In a recent blog post titled “The Numbers” Don’t Look Good—What Should the Church Do?, Msgr. Charles Pope reflected on the drop in Mass attendance and reception of the Sacraments over the past several decades. And the numbers don’t look good. One example: in 1970, 54.9% of Catholics went to Mass weekly; that percentage dropped to 21.1% by 2018. The other statistics are just as bad. For some, this decline may be shocking. But for most of us who work in ministry they come as no surprise.
What, then, does Msgr. Pope propose that the Church do? He says:
“We are to preach the truth….We must preach the full gospel, whether it is in season or out of season. And when it is out of season (as it certainly is today) it is all the more important that we reprove, encourage, and rebuke while patiently enduring any hardship or persecution that may result.”
This proposal, is woefully inadequate. Msgr. Pope’s solution to the mass exodus the Church has seen in past decades is that we just need to preach the truth regardless of how out of season it may be. (And the more it is out of season the more we need to reprove, encourage, and rebuke others.) This proposal falls flat.
The Apostles and the early Church should be the model for a solution here. Their evangelical efforts have three key pillars that we can emulate now.