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Is the church in decline?

May 30, 2013

imagesHave you ever read an article that has made you spit out your drink?

This morning I read an interesting article from the Daily Mail website, and by ‘interesting’ what I really mean is ‘ridiculous’. I wonder if you saw it too?

The writer’s claim is that the church is in permanent decline!

Basing his entire argument on 3 photos taken in East London, 2 of empty churches and 1 of an over-flowing mosque, he goes on to make the following, quite laughable, claims:

“What these pictures suggest is that, on current trends, Christianity in this country is becoming a religion of the past, and Islam is one of the future.”

“Many will conclude with a heavy heart that Christianity faces a permanent decline in Britain, its increasingly empty churches a monument to those centuries when the teachings of Christ governed the thoughts and deeds of the masses.”

“One day, in a few decades, St George’s (an old church building) may well again be packed with worshipers — but they will not be Christians.”

Without being unnecessarily disrespectful it doesn’t come as a huge shock that the Daily Mail is reporting such nonsense, they are fairly well known for not being the most rational or the most thorough of researchers, but that being said this question of the Church’s decline is one that, I think, is shared by numerous people.

Is the church dying? Well the answer to the question is ‘it depends’.

It depends on what you mean by church and it depends on where you look.

In our post-modern 21st century society there are 2 types of church, that I think can be likened to 2 well known characters from the bible.

17-85-A3F-134-10.0012-2a1. A church like King Saul (a man who was ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest)

In the Old Testament we read of how the Israelite people wanted a king for themselves, just like all the other nations, and as such they ended up with a chap called Saul, he was a handsome man who was ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest.

King Saul seemed to start well, but what we read is that as time went by and life took its toll he lost grip of that which God had in store for him and his wisdom was corrupted for the sake of his own splendour.

shepherd22. A church like King David (a man after God’s own heart)

The King who succeeded Saul was a young shepherd called David (you might remember him as the chap who killed Goliath), what’s key to note about David is he started as a worshiper – someone who loved and pursued the presence of God in his life.

Now let’s not be naive King David made lots of very silly mistakes, but, unlike King Saul, he finished well, why? Because he was a man after God’s own heart.

So back to the question – is the church in decline? Yes the church that is like King Saul is slowly dying, that church that once upon a time looked impressive probably won’t last too much longer. Old church buildings are being found empty and being converted to pubs and small warehouses etc. People are realising that a dry empty religion that consists of nothing but legalism and dust isn’t worth their time – it’s just not relevant anymore.

However the church that is like King David is most certainly not in decline, in fact it is growing larger and more passionate by the week. Churches that take seriously the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, churches who prize the presence and power of God. In fact if you do some proper research you will find recent stories of old pub buildings and large B+Q warehouses being converted into buildings big enough to house worshipers in their thousands. People are realising that life without Christ is meaningless, it’s just not relevant anymore.

I thought it only appropriate to finish this blog with some photos I have found.


Pic080711_101537“Of the increase of His government there will be no end.”

  1. Ben Hodgson permalink

    Brilliant blog Jez! 🙂 Well said!

  2. So I REALLY liked this! When you said you were going to write a blog, this was definitely not what I was expecting, but its great.
    My only issue is that your writing suggests that church is big old buildings is synonymous with dry, empty religion and I don’t think that’s true. I think there are plenty of people reaching their communities who are part of these more traditional churches and live lives that may have sunday services with more liturgy in them, but their weeks are still spirit-filled and vibrant in faith and service.
    Thats my two cents!!

  3. Hi Sebrina, thanks for feedback, I totally agree with your point. I wholeheartedly believe that the ‘living church’ isn’t restricted to ‘non-traditional’ church. Both the traditional and non-traditional are able to impact and serve their local community and demonstrate the love of Jesus in ways that change lives – this is part of the beauty of church – there isn’t a one size fits all – I love that.

    But that’s not really the main thrust of my blog (not on this occasion anyway). The Daily Mail article was addressing the decline of the church numerically – not so much in terms of its impact on society.

    As such I wanted to simply highlight that despite the obvious decline in the dead church (as compared to King Saul) there is still monumental growth of God’s actual church (as compared to King David) – and in that I by no means intend to be saying that the traditional church is dying and the non-traditional church is living, my comparison is intended to be made between a church that is after God’s heart and a church that simply looked impressive once.

    I hope that makes sense – thanks for the feedback.

  4. I understand your point now more – I knew that wasn’t the main thrust of the argument, but I didn’t want it to be left unsaid.
    I think anytime that the media attack the decline of the church numerically, they are questioning its impact; for me their are inseperable.
    but thats just my thoughts.

    • I wish the media were that switched on, but I’m afraid I don’t think they always are. This chap from the Daily Mail was only referencing numbers. Thanks for comments mate.

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