Don’t ignore what is happening around world and its impact on the church!
In this Session the two presenters, a Christian professor of sociology from Canada and an individual from London offered these observations.
Since the early 1980s when Canada adopted a charter of rights and privileges, there has been a precipitous decline of the influence of Christianity in Canada. Prior to that they would have been called a “Christian” country do to their English roots and the influence of the Anglocan Church in Canada. Secularization began to occur both in the public dialogue as well as in academia. As a result even in the mainline churches in Canada, they began to shift their focus from a bold confession of Christ to focusing on social justice issues.
As a result in Canada, these statistics were offered: Do most people in Canada believe in God? No
- 27% of Millennials identify as Christians
- 29% of Millennials identify as atheists and agnostics
As a Christian sociologists, David Haskell, suggested that while churches have focused much on “eternal life” preaching (What I understood as our focus is helping people see the value and importance of Christ is the way to eternal life.), it is perhaps time to take an approach that shows the empirical value of the Christian life in the present. Not that eternal life is not important, but create an argument that Christianity presents a better position/way to live. Show the good Christianity has done, and does do. Present how statistics show that Christians are the most psychologically well adjusted, the happiest in the world. Then show them the God of the Bible that allows this to be true. (My understanding of this was to help people see the value for Christ and his ways opposed to other systems of thinking and living)
Haskel also offered insights into what he found in studying declining and growing churches in Canada. Here’s the key findings:
- Conservative Theology – significantly predicts growth in the church
- Clear mission and purpose aligned with Christ’s mission and purpose. You only have clear mission and purpose when you are guided by the one who gave the mission and purpose – it is caused by adherence to doctrine. 100% of growing churches indicated that they should be working to convert people to Christianity. 50% of declining churches said the same.
These two were the strongest findings, but in addition compared to declining churches, growing church also did the following:
- Focus on youth and connecting them to Jesus
- Having a contemporary worship experience that makes use of media, informal liturgy, etc.
Another observation is that the leaders of these churches were leading the way in strong conservative biblical doctrine and leading the congregation to understand their mission and purpose. Declining churches, the members actually had a stronger conviction than the pastors and leaders in these two areas. (My observation: Everything rises and falls on leadership!)
The second presenter James Haskell, made these observations about the church in England:
A drastic change is the number of youth in the Anglocan Church. In 2017 there were an average of 3 per church. The average age of congregations is rapidly increasing.
He noted we are operating in three realities:
- 1. Post modern: There is a reaction that church is part of a bygone era. Whether liturgies, cathedrals – feels “old fashioned” or the contemporary church feels like a 1970s rock concert. This is forcing the church to ask, “What do I have to change to reach today’s culture.”
- 2. Post-Christendom era (Christianity associated with state and empire – is over) This thinking equates that because Christianity is the religion of the state – either officially or unofficially, people will come to church. This is challenging the paradigm that people come to church because we are a Christian culture. They aren’t.
- 3. Post-Christian Culture – We now live in a pluralist culture – People don’t just expect the Christian voice in the public arena, but expect a range of voices and viewpoints and religions in the school and public space.
A reminder was given that God’s people many times have been in exile and marginalized and the Church has continued.
The presenters left with a few focal comments:
- Stay faithful to the Gospel message – if you don’t have that you are in decline
- “The point of the church is to transform the world” Get on the ground and work it. Show a concern for the hurts and concerns of the world. Show up as a Christian in that.
The following sessions spent much time on the opportunities to serve people around the world and at home. Especially pointing out the unique opportunities presenting with immigrants, refugees and religious persecution around the world.
Of note was that many of the refugees that are seeking to come to the US are persecuted Christians from the countries banned to enter. Not all of them, but a good percentage.