Members of a sample of declining Protestant churches in the United States and Canada report that one of the main reasons their congregations are not growing is because traditional Sunday laws have been largely disappeared and Sundays have become crowded with many activities that compete with church attendance. Many of these churches have been in decline since the 1960s and the remaining faithful feel that the secularization of Sundays is one of the major reasons why. They see this as more important than internal factors that may have discouraged new members coming on board. Yet, some churches that face the same contextual factors are growing, not declining.
An analysis of the data demonstrates that the lack of Sunday laws cannot explain the extent of the decline in these congregations. But, blaming this element permits congregations to ignore internal factors, avoid change and focus on nostalgic memories of a past era when crowds thronged the church. Bottom line: declining congregations come up with theories to avoid making the changes necessary to turn themselves around. They would rather keep doing what is comfortable for them and justify their behavior with various explanations than engage in the difficult work of mission.
Source: Steve MacMullin, Review of Religious Research, March 2013.