4- Decline

The lights are going out in Wales


The governing body of the Church in Wales (Anglican) has met recently. They heard a report that average Sunday attendance has fallen below 1%.

The Revd Richard Wood described it as devastating, appalling, an embarrassment, and deeply depressing.

He recognised that the Church in Wales was attempting new things, such as pioneer ministry and licensed evangelists, and said that these would take time to produce fruit. But he was concerned about the “huge amount of time, effort, energy, and money [spent] on propping up stuff which has failed”.

He moved an amendment to the motion, to say that the Governing Body received the report “with a heavy heart”, and added a new clause calling for more research into what made a growing Church.

Good to hear they’ll be some research going on.

The Church in Wales ticks all the right boxes — economic justice, climate justice, same sex marriage and the inclusion of LGBT people. They drink Fair Trade coffee. They’re just a bit fuzzy on the gospel.

How to destroy Christianity in Europe

Looking for an effective way to render the church in Europe impotent? No need for fierce persecution. Here’s the plan — give the church social recognition; turn the clergy into government employees; shower the church with money.

In 2013 the Catholic Church in Germany received almost €5.5 billion ($6.2 billion USD) via taxes levied by the government on the church’s behalf. (The Lutheran and some other Protestant churches benefit from the same arrangement.)

Here’s the result:

An unprecedentedly low number of Catholic priests in Germany are being ordained, new figures show, as a crisis appears to be engulfing the Church in that country.

Only 58 men joined the clergy in 2015….

The number of ordinations has dropped by half in the past decade: In 2005, a total of 122 diocesan priests were ordained, and five decades ago, in 1965, the number was 500. Today, there are 14,000 Catholic priests active in Germany, down from almost 20,000 in 1990.

Meanwhile, only 96 new seminarians – trainee priests – were registered in 2015, the lowest number ever. At the same time, 309 priests died, and 19 left the priesthood.

The new figures for priests being ordained are the latest element of what appears to be a crisis in the German Catholic Church. In July, it emerged that almost 200,000 Catholics left the Church in Germany last year… 

read on

The movement principle — don’t feed the ducks!

A change of strategy — from failing institution to committed minority

Greg sheridan 

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor of the Australian newspaper, and a Catholic, has some advice for Christian churches.

Face reality — you are now in the minority. 

In Western Europe, on the east and west coasts of the US, and in Australia, the new religion of aggressive secularism is on the rise, more self-confident and fundamentalist than ever.

Widespread, prolonged affluence has been more effective than oppression ever was in killing religious belief and practice.

You’ve been fighting a losing battle for 120 years.

Across the past 120 years, the Christian churches in Europe and Australia have lost every significant, long-term battle about social norms and legal measures to underpin them.

In these 120 years no victory was ever more than a temporary slowdown in secularism. While there seemed to be many tactical wins, the war was lost. In each case, the church misunderstood the extent and nature of its support and the long-term threat it faced.

The battles were lost because of a losing strategy.

They remind me of South Vietnam’s government in 1974. It over-estimated its strength and tried to hang on to all of its territory, including the long narrow neck of its north. It did not retreat to its formidable heartland in the south, which would have been vastly more defensible. Had it done so, it might have survived. Instead, the next year, the armoured divisions of North Vietnam invaded and Saigon lost everything.

Historic churches are most in danger.

The established churches are gentle institutions in a long, gentle decline. The Anglican Church in England shows the way. It has hung on to its status as the established church. Its bishops still sit in the House of Lords. It owns some of the most splendid buildings in Europe and is associated with the most prestigious institutions of its nation. It would say that it is involved in a respectful dialogue with contemporary society. Yet barely 700,000 English Anglicans, a trace over 1 per cent of the population, go to church on Sundays. It is dying

Christian churches must become a self-confident committed minorities.

The Christian churches now need to reconceive of themselves as representing a distinct and not all that big minority (of practising Christians). They should conduct themselves as a self-confident minority, seeking to win conversion through example and persuasion and not to defend endlessly legal protections and enforcements that are increasingly untenable or meaningless.

