Why the Church is Dying

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Maverick, Jul 23, 2005.

  1. Maverick

    Maverick
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    Why the Church is Dying

    Source: July 2005 http://www.afajournal.org/2005/july/705Christ_UK.asp

    When Lord Bromley Betchworth returned to the United Kingdom (U.K.) after living in the U.S. for 12 years, he returned to a culture that had dramatically changed.

    "I was shocked at how moral values had changed in such a short time and how church attendance in mainstream denominations was in free fall," he said. "Four out of five churches were either declining or simply static."

    Betchworth wrote those words in the forward to a fascinating new report that seeks to explain the moral breakdown in a once vibrant Christian nation.

    A moral collapse

    In many ways, what has happened in the U.K. may be in the future for the U.S., because the two nations have had a similar religious past, according to Christie Davies, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Reading, England, and author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain.

    "At the end of the 19th century, there were comparable levels of religiosity in Britain and the United States. The British lived in a culture in which the assumptions of Protestant Christianity were taken for granted," Davies wrote in The New Criterion.

    But he said that, generally beginning after World War II, the nation’s morality collapsed, and the U.K. saw dramatically worsening trends in illegitimacy, substance abuse, crime and other sorts of behavior that were once considered sinful.

    In 2000, the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, also noted Britain’s moral decline. "A tacit atheism prevails. Death is assumed to be the end of life. Our concentration on the here-and-now renders a thought of eternity irrelevant."

    A year later, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who as archbishop of Westminster is the spiritual leader for more than four million Catholics in England and Wales, agreed. Quoted in The Times (London), he spoke of the rising popularity of New Age and occult beliefs, and to the growing tendency of people to find temporary happiness in alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex and consumerism.

    "It does seem in our countries in Britain today, especially in England and Wales, that Christianity, as a sort of backdrop to people’s lives and moral decisions — and to the Government, the social life of the country — has now almost been vanquished."

    ‘Let the people speak’

    How did such a spiritual catastrophe occur? Some might be quick to point to the rise of secularism in the late 1800s and throughout the first half of the 20th century, which culminated in the U.K.’s acceptance of a welfare state after World War II.

    However, secularism may be a result, and not a cause, of the death of religion in the U.K. In fact, Davies traces the first major evidences of Christianity’s decline to the 1950s, when religious participation began to droop, especially as evidenced by Sunday School attendance.

    In order to delve into these issues, the a year-long survey was taken of churchgoers "of every denomination and theological persuasion."

    More than 14,000 people responded to the questionnaire, which was designed with open-ended questions, instead of the more traditional "check box" format. This was done to allow respondents to elaborate on their feelings, rather than being steered to a limited number of options.

    The report of the results, noted that 91% of the responses expressed the same opinions.

    "What was causing this erosion of values? Why were people turning away from the church? And more to the point what can be done about it?" were the questions that the survey was attempting to answer, Betchworth said.

    So, when the people spoke, what did they say? What were they looking for? The following are some of the answers found in the report:

    • Believing and caring shepherds. The failure of many ministers to defend the faith and responsibly carry out what parishioners expected of the clergy was a theme throughout the survey results.

    For example, many respondents complained that their ministers hardly seemed to believe in Christianity themselves. Said one churchgoer: "Often clergy do little to try and convince us that God exists, let alone outline the logical reasons behind our belief in the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection."

    Ministers also came in for serious criticism when it came to conducting worship services. The report said many churchgoers complained about "shoddy services" and "ministers going through the motions," even to the point of virtually speed-reading through the sermon or preaching it in a voice that was "inaudible" or without any "real conviction or sincerity."

    One middle-aged couple said, "We used to go to church expecting very little and came away with nothing. This has now changed to expecting nothing and coming away with even less. … [W]hat we want are services taken with a conviction and a passion for Christ."

    Many people said they wanted clergy "to give greater priority to home visiting and pastoral care, in order to reflect God’s love and concern for the individual."

    That was something that most people couldn’t get anywhere else. As one woman said, "It is a very uncaring world now, and the church should not be emulating this but rather standing out against it and being seen as a caring community."

    However, due to organizational priorities in their denominations, parishoners said ministers were given so many administrative duties that they had no time to tend to the needs of the people beyond conducting services.

    • Solid teaching. The report noted that there is "a spiritual hunger among congregations for a greater understanding of a wide range of relevant topics," and Christians think that hunger should be fed, at least to a large extent, during the sermon.

    But they aren’t getting that substance. Time and again, respondents complained that they were getting only "platitudes, " "political and social sermons" or "matters of little spiritual significance."

    A churchgoer decared, "I need help to grow in my faith and help to become the person Christ wants me to be."

    "Tinkering around with service times or liturgy won’t work if the message isn’t there," said one churchgoer. "The heart of the matter is that congregations want to hear what the Bible says in a relevant way, with conviction and passion."

    • A worshipping community. "People want churches to give priority to the ministry of worship, satisfying all the various aspects worship involves," the survey report found.

