Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not On My Watch.

I don't intend this to be huge post... I've got other things I feel I need to write about, but as it's Pentecost... I felt that there was a need to respond to an article I had read in The Times this week about the apparent decline in Christianity in Britain. I want to look at a couple of quotes:

"Church attendance in Britain is declining so fast that the number of regular churchgoers will be fewer than those attending mosques within a generation, research published today suggests.

The fall - from the four million people who attend church at least once a month today - means that the Church of England, Catholicism and other denominations will become financially unviable. A lack of funds from the collection plate to support the Christian infrastructure, including church upkeep and ministers’ pay and pensions, will force church closures as ageing congregations die."

I don't believe that Christianity is dying in this country... I think that it is going through a God driven restructuring. I believe that if the organised church crumbles in this nation, it's passing will only be mourned as much as the butterfly laments over it's chrysalis. What I mean by that, is that the emergent Church will be stronger, more beautiful and closer to what it should be. Most people I mix with, who have an active church life within the Anglican Church, are frustrated that so much money gets pumped into infrastructure. Congregations are crippled by the upkeep of crumbling buildings that are not as central to our faith as they were when they were first built. Take away the overheads and the money from tithing/collections, would flood into the parched areas of the Church where it is needed. At the time of the early church, money was used to look after widows, orphans and the poor.

During the last recession, a church in a fishing village in Scotland found it's numbers had dwindled; the village was crippled and unemployment was rife. The core group at the church had a radical idea. Where employment was lacking, they used what resources the church had... to employ the villagers in the community who were without work. They paid money for them to repair fences etc. The church numbers began to rise... this was nothing to do with preaching or people being coerced by "bribery". People started to come back first as a show of gratitude for the support the church had shown and out of curiosity. However, having had their physical needs taken care of... they began to discover that their spiritual needs were also being catered for.

If you look in the Bible, this is exactly how Jesus and the early apostles handled things. preaching often followed healing. The light you demonstrate in your actions and attitudes towards others, is the key to evangelism. The Bible says that if we preach and prophesy without love... then we are a sounding gong or a clashing cymbal. What better way to demonstrate Christ's real, unconditional love, than to actively look after the needs of the people around you who are in need. Some commentators (notably Martin Luther) have criticised the Epistle of James for running counter to the idea of salvation by grace through faith. In fact, what i believe James is actually saying in his letter, is that if we don't demonstrate faith by our actions and attitudes, then people will never truly see it.

It's true that God can move in a really dynamic way, perhaps through a powerful sermon... or by timely words... or just by divinely pouring out his Spirit on an unsuspecting community... but if we aren't reflecting the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, if we aren't responding to the Holy Spirit in our own walk, then people will pass by and maybe miss the moment. If people see us slaving laboriously with religion, they are going to cross the road and walk on the other side of the street very quickly. However, if we are living in a way that shows we actually understand the freedom Christ gives us, in our own daily lives... we are being active and faithful witnesses.

The article also makes a very bold conclusion that the report "makes it clear that Christianity is becoming a minority religion". This is slanted and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the complexity of modern Christianity in the western world. The Church of England and Methodist Church responded by pointing out the popularity of the Fresh Expressions movement.

The church is adapting... it is learning that you can't be conceited and sit on yesterday's laurels, you have to go to where people are... and this is what Fresh Expressions is all about... heck, for that matter it's one of the main reasons I blog.

Ministers might be in decline... but theological colleges are bursting, young people are deciding to reinterpret what ministry means in new and exciting ways.

Buildings may close but house groups are becoming a more and more important of church life.

Is Christianity dying out in the West? No way, not on my watch.

It's Pentecost and I'll let you into a little something I know...

The Holy Spirit is the church's best kept secret. More and more people are discovering the Spirit on their personal journey... and that's worth more than a thousand churches or ministers. A Spirit filled people... will light the way for others.

Come Holy Spirit.


  1. A really encouraging post. Thanks.

  2. This is a great post. I read the article and was appalled at a lack of understanding by the writer, but also an element of sensationalism taken from very little. 2,660,000 Muslims by 2050? How can anyone know the number of worshippers of any religion in 42 years time?!

    If the writer had been at the Global Day of Prayer a few weeks ago, or Passion in London last Thursday, they would know that Christians don't necessarily need a church building to praise God - a stadium, a theatre, even a tube train, anywhere! Plus, had they have been there, they would have seen the thousands who praise Jesus' name unashamedly. Christianity isn't going to disappear without a fight.


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