For years we have heard reports and studies tracking how churches are dying and God is slowly “disappearing” from Europe. Personal stories persist too. Despite what Fox News and other news outlets like to spin, there are counter reports that suggest otherwise. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that churches are growing in the face of modernization:
Most scholars used to believe that modernization would extinguish religion in the long run. But that view always had trouble explaining why America, a nation in the vanguard of modernity, is so religious.
…that Church of England attendance has held steady for the past decade (not including Fresh Expressions), the Catholic Church has held steady for the past five years, and Baptist Union attendance has actually been growing.
Secularism is often also thought to contribute to empty churches and forgotten stories of God’s people. However, it is not an issue concerning if people in the United Kingdom believe in God, it is their participation. The following graph shows some surprising facts about Christian belief in the UK:
Christianity Today recent reported growth or stable numbers for many churches in the UK:
- The numbers showed Church of England attendance holding fairly steady since 2001 at just under 1.2 million.
- Catholic attendance leveled off in 2005 at a little more than 900,000
- Baptist Union attendance increased modestly since 2002 to nearly 154,000.
Wow, I’m glad to see that Baptists are growing! Sure, these numbers are low, but this gives us an accurate picture of what the reality of church attendance in the UK looks like. Why are these churches stabilizing or growing? Some believe it has to do with new ministries:
Many Britons have found spiritual resonance in such ventures as Fresh Expressions, a network of nontraditional congregations, and the long-running Greenbelt music festival. The Alpha Course, developed by the vibrant Anglican church Holy Trinity Brompton, is a popular introduction to faith that has reached an estimated 1.5 million Britons.
These churches are growing not just with middle-aged or seniors, but young people are part of the growth: “…the numbers of young people going to Anglican and Baptist services was on the rise, countering fears that church attendance would dwindle as congregations age.”
These are encouraging signs for the UK and for Christians all over the world. The notion that secularization is the big boogie monster that is killing churches is a scare tactic. The growth of churches anywhere is dependent upon people opening themselves to the Holy Spirit, who in turns guides them to places where the Gospel needs to be heard.
Perhaps we need to think about sending missionaries to plant churches or to revitalize churches in Europe as well as Africa, South America, and Asia?