Here’s an example. . .

Recently Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner was willing to hear a complaint against the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart for circulating a pamphlet which upheld the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. The complaint was eventually dropped. But what should the Catholic church do if the complaint had gone ahead?

If the churches saw themselves as a strong minority with clear values under attack they might respond differently.

A robust archbishop leading a self-confident community that believed in its future might respond to the attack on Don’t Mess with Marriage by finding the most public square available in Hobart and reading the document out in full, then instructing all the priests in his diocese to read it from the pulpit on Sunday.

Would the commission prosecute them all?

We can no longer regard ourselves as a powerful institution of society. We must rediscover who we are as a confident, committed minority. That’s what movements do.

Church of England — the decline will last at least 30 years

Between 2012 and 2014, the proportion of Britons identifying themselves as Anglican dropped from 21% to 17%–a fall of about 1.7 million people.

Over the same period, the number of Muslims in Britain grew by nearly one million.

Previously the church hoped to turn the decline around within five years. Now it’s 30 years — at least.

The Church of England is facing at least another 30 years of decline according to internal projections revealed for the first time.

Even if it sees an influx of young people to services, the sheer numbers of older worshippers dying in the next few decades mean it is unlikely to see any overall growth in attendances until the middle of this century, officials now believe.

The stark calculations were revealed during discussions at the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which has been meeting in London, about ambitious plans to tackle declining numbers.

It is preparing to pump £72 million into a “reform and renewal” drive which includes plans to ordain 6,000 more clergy in the 2020s to build a younger priesthood which is less male dominated and less white.

So approaching the year 2050, after generations of decline, the Anglican church will somehow spring back to life.

Wheaton professor decides that Christians and Muslims “Worship the Same God.”

Why would a Christian academic at an evangelical college equate the God revealed in the Qur’an and the God revealed through Jesus Christ? Why shouldn’t we be surprised when it happens?

In the lead up to Christmas, Larycia Hawkins, a Wheaton professor donned a purple headscarf in solidarity with Muslims and declared that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Wheaton stood her down, not for wearing the hijab, but “to explore theological implications of her recent public statements.”

Wheaton, an evangelical college, does not teach that the God of Islam is the same God of the Christian faith.

Hawkins has stood her ground. Wheaton College students have staged a sit-in at president Philip Ryken’s office.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? It can be arranged.

Remove God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, deny the Incarnation, the Cross and the Resurrection, affirm salvation through your own efforts and you could possibly equate the God of Islam and the God revealed by Jesus Christ. Alternatively, you could take both Islam and Christianity seriously. You will soon find that they are different faiths with very different concepts of God.

Movements are born and maintained through commitment to a cause. When people stop caring, a movement begins to fade away. Our modern-postmodern society does not share our commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. We can make peace and be accepted if we’ll just stop insisting on his uniqueness.

We face that pressure every day. It’s nothing new.

Jesus laid down his life for claiming he was more than just another religious teacher. Paul found that the message of the Cross was unacceptable to both religious fundamentalists and immoral pagans. So he proclaimed a foolish message in weakness and God did the rest.

Jesus Christ alone is Lord and Saviour of the world. Stake your life on it, expect trouble and you will see God's glory revealed.

South Western professor declares war on IMB missionaries

Paige Patterson

Paige Patterson

I just shake my head and I say, How many wars you got left in you, boy?
— Dr Paige Patterson Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Earlier this year Dr Paige Patterson declared war on Southern Baptist missionaries who were committed to multiplying disciples and churches. He called for the sacking of David Garrison, a leading proponent of church planting movements.

Dr Patterson is the President of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is no stranger to denominational battles. He was a prominent figure in the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence.

Four months before the IMB (International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) announced plans to eliminate 600-800 jobs due to financial constraints, Dr Patterson called for the removal of Garrison and 750 other missionaries due to incompetence or theological error. Patterson rejects Garrison’s concept of the “wrinkling of time.”

