The church: one generation from extinction?

Lord Carey has been quoted as saying that the English church is in danger of dying out within a generation. The newspapers are delighted as there is nothing most of them would like more than to report the death of the last parishioner who’d stubbornly kept the last church in my country open.
The vast drop in church attendance in the last fifty years is wheeled out as ammunition.

There’s just two problems with this argument. The first is that a quick perusal of what Lord Carey really said shows that he was merely saying what is always true. Each generation must be own for Christ themselves. We can’t rely on parental pressure, and certainly not societal pressure to keep up the numbers.

The second problem is that it leaves God out of the equation. I do not believe that Jesus is finished with this nation. Truth be told in my lifetime the church has gone through something of a pruning. But now that nobody goes because they are expected to we are seeing a massive increase in the health of the churches that remain. And some of those churches are growing at a pace.

There are some more organized churches that may indeed die in our nation. But sometimes that’s a good idea. In the USA such dying churches are now routinely making their last act to donate their buildings to a thriving local church. May that trend multiply here. And may the thriving churches never settle. Thinking they have arrived but instead seek The Lord for ways to multiply what God is doing among them. Sometimes that will look like church planting, other times helping to revitalize another church, and some times multisite will offer the accelerated solution it often is. May God give wisdom to all church leaders at this critical time. But ultimately Jesus is building his church. I’m confident that the newspapers will have died out long before he gives up on us! He will never give up.

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About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, and a writer. Since 1995 he has been a member of Jubilee Church London which has sites in Enfield, Wood Green and Ilford. Adrian serves as part of Jubilee's leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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  • ortcutt

    The church has had a hard time adapting from its past as a nearly universal mass cultural phenomenon to a minority, personal hobby, like trainspotting, birdwatching or knitting. Some people are really interested in trainspotting, birdwatching and knitting, but most people aren’t. People involved in these activities understand that this is something that they do, but that most people don’t. They may try to interest other in their hobby, but it’s not going to bother them if there are only a dozen trainspotters in a town. That’s the way that Christianity is going to remain in Britain for the conceivable future. Christianity isn’t going to go extinct any more than birdwatching will, but it is no longer a mass cultural phenomenon and it probably won’t be again.

  • Brian Wilson

    Thanks for the wise article. It reminds me of a story I once heard in an address by Eric Alexander, a Scottish preacher. He told how when Lord Reith was Director General of the BBC one of the young men in the organisation was remarking it was about time someone gave the church “a decent burial”. Lord Reith overheard the statement and said, “Young man, the church of Jesus will stand at the grave of the BBC and of every other human institution.”


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