    As one might expect, there were thousands of responses dealing with the form, or style of worship in the service. While some called for more traditional liturgy, and others for a more modern approach, both sides conceded that a balance of styles would be fine.

    Almost all were in agreement, however, that services that "bordered on entertainment rather than worship" were the most disappointing.

    Moreover, many of the respondents realized that their spiritual journey was not one to be taken alone, and so it is not surprising that "the sense of fellowship experienced" was also something that made a difference for churchgoers.

    "They said that they derived pleasure from worshipping with others, it gave them a sense of belonging," the report said, " a sense of comradeship and a sense of being part of a ‘spiritual family.’"

    This sense of belonging to a spiritual family was made more critical because of the brokenness of relationships, marriages and families in the U.K.

    • A prophetic church. There was a real desire expressed in the survey responses for more teaching emphasis "on the nature of God’s holiness and the implications this has for individuals and our two nations."

    Many said this message had been missing from the church for decades, having been gradually replaced by a one-sided proclamation that God was "loving and nothing more."

    Approximately 75% of respondents — more than 10,000 in number — saw the lack of a clarion call for holiness as a very real explanation for the decline of Christianity’s influence in the U.K.

    "Many who used to attend church are now filled with apathy," the report summarized. "They no longer see any point in attending, because the message they have been given is that ‘God loves me anyway,’ regardless of whether or not they attend church or change their lives, so why bother?"

    This was one of the central laments of the Christians that answered the questionnaire. People "are calling on churches to robustly defend moral values with conviction and courage and cease being ‘silent’ and ‘lukewarm’ in the face of moral collapse" in the U.K., the report said.

    To accomplish this, the church must arise to its "divine calling" as a prophetic voice in the nation, because the church was given the task of "being the moral conscience of the [U.K.] and a proclaimer of the true character of God."

    • Defense of the faith. In the face of an entrenched secularism in the U.K., many respondents said they wanted churches to "emphasize the many reasons why believing in God and Christianity makes sense and to challenge a doubting society."

    This was a factor that was mentioned in 73% of the letters received. Said one churchgoer: "It is a myth to say that the people of this country have rejected Christianity, they simply haven’t been told enough about it to either accept or reject it."

    The lack of both a bold declaration of the Christian faith and a vigorous defense of Christian truths — apologetics — seems to have occasioned much discouragement among those Christians in the U.K. who remain true to the faith.

    "If churches started defending these beleaguered [Christian] values, the effect would be profound, galvanizing and encouraging millions of ordinary decent people," Betchworth said.

    Will the churches — and especially the clergy — listen to the thousands of Christians who responded to the survey? Only time will tell, but the future of the United Kingdom may rest on that decision.
     
  2. Dave G.

    Dave G.
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    Excellent information - -thanks for posting it.

    DG
     
  3. Johnv

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    One person's opinion that the curch is dying does not mean the the church is dying.
     
  4. Jim Ellis

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    Sounds to me that the UK needs a great revival like it has never seen! The UK sounds as if it needs a good dose of the Weseley Brothers again.
    May God help the believers of the UK, and God instill in the rest of the world that we need to pray for the people of the United Kingdom!
     
  5. Pronto

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    So is he talking about the UK or about the US?
     
  6. Squire Robertsson

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    The first line of the story reads:
    As I read the rest of the article, I see nothing there to suggest it describes any country other than the UK.
     
  7. guitarpreacher

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    quote: "In many ways, what has happened in the U.K. may be in the future for the U.S., because the two nations have had a similar religious past, according to Christie Davies, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Reading, England, and author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain."
     
  8. shannonL

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    Anybody ever hear of the "Downgrade Controversy"?
    I believe the U.K's church troubles started right there.
    Once the authority of Scripture begins to be doubted its all "downhill" from that point on. Of course preachers aren't going to preach with power if they don't believe in the Bible themselves.
    The next ten years will reveal alot concerning the spiritual,moral direction of the U.S. I don't want to base everything on the next pres. election but if Hillary is elected I think alot of the moral ground that christians have been able to maintain will slip away. I mean whether you like it or not our politics continues to play a bigger and bigger part in reflecting the moral leanings of the country.
     
  9. yeshua4me2

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    Because the Love of many will grow cold, lawlessness will abound. I think the UK is in serious trouble, i saw a news report this years that said the monarchy and the parliment are thinking about changing a certian motto (sorry don't remember which one) from "defender of the Faith" to "defeners of Faiths".....this show a movement away from Christianity to a more "accepting" ecumenical position.

    thank you and God Bless
     
  10. Soulman

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    The gates of hell shall not prevail against it and God will always have a people. But I believe we are in the last days and in the post christian era. The church won't die but it is in dire straits especially in Europe. There are large cities all over the place without a gospel witness.

    We shouldnt fool ourselves either. We must remove the beam from our own eye and realize that America may be very religious. But does that mean heaven bound?
     
