After our combined service at the end of April with the other Heath & Havering Churches, one of the people who had attended commented to me that “it sure was great to worship and sing in a church full of people…it’s just a shame that it took people from five churches to make that happen.”
I know what they meant, and I suspect many of you would agree with them. It can be worrisome as we experience smaller number for worship than in the past. Recent surveys in this country point to the same thing—a declining number of people who attend church and identify as Christians. And it’s not just here in the UK, but in many Christian communities around the globe.
There are a lot of reasons that have contributed to this decline—and it has been happening gradually for the last fifty or more years—but few answers. In general, churches are not appealing to members of the younger generations. If you think about, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Our churches—for all the beauty and tradition that they represent—are based on governance and presentation styles that are, in some cases, hundreds of years old.
While there aren’t any easy answers to this trend, I don’t see the information as threatening or scary. The challenge for us is to be intentional about discerning the call and vision that God is placing on our churches. Might it be possible that these cultural changes could give us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and evolve? After all, God’s faithful people have flourished no matter when and where they have existed throughout history…and they have not always looked the same from one generation to the next.
At a conference I attended a many years ago, the great American theologian, Walter Bruggemann, conjectured that one of the reasons church attendance in general has been in decline over the last fifty years is that “for most of our people, God is no longer a primary character in their lives.”
With this shifting landscape, things will inevitably change. But, we have the opportunity to share with a whole new generation why God is so important to us, and show them why God should be a primary character in their lives, too. And that’s exciting!
Opportunities to serve God abound…may we have the vision to see them when they present themselves!
Early summer blessings,