Churches are declining, the Church is rising.

Part of my dissertation was to try to answer as to why  church attendance was declining. I came up (along with many theologians and scholars) countless reasons as to why people were leaving churches and practically never coming back, bar a wedding, funeral or crib service. Things like work, family commitments, lack of faith, lack of interest, travelling were all common justifications. But I couldn’t help but feel that many were suggesting these justifications because they were and are merely excuses.

It may come as a surprise for some of you to hear, but there are such things as churches and the Church. Churches are merely buildings where people go to worship x.

“Why and not God you say?”. Because some people don’t go to church to worship god. They go to see friends, they go to worship the building. They go to be a busy body. They go because they have nothing else to do. They go because it’s tradition.

What about the pastors and ministers of these churches? Well. Some of them will be crying out to God for their should, begging him to let the scales of arrogance fall from their eyes and they would turn to Christ. Others (and unfortunately the majority) are exactly the same. Their role as a pastor or minister is merely a career choice. And it works like any other job. Yet you only have to work Sundays. What about their personal faith? If you’re talking about their faith in good will then yeah, it might be there. But anything about the saving work of Jesus Christ is absent.

Such churches are in grave danger.

 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  (Revalation 2)

Because said churches often don’t repent and come back to their first love which was the motivation behind the church building being built in the first place, the church closes.

Now – I know there are other instances where churches close despite them being faithful – but that’s another story…

Jesus Christ said that he would build his church and not even the gates of hell would overcome it (Matthew 16:18)

Therefore, in my eyes, church attendance may be falling – but maybe God is separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats and saying “Yes, church attendance is declining, but I am building my church through it!”.

What do you think?

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

    • Thanks for the links, Terry. Fantastic! And thank you for contributing here – you’re welcome any time!

  • Sabina James

    I attend a declining church in America. Yes, we hear a lot of excuses but the truth is we don’t love God as we ought to. And any societal pressure to acknowledge the sacred is gone. Sad but God does not stop working to further His kingdom, as you say.

    • Nice to hear from you! You’re completely right: Jesus will build his church. It’s a promise!

  • I completely agree. One of the things that struck me was that as I grew in understanding of my faith and the teachings of the Church, it was hard for me to stay out of the church! There was a bit of me that felt almost angry about the fact that I had been brought up in a Christianity that could allow me to think “meh. So I miss this week. And the next. And the next after that. God knows I love him…” without feeling at least a little ashamed.

    Like you said, I only started feeling real love and desire for attending church… when I started feeling real love and desire for the point of it which is Jesus. That ultimately is what’s been left lacking – for various reasons, some understandable, others not so, but none very good – and that is why it’s declining.

    • You can’t say it better than that Biscuitnapper! Hit the nail on the head there!

  • Michael

    A lot of what you talk about is mentioned in Jeremiah 5, particularly the last two verses.

    Maybe if we as churches focused more on making disciples (as we are commanded) rather than making congregations.

    It is interesting that Jesus was very aware of the few people he was called to, and frequently talking mysteries to crowds which he would then explain to the disciples in private.

    I also think it is worth looking at what Jesus prayed in John 17 with regards to how we ‘do church’.

    Interesting post, thanks 😀

    • Good to hear from you Michael! I think a lot of places have forgotten what it means to be church and how we go about making disciples too. Or, maybe they know but something needs to change in the minds of a postmodern man or woman in order to see that Biblical models of Church are still valid and are actually going to be the only successful ones!