  11. Artimaeus

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    Excellent post. My first thought/answer when I read the title was "tolerance". We may not be dying but we are in ill health. The OP concentrates on what the leadership in churches needs to do but an equally important emphasis should be on what the "followship" needs to be doing. I came to this board seeking to be built up and perhaps to help others. In the OP it stated that people were seeking a "greater understanding", what I have found on this board, quite frequently, is people seeking and fostering a "different understanding". I see very striking similarities between what is happening in the UK and what is happening in the USA. I would like to help "fix" the problem and not merely debate the wording of the problem.
     
  12. Pronto

    Pronto
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    Well, when did the UK (Europe for that matter) being a post-christian nation become news? A bit behind the times if you ask me, but it is AFA, not exactly on the cutting edge of anything. Well only if you exclude mindless hand-ringing and paranoid fundraising.

    Did they even consider that the reason for the decline of Christianity in Europe has more to do with the fact that across the board there where state-supported churches rather then independent churches holding the government accountable for what they do and say?

    Funny, since AFA promotes some type of a "Christian America", the very thing made Christianity irrelevent to the masses in Europe.
     
  13. yeshua4me2

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    good points pronto
     
  14. Bro. James

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    The church is not dying.

    Jesus would never leave not forsake His Bride. She is alive and well and preparing for the wedding.

    Churches of the world come and go. Satan keeps putting up false religion. Some have survived 1600 years--they are still false--so are their children.

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
  15. av1611jim

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    Lu 18:7
    And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
    Lu 18:8
    I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

    There is no record that Jesus received an answer to his inquiry. Nevertheless, it remains to be answered. The gates of hell will not prevail upon the church, this is true. But will the church IMPACT society like it once did?

    I dare say that it will not. At least not in Westernised countries like the UK and US. For the love of many shall wax cold. And as in the days of Noe, so shall it be in the last days.

    My friends. NOW is that time, yet MANY refuse to believe it. And like in Jeremiah's day, the 'pastors' are preaching "peace and safety" while the wolf is at the door.

    Is the 'church' in decline? Yes, at least in the Western Countries it IS. Personally, I believe it can be traced a bit further back than 1950 to 1881. It is then that we began to accept socialistic answers for society and the church. It is back then that the 'church' as a whole began to drift from the clear clarion call to believe God's words and live like it.

    In HIS service;
    Jim
     
  16. faithgirl46

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    Brother James,
    I agree that Jesus would never abandon His bride. However are we as Christians, abandoning Him? We are more accepting of things that would not have been thought acceptable when your ggrandmother, my grandmother or should I say many of our grandmothers were kids. There are people who don't have a problem with their kids being taught about certain lifestyles being accpetable in society's eyes. This is abominable to GOd.
    Faithgirl
     
  17. gb93433

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    Could it be that the church is not dying but rather is being purged of all the pseudo-Christians?
     
  18. jasonh

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    I believe the term is "Aposty" - The new testament mentions numerous times that the church will experience a dramatic decline toward the final days preceeding His 2nd coming... All the more reason for us to be vigilant against becoming passive followers of tolerance.
     
  19. Bro. James

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    Apostasy--"standing off" from the Truth was going on in the time when the NT was written. The biggest apostasy surfaced in the 4th century when the Roman Emperor Constantine married a "church?" to the state. He then proceeded to "chair" what is commonly called the "Council of Nicea". That unholy matrimony has had many offspring. In fact the majority of that which is called Christian today is apostate in terms of the New Testament. They are teaching the commandments of men which came out of Nicea or a reformed version of these false doctrines--i.e. salvation by works and/or salvation by grace and works.

    This disagreement in doctrine goes back to the first century when some were teaching one had to be circumcised to be saved--then it became baptism to be saved. The Truth of this matter is still in the world--the gates of hell have not prevailed.

    The Bride is undefiled. She is ready for the marriage. The groom is returning--just as He said. Even so come Lord Jesus.

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
  20. Scott J

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    I am convinced that the article itself and, with my apologies, the posts that follow are reflective of why the church is dying in our cultures.

    The concept of repentance is barely recognized on the margin of "Christianity". Our society/culture has largely reached the point where people are so hardened to their own sin that they see no need for repentance. The concept of how grievous sin is to God and why that should leave us trembling in fear is alien to our modern, self-sufficient, self-absorbed, self-worshipping paradigm. This is true even within the church.

    In fact, people both inside and outside the church resent the very notion that someone would suggest that they should make real fundamental changes in their lives.

    We see churches running gimmicks to get people in so that they can "love" them into a decision. God's love and acceptance of sinners is emphasized to the direct erosion of the truth of God's holiness and righteous judgment of OUR sin. "Just believe and God will accept you just like you are" has almost completely displaced "Repent!".

    We see churches attempting to change the definitions of sins... not surprisingly in light of Romans 1, homosexuality is at the top of the list of sins that some churches want to rationalize away.

    We see Christians who don't love their neighbor enough to take a firm stand on sin and explain to them that sin will lead to certain destruction.

    We have been unfortunately tainted by the Corinthian culture around us.

    We need a "revival" of repentance... starting with conservative, evangelical, fundamental, Bible-believing churches.
     

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