Nothing like some more statistics to confirm what we already know. The church in the western world has been is serious decline for over fifty years. The gains are far outweighed by the losses.
In Britain we’ll be saying goodbye to the Methodists in a few decades while the last light will go out for the Church of England at the end of the century. Good news for the Roman Catholics, they’re holding their own against the trend of decline.
In 1963, Anglicans made up 64.5 per cent of those questioned, compared to 31.1 per cent this year. Other Christian denominations also declined from 23.1 per cent to 7.6 per cent, while other faiths grew from 0.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent and Catholics also grew from 8.6 per cent to 9.1 per cent.
The biggest growth was among the “nones” (people with no religious affiliation), though, up from 3.2 per cent to 44.7 per cent.
What is to be done? Here’s some advice from Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today:
The findings present an enormous challenge for the churches over how they make faith appealing to young people, in a world where many young will be appalled at how the male-dominated church leadership has made discrimination against women and homosexuals a defining feature of orthodox mission.
If what the Christian Today is suggesting is correct the Episcopalian Church in the US must be doing well. Perhaps they could set their sites on expanding to the UK?
Changing what Christians have always believed about sexual ethics to appeal to a market segment is a recipe for disaster. If faithfulness to the teaching of Jesus and the witness of Scripture results in decline, so be it.
Movements adapt everything about themselves to reach the world, except their core beliefs.
Archbishop Cranmer takes a different approach. Let’s revisit the risen Lord’s instructions to followers concerning their mission:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
What did Jesus say when he sent out his 12 into the towns and villages?
As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
What could that look like? The Archbishop provides and example:
One such church is Causeway Coast Vineyard in Coleraine, Northern Ireland. In the last seven months they have seen 2,200 people become Christians in their town. This is remarkable, but they are keen not to label it as a revival. It is the fruit of 10 years of presence in their local community, which God is now blessing in an incredible way.
Alan Scott, the church’s Lead Pastor, has said that the surprising aspect of these numbers is that:
More than 60 percent of those coming to faith have surrendered their yes to Jesus on the streets of our town and surrounding area. The move of God we are experiencing is happening beyond the building. It is not a movement IN the church, it is a movement OF the church.
Visit the Archbishop for a short video interview with Alan Scott on Viewing Evangelism Differently. It’s worth the effort.