It is no secret that the Church is on the decline in the United Kingdom. In 1980 there were 50,231 churches in the UK, whilst just twenty-five years later, in 2005, the numbers had dropped to 47,635. This represented a drop in percentage terms of 5.16%, yet the population in the UK rose during the same period by 6.7%. By the year 2030 the number of churches remaining is estimated to be reduced to 39,200, so what is really happening to cause such a massive decline?
It used to be claimed that the UK was a ‘Christian’ nation, although it is dubious as to whether that claim could really have been justified in terms of what being a Christian is about, in truth. Certainly, the UK was built over the centuries on Christian-based values, yet those values have gradually been eroded over the past few decades as the nation has changed in character to become recognised as a secular nation. This has been brought about to a great extent as a result of the push towards what has been described as a multi-faith society, yet what was in reality more of a society in which Christianity has been marginalised, particularly so by the governments of the last decade.
As Christianity has declined in Britain so Islam has increased, largely due to the vast number of Moslem immigrants that have settled in the UK, both legally and illegally. In 1961 there were just seven mosques in the UK, yet this number increased dramatically until there are now slightly more than 1600. Whilst Islam is claimed as the second largest religion in the UK behind Christianity, nevertheless it is significant that a far greater percentage of Moslems attend their Mosque to worship than Christians attending a Church. The conclusion to draw from this is that many who claim to be Christian are in fact uncommitted in their belief.
For many decades now the liberal theologians have gradually hijacked the Church and influenced it teaching by the preaching of a social gospel rather than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many churchgoers believe that being a Christian implies little more than being a good person and helping out others when possible. People have been misled into believing that they will ultimately go to heaven based upon the good works that they have achieved during their lifetime. Pulpits have been filled by preachers who have been happy to tickle the ears of their listeners, careful not to say anything that might be contentious enough to reduce the numbers attending. In many instances, not only has Scripture been discarded at least in part, to be replaced by a watered down liberal version of the Bible, but it’s true to say that God has been thrown out of the church as well.
Secularism, which is a weapon of the devil, is at war with Christianity, and as such it seeks constantly to destroy any sense of God. In a secular society failure is rewarded whilst success is condemned, whilst moral relativism accepts anything whilst condemning nothing.
What can be done to alter the situation, or is it already too far gone to be able to be remedied? Is it possible that within another fifty years Christianity in the UK will have been reduced to the position of small cell-groups meeting in homes, ostracised by and large by the society in which they exist?
I believe that the answer lies, as in virtually everything, in the Bible. If the Church would only repent of its failures of the past and seek to embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ then things would change dramatically. Of course the Gospel has always been an unpopular message, pointing to people as sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness, yet it is undoubtedly where the Gospel is preached and received that church growth has bucked the trend and expanded rather than declined.
The message of the Gospel is both clear and simple; Jesus was offered as the sacrificial Lamb of God upon the cross of Calvary in order that the price demanded by God as payment for sin was satisfied once and for all. It is up to people to claim the gift of salvation for themselves. No-one can claim it on behalf of anyone else, and it is impossible to inherit the gift by being born to parents who have themselves claimed it. It comes about as a result of recognising that we exist from birth in a state of sin, and repenting of that sin before God in the name of Christ. God demands that the payment for sin is death and we must die to the old self through repentance and be reborn as a new being in Christ.
As a new being in Christ we will walk with Him throughout our lives as a matter of choice. We will seek to do all that he asks of us, and specifically the most important concern that we should have is a concern for those who have yet to hear the Gospel message. Countless millions of people in the world will die without ever hearing the Gospel, without ever having the opportunity of redemption to God, and they will be condemned to the fires of hell for eternity. Even during the time that we have been here in this service today countless souls will have been lost for ever. That thought alone should spur us to discover what more we can do to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us call for a return to the preaching of the true Gospel message and to an attitude of reverence that glorifies and illustrates the total holiness of our God. We sing ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!’ Let us believe it, mean it and live it every moment of every day for the rest of our time on earth. If we can all do that then perhaps the crisis of Christianity in the UK will be reversed.
To God be the glory!