According to a recent RNS report, "Lutheran church membership soared in Africa and Asia between 2005 and 2006, but continued its steady decline in the modern West according to the Lutheran World Federation..."
RNS did not speculate on why this has occurred, but there are certainly theories easy to come by. For one thing the West, here speaking mainly of Europe, has been in a "steady decline" morally and theologically for generations. Why join a church that stands for nothing and believes even less?
As for the West in our country one can see that the church is becoming more and more materialistic and culture-accommodating. Africans and Asians often live in some of the poorest and most war-ravaged areas of the world where faith is uncomplicated by "health and wealth" preachers and church malls and other trappings of our western so-called comfortable Christian culture. Suffering and death is part of their theological understanding of the Christian faith, and they understand that the mission of the church is not simply to recycle bored believers into more exciting places. Theology is still important to these people, not self-help lectures and pop psychology. They live under the cross.
We have recently seen the East instrumental in calling the Anglican communion to repentance, especially regarding the US church's push for priests and bishops who are actively homosexual. As those who trust the Word they do not have the luxury of stretching the truth to accommodate every life-style. They see the horrible effects of AIDS, which, I believe is much more prominent in Africa. They see the effects of prostitution on a wider scale; and of human slavery unimagined in the West. Obviously, endorsing "alternative lifestyles" is not going to stem the tide of this disaster or offer a vision to the despairing masses. Only the Gospel, unadorned and without compromise, offers hope.
I find it interesting that while the West struggles to become relevant to the modern world, they are just as quickly becoming obsolete. On the other hand, the East is soaring. When will we realize that simply being the church is all that we must do? When will it occur to us that preaching Christ and Him crucified is the most relevant work we can accomplish?