," as well as the links on the right hand side of the article page, under the heading, "More on this Topic." In addition, our feature article, "Ten Essential Skills the Next Generation of Religious Leaders Will Need," points to key leadership attributes that can bring about church revitalization.  You might also appreciate our article, "Caring for the Rural Church," which explores the concept of being deeply engaged in local society.

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