There have been articles this month that church attendance is in decline (again). More specifically CofE Sunday attendance has dropped below 1 million for the first time. But before we gnash our teeth its worth spending a minute to get the bigger picture here — because there certainly is one.

Mainstream church attendance HAS declined over the past 100 years or so, but consider these 3 points:

  1. Much of the decline in attendance is due to nominal attendees realising you don’t have to go to church any more to look respectable. In the past church attendance has often been more down to social norms than a living faith. In a secularised society that’s not the case. The church is shedding nominal attenders.
  2. Many churches, especially new church traditions, are alive and well and growing. Generally these are “off the radar” when people do counts of Sunday church attendance.

As we can see, the nature of what we commonly call church is changing in many cases to better suit a society unused to the 90 minute stint on Sunday morning.

  1. And just as we need to take care with statistics on “decline” we need to not become complacent with what we call “growth”. Often we are satisfied with “transfer growth” where Christians shop around from church to church. This may help boost numbers locally but it is not kingdom building. Genuine growth comes through conversion by the Holy Spirit – and we need much more of that.

This short blog was sparked by Ian Paul’s excellent article: What should we do about the decline in church attendance?

This blog was also published by The Baptist Times

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Craig MurphyDarla PayneChris GoswamiSunil RahejaCamden McAfee Recent comment authors

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Craig Murphy
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Craig Murphy

That’s awesome! Whilst not a “paid up” Christian I’m still a believer and have a great belief in God’s values, family, marrraige and see the best in people first! I’m fortunate that my wife is a christian and hopefully over time I will be!

Darla Payne
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Darla Payne

I believe there are true, Christ following people out there who are searching for others, who want to be involved in life changing situations — for themselves and others. I think small groups are on the increase, where people can share their lives, zits, and pray for one another instead of putting on a face and trying to be perfect. We know we all make mistakes — only Jesus is perfect. People are tired of the “I’m perfect, and you’re not” pulpit. There are churches out there with thousands in attendance, and there are small congregations reaching out to their… Read more »

Sunil Raheja
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Thank you Chris for getting us behind the headline figures that the mainstream media tends to jump onto — confirming their own narrative that Christian faith is increasingly irrelevant to modern Britain. The reality is, as you helpfully illustrate, much more nuanced. In fact genuine Christ centred faith continues to be on the rise as Jesus builds His church. Its just a narrative that the mainstream media does not want to engage with.

Camden McAfee
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Good summary, Chris. I agree that reason #1 stands out to me the most. From an American perspective, I see this same thing happening here. It should sadden us that more people aren’t being awakened to God through churches. At the same time, many nominal Christians aren’t looking for a relationship with God; they’re looking for a checkbox to be marked off. What I don’t want is to become cynical or hardened toward others, like saying “I’m a real Christian and you’re not.” There’s enough room for everyone. The most important question is not “How’s the state of the church?”… Read more »

Neal Bliven
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Neal Bliven

Chris, how’s Holy Trinity Brompton (London) doing? Growing? How is the Alpha Course created by HTB impacting churches in the UK?

Chris Chapin
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Chris Chapin

Luke warm Bible thumping Christianity is what put us in this religious denominational stranglehold to begin with. Better to have small passionate church bodies then large socual clubs. Agree with all your points but especially #1.