This post is the first in a five-part series on the Religion Singularity.
Religion Singularity is a term I first coined in a paper entitled “Singularity: The Death of Religion and the Resurrection of Faith,” presented earlier this year at the 2016 Conference on Religion and Society in Washington, DC.
If the term “Singularity” sounds to you kind off astrophysics-y to you, bringing up visions of black holes and wormholes, good. It’s supposed to. Because if you are a leader of a faith community, how you prepare your congregation for the Religion Singularity will determine whether crossing its event horizon will consign your faith community to oblivion or deliver it into a entirely new universe.
In a nutshell, the Religion Singularity can be boiled down to three trend lines:
- Denominations. It took the institutional Christianity 1900 years to get to 1,600 denominations worldwide, by 2000, the number stood at 34,200, and by the year 2100, there will be over 240,000.
- Worship Centers. In 1900 there were 400,000 worship centers worldwide, by 2000, about 3.5 million, and by 2100, over 66 million.
- Christians. Here’s where the rub begins. 600 million Christians in 1900, 2 billion in 2000, and 4.3 billion by 2100. Growing solidly, but currently at about half the rate of denominations and worship centers.
I’ll pause for a moment while you do the math…
Got it? See the problem?
Sometime during the last century we crossed an event horizon, and now we are caught in the gravitational well of the Religion Singularity. If trends hold – and there’s no reason to think they won’t since they’ve been moving along at the current pace for decades – we are going to see catastrophic drops in the sizes of both denominations and worship centers.
Worst case scenario: by 2100 we are looking at an average denomination of just under 18,000 and an average worship center size of under 70.
Denominations? Unsustainable. Dead within the next 100 years. Hard to see a way around it. The Religion Singularity will be a black hole for denominations.
Worship Centers? Unsustainable in their current, church-centric form. But… if they can find ways to become more lean, vision-driven, creative, and experimental, they may find a way to turn the Religion Singularity into a wormhole that will deliver them into a new way of being Church.
So if you are a leader of a congregation, you have a choice…
What’s it going to be?
Click here to read the full paper: “Singularity: The Death of Religion and the Resurrection of Faith” (on Academia.edu).