Dr Tom at Simple Discipleship Blog has a post on Baptist Church Decline that suggests one  reason for the continued decline and death of churches in America is the lack of discipline in defining who can join the church, using the rise of baptism in younger (<6) children as his example.

I think he may have hit on something.  Part of the decline is consolidation within the “industry.” What used to be a large church (3,000) now barely qualifies in the megachurch rolls. But most large churches are merely catch basins for emigres from smaller churches, folks no longer willing to be missional, who would rather “sit and soak” while the paid staff does the work. Theirs is a “radically individualistic” faith focused on self-improvement. And the denomination rewards that behavior. There is no incentive to seed smaller churches with the spillover from larger congregations. Our method of church planting used to be to carve off a few hundred to start a mission. Now we let them stay while we send a young seminary grad off to build a house church.

The lack of training in well-rounded spiritual formation lets people think they are maturing in the Christian life when they feel good about themselves, and are “ministering to one another in love.”  But that is like exercising only your arms while your legs atrophy.

The solution to health in the church at large is for the leadership to set conditions that encourage, facilitate and demand participatory membership.  Children may get saved earlier, but they will have a solid understanding of their faith, and their parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents will be their role models.

To continue our current practices of consolidation will surely see the decline and death not only of community churches, but also the vibrancy of our faith to those communities.