Eddie and Sue Arthur

Where is Christianity Heading?

Two completely differing views of the future of the Church in Britain have come across my sights today. Firstly, Tear Fund have published something saying that church attendance has increased in the UK (I mentioned this last week – but there was nothing on their web site at that point).

‘We have noticed that in the last year, there has been a significant increase in monthly attendance, bringing the figure for autumn 2008 to 15 per cent after a number of years of reported decline,’ says Matthew Frost, Chief Executive of Tearfund.  ‘Similarly, the proportion of UK adults attending church at least once a year has increased from 21 per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2008, which is an increase from around one in five adults to around one in four.

‘Our understanding is that more people are attending now than before, even if that is only a couple of times a year rather than every week.  This might mean going to church at one of the high points in their family’s year, such as Christmas or Easter, or attending Sunday services or midweek events.

‘This is of course immensely encouraging, because it shows that people are associating church and a belief in God with hope and joy, and a positive way to spend their time.’ (read the full press release here).

On the other hand, I’ve come across three articles by iMonk predicting the end of evangelicalism:

I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”

The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.

This is from the first of three articles that you should read.

Part 1 – The Coming Collapse

Part 2 – What Will Be Left

Part 3 – Good or Bad?

HT: John Meunier

All of this on an afternoon when I am trying to predict the trends which will have an impact on Wycliffe over the next ten years. Do I go with Tear Fund or with iMonk, or do I pick a midline. Your thoughts would be welcome.

This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

3 Comments on “Where is Christianity Heading?

  1. Eddie, sometimes our interests are so alike! I have already blogged my thoughts on both of these views. Note my opinion that iMonk’s predictions may apply to the US scene, but that UK evangelicalism is already more like his post-collapse scenario.

  2. Who do TEAR Fund think they’re kidding?

    Attending church once or twice a year is hardly likely to have a significant impact either on people’s beliefs or their lifestyle. I’m with iMonk and Peter Kirk on this one.

    And – like you, but on a much smaller scale – I’m trying to think through the implications for those who depend on a broadly evangelical ‘supporting constituency.’

    My take on this at the moment is that the model of mission support (for example) which has served us so well for the past century and a half is rapidly passing its sell-by date; that this is going to become a huge problem not just for those of us who’ve spent our lives with this model, but especially for people under 30 who have a sense of calling into mission. I believe that in the near term future (ten years, rather than a couple of generations), we’re going to have to see a massive rise of ‘tent-maker’ Christian workers in the western world.

  3. I don’t believe that Evangelicalism has been “going strong” since the first part of the 20th Century at all, at least not in the established, Anglican church-going community. Evangelicalism had to experience a renewal and almost a re-launching in Britain after the 2nd World War. The fact that we have so many strong, Bible believing and preaching churches today is because of the work of a staunch few people…the name of John Stott comes to mind in particular.
    And the future health of Evangelicalism depends upon several things, in my opinion…strong leadership is one of them (where are the David Watsons and John Stotts of today?). Involvement and action within the community is another (how active are our churches in making a difference to the lives of their communities?). And, of course, the integrity of our spokespeople and leaders.
    Anti-evangelicals and non-evangelicals have been writing the obituaries for evangelicalism for decades now. But when the world looks at the alternatives to evangelicalism (woolly liberalism, empty rhetoric and adherence to rites and traditions) the example set by Bible believing Christians shines out with an attractive and welcome clarity.
    In short, the party ain’t over…but the music needs updating!

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