In our haste to become modern day establishments – are Britain’s churches becoming less focused on religion?
The face of Christianity has changed a great deal in the last 30 years.
It’s the year 2017 and the United Kingdom has never been more secular. In a recent study analysed by Stephen Bullivant, professor of theology and sociology at St. Mary’s University, it was revealed that the numbers of Christians has been steadily dropping for the last 30 years. In 1983, 55% of Briton’s identified as Christians, whereas figures in 2015 suggested that this number has dropped to 43%. In the meantime, the proportion of people who identify with a non-Christian religion has quadrupled.
Whilst it might be tempting to seek a knee-jerk reaction for this and see this drop in the number of Christians as ‘the beginning of the end’, it’s worth considering the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the decline in Christian-believers.
Bullivant’s analysis suggests that a new type of person has risen in place of the traditional Christian – he calls them the ‘nones’ and, according to his research, they now comprise 48.6% of the British population. Usually white, male and working class – these people are raised Christian and then transition to becoming non-believers. With an increasing amount of children being sent to secular schools, instead of the traditional C of E schools, there are now less young Christians in our ranks and, sadly, we lose good Christians every year to old age and illness.
Our reaction to this drop in congregation numbers has been admirable, but might have served to alienate more people than attract them to the church.
The turn of the 21st Century, ever-changing societal values and rapidly advancing technology has made this an exciting time to live in, but is there a chance that, in an attempt to keep our churches up to date with the times, they are becoming less focused on religion? Could the forced change of our churches have had an impact on pushing away church members and simultaneously alienating new members?
Whereas the Church might have used to be a place of quiet contemplation and servile prayer; most churches have become multi-purpose event spaces that attempt to cater to the whole community at once. The result of this? Our churches have become less about welcoming in new members and more about desperately clawing for relevance in this new modern world.
Now, I understand that we can’t simply turn back the clocks and change what our society believes in. We might even have to abandon the prospect of the numbers of Christians in this country ever returning to their previous heights. I don’t think that cancelling all our programs and activities is the way forward, nor am I suggesting that the Church’s representatives take a leaf out of the pastors of yore (see below).