Influential leaders in culture are increasingly abandoning serious investment in a local congregation. Sociologist Michael Lindsay of Rice University has been studying influential evangelicals and has identified a trend. Many of them no longer see the parish as a place for significant involvement and investment. Read the article here. Many of these “leavers” identify the inefficiency of churches and their lack of strategic thinking as key reasons for investing their talents elsewhere. In its rawest form this could be the CEO who says, “Why won’t they let me run the meetings.” In its gentler and perhaps more winsome expression it may be frustration that a church has become infatuated with a building program and lost sight of its central mission of being the body of Christ. Many of these folks are leaving and diverting their attentions to para-church ministries. These may be (elite) fellowships of Christians in business or the law. They may be networks of affluent believers who enjoy underwriting ministry projects. Whatever they are, the impulse is certainly understandable. However, at the end of the day, our Lord instituted the Church and not any number of admirable and noble organizations that attempt to meet the needs of niches of people. The parish is not to be a niche. And like the rest of us, the affluent need to rub shoulders with people of all walks of life who have been baptized into Christ. Even more, the Church alone is the guardian of the Sacraments. You can’t take communion at your small group Bible study!