Now Dr. Thiessen has already done some homework for this project. Specifically he has looked at societal reasons in Canada for the decline of the church and the Christian faith over the past 60 years. His major study was recently published in the 2015 book "The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age." I just finished reading it a couple of weeks ago, and it is excellent. He has looked at the religious beliefs and practices of Canadians, who can be categorized into three different groups: those who attend religious services weekly, those who attend services mainly for religious holidays and rites of passage, and those who do not identify with any religious group and never attend religious services. His conclusion is one that many church leaders will affirm: a tsunami of societal change is fostering growing secularization. “Stop blaming churches…. factors beyond what religious groups control significantly account for diminished religious involvement and affiliation.” (Joel Thiessen, The Meaning of Sunday, page 148).
But congregations still want to thrive in these challenging times... and there are indeed congregations that are "flourishing" despite the cultural realities in Canada. So this is Thiessen's next task: to describe the nature of congregations that are thriving in our current social context despite the social context. What can we learn from them to help us all?
This study will continue for many years, and it is only now beginning. In the meantime I commend it to your attention. It is a VERY rare thing for an academic with a heart for Christ's church to look at Canadian realities with the goal of helping the church. I for one look forward to the gleanings of this research team.
What follows is the link to Dr. Thiessen's new blog, and his first post.