What he means by this is it’s taking too long to evangelise the world, so we need to get out there and we need to do church planting by the thousands and thousands and thousands of house churches. It doesn’t matter who’s pastor of it. As soon as you get there, identify the man or the woman who is the most natural leader and tell them they’re the pastor, and you’re ready to go. We have tried a number of these in Bangladesh and in China, particularly, where the results have been disastrous. Predictably because a small house church with no biblical understanding and are hard put to find the Gospel of John in a Bible drill; they’re not going to lead to biblically based congregations. What they’re going to do is to watch Benny Hinn on television and follow him, and that is exactly what is happening. The vast majority of our house church plants that we have done are now off in the name-it-and-claim-it gospel and have abandoned New Testament faith entirely and completely.

These are serious charges —  if they are true. And at least one charge is true. David Garrison wants to plant thousands of churches. He is eager to win a lost world for Christ. He’s guilty on that one.

Here are the other allegations, as yet unproven:

  1. IMB missionaries, who follow Garrison’s approach, don’t care who leads a new church. They’ll appoint anyone to be a pastor who is a natural leader then move on.
  2. The new churches have no Biblical understanding. They don’t even know where the gospel of John is in the Bible.
  3. The “vast majority" of the new churches in Bangladesh and China are following Benny Hinn on television. They follow the “prosperity gospel.” They have abandoned New Testament faith. “This is exactly what is happening.”

Now we’re getting somewhere. These are allegations that can easily be proven if someone has done their homework before making them public.

Dr Patterson is the President of a theological seminary. He is an academic, a PhD graduate and a published author of numerous books and articles. He would never make allegations like these public without careful research and evidence. That's what he would expect of his students at South Western. He'd expect them to do their research, gather the evidence and present their case.

So I asked Dr Patterson to  provide the evidence to back up his charges. So far he has been unable to do so.

Meanwhile, Paige Patterson has won this latest battle. After 30 years of distinguished service with the IMB, David Garrison has resigned to become the new Executive Director of Global Gates. The mission of Global Gates is to reach the ends of the earth through global gateway cities. They began in New York and are now in six North American cities with plans to reach more gateway cities around the world.

Seems like David “Wrinkling of Time” Garrison is still impatient to reach a lost world. He's still devoting his life to fulfilling the Great Commission. Someone had better warn Global Gates to watch out for this dangerous man.


Southern Baptist Missionaries Go Home UPDATED

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The Southern Baptists have been in the wars lately. For the first time in their history, church membership is falling. Now the denomination’s mission arm, the International Mission Board (IMB) has announced 15% cuts to its overseas missions force due to a $21 million annual shortfall.

But let’s not be too harsh, the SBC is still planting more churches than it’s closing, and for decades the IMB has led the world in fueling movements that multiply disciples and churches.

Here’s a list of some of the leading practitioners, trainers, and authors in the field of multiplying movements — David Watson, Steve Smith, Bill Smith, Kevin Greeson, David Garrison, Bruce Carlton, Ying Kai, Curtis Sergeant, Neil Mims, Nathan Shank and Jeff Sundell.

They are all either current or former IMB staff.

Unfortunately for the IMB too many of these men are now former IMB staff. They now serve with other agencies. Perhaps even more will be caught up in the current attempt to reduce the number of IMB staff. If that happens the IMB is in real trouble.

Financial crunches will come and go. But any denomination that makes life hard for its best people is already in decline.

UPDATE: Steve Smith, David Garrison, Neil Mims, and Kevin Greeson have just announced their resignations. Of this list of outstanding pioneers of movements that multiply disciples and churches, only Nathan Shank remains as a serving IMB missionary. Other leading practitioners like Mike Shipman and Jared Houk remain, (along with others I've not met personally).

The kingdom will not suffer. The ministries of those who have left the IMB will continue under different arrangements. But the IMB must face the root causes of their departures. This is a trend over a number of years, and it should worry any mission agency committed to movements that multiply disciples and churches.

CORRECTION: Jay Pratt has already left the IMB.