The Decline of the Church. Why and what's the future?

The decline of the InstitionalChurch?

The world of the Traditional Church and it's obvious decline over the decades and particularly in recent years. What role does the Church play in these modern times. A look at why it has declined, is it external factors such as the changes in modern day society or scientific discoveries and science in general that seems to explain everything and erased the need for a spiritual belief, or is it factors from within the church that have led to where it is today? Or is it both? Also some of my personal experiences of the traditional church (many) in these modern times.

For the record as regards to denomination I'm a Vanilla flavour Church of England commonly shortened to C of E, although this should make no difference, we are all Christians at the end of the day worshiping one God regardless of what the denomination is. On my travels trying to find a Church to frequent on a regular basis, this involved a long search in London where I live and work during the week and Hertfordshire where I live on the weekends. Must have visited 50 to 60 in a very short period of time,maybe more. All shapes and sizes and all sorts of neighbourhoods from the rough to the rather posh. Out of that, in the city and in the sticks. A rather short, shortlist of 8 was arrived at which has now been whittled down to 4 or 5.

If you check my Testimonial you will see as at the time of writing it's been about 7 months since I've been in the faith. That's not long at all in Christian terms but what I have seen in terms of the church, lets just say it's been an eye opener.

If we turn back the clock say 50 years before the Swinging Sixties and take a look at the Church back then, it was completely different to what it is now. Churches formed the cornerstone of a community with all ages present. Churches were packed every Sunday with people who mostly lived their lives by the word. I say mostly. Church was very prevalent in society back then, nearly every house had a Bible in some shape or form. Places such as hotels had Bibles in each room. The Lords Prayer was said at school. TV was in it's infancy back in the day, there was no Internet. People relied on Newspapers and the Radio to keep up with what was going on in the world and Church formed a valuable community and local communication medium. It was the hub of the local community.

The church then had a big and good influence on society at the time either via the congregations or the actual institution itself. The church and it's leaders were highly respected. It was an upright and morally correct institution that had high standards for clergy membership. The church was seen as one of the pillars in Society especially here in the UK, right up their with the Governemt and The Royal Family.

Give the clock a violent shift forward 50 years into the present day as in 2016, and things have changed beyond belief. Churches are now half full at best with many in smaller villages reporting 10 or less with many just 5 or so regular attenders and often the choir outnumbers the congregation (that's if they have one). When things get to this stage, you know something is terribly wrong here.

Churches In England On Major Decline

Churches are costly to maintain due to their age. Diana Evans, Head of Places of Worship Advice for Historic England, said: "These repair projects are costly and challenging because the policy is to replace like for like and that involves particular products and very skilled craftsmanship."

Churches are extraordinarily important because they represent the culture of a community over generations and are very much part of family memory.They are at the heart of a community and part of people's feelings of belonging. Many people visit churches these days but many not for religious purposes, many just to see inside these iconic buildings and experience a bygone era.

My Personal Experiences with Churches
I personally went to my regular Church in Central London to get "Ashed" on Ash Wednesday, quite an important event in the Christian Calendar/Faith. Guess how many were there? 3 .......that's in Central London.

Two videos that are worth watching that go into further detail on How to Find a True Christian Church and also The Original True Church V The Current Modern Church Denominations

Here's my personal experiences on my search to find a regular Church to go to, I found this
1. Some churches now are closed most of the week and only open their doors briefly for services. This is not just a London thing, it's also out in the sticks as well.
2. In Central London you'll notice outside (especially on C of E Churches for some reason) there seems to be a lack of a plain and simple cross in a prominent place such as the spire, they now have weather vanes showing the wind direction instead. Where I live in Hertfordshire, churches have a rather in your face cross placed prominently somewhere on the building as they used to back in the day.
3. Inside a lot of churches, a lot of the Religious symbolism such as crosses, stained glass windows has been removed, sold off, or just locked away only to be brought out at services.......if at all.This is in Central London. Probably a similar situation outside London.
4. A lot of churches hav been changed into Kindergartens, Meeting Venues or Free Concert Venues {mainly classical music} to keep money coming into the coffers which means the fundamental use of the church has changed. It's no longer a 100% religious establishment.
5. The church I go to in Central London pretty much daily from Tuesday to Friday is Empty with a Capital E. It's a C of E Church. Out of curiosity I went to the Catholic Church just round the corner. I saw 5 people. That was at 9.30am.
6. Some of the sermons I heard in some churches I visited you wouldn't believe. Even to a newbie like myself, I thought..."this isn't right" I left and never returned.
7. One of the first churches I went to in Central London (a big one) they're not too keen on you praying on your own. Why is not clear. I remember getting roped into a "Eucharist" or "Holy Communion" style service and found out afterwards they do this every other day of the week. I personally think Holy Communion shouldn't be as common as it is and should be reserved for special Holy Days such as Christmas and Easter and others. The pressure was there to do this thing. I left that church and never returned. The pressure was too much.
8. One church I went to after this (another big one) I used to go to the morning prayer. It was C of E but heavily Anglican/Catholic. You would see 4 or 5 people praying or lighting candles and such and as soon as the official morning prayer started at 9am, those 4 or 5 people were gone in a puff of smoke. It happened every day. I would be the only one there. The vicar would just look in shock watching them walk out. Again I realised that something was not right there...........I left and never returned.
9. I remember walking into one church in West London and there was activity there with church organisers with lots of young kids running around and all the pews were removed to one side. I suppose I could have sat on the floor and prayed with screaming kids running around. BUT as you guessed as anybody else would have done, I just turned round and walked out again and never returned.
10. I'm a bit old fashioned and not sexist at all, but I stick to the Biblical way and a Vicar I think should be male, but increasingly and it seems only in the Church of England and these US Mega Churches, women are today taking on these roles. Good for them, but personally I just don't think it's Biblical. I listen to women on You Tube, Internet Radio and the web in general. I think if someone has got the Spirit and what they are saying is worth listening too, you should listen regardless of what sort of plumbing they have or what age they are. But I think in the Church the Pastoral/Vicar role and upwards should be male, anything else is not biblical.
11. Again in the Church of England Gay Vicars are making their way within the fold in an attempt to make the Church look more modern and representative of modern day society. I don't agree with this either. A church should be a beacon of light in the community, a solid and upright establishment and institution and shouldn't be the same as "The World". They call the latest changes in the church "moving with the times". I see it as a form of turning it's back on the faith and becoming just like everybody else. That can only lead to one thing, a decline in influence of the Church, a darkening of it's light and a dropping of the congregation numbers, some who will never return. With the recent spotlight on Transgenders and the new laws coming into effect.....what's next .....Transgender Vicars?

That's my personal experience, that alone would put many people off from going to Church. That could be half the problem!

Fox News Reporting: Losing Faith In America? Church Attendance On The Decline

I could go on here but you get the idea. Some churches in London have been turned into Pubs, some into flats/offices, some into event venues Some of the latter uses are putting an empty church to good use and brings money into the coffers, but the only problem is their original purpose is being destroyed, the feel of the place is changed irreversibly and it drives people away to look for another church.

In my celebrity photography days I went t one event in Mayfair (I think it was the Cosmo Awards) and celebrities and crowds were turning up at this event, and the venue used to be a church. A prime example of our celebrity obsessed culture taking precedence over the more serious business of christian spirituality. How times have changed.

From my limited experience I would say there are two types of Christians. The ones that believe in Christianity and the one that believes in Churchianity. I'm in the first category. I think actual Christians and Christianity is alive and well it's the Church and Churchianity which seems to be hitting the rails.

What's causing this decline in Church attendance.
Here's a list of things that I think is causing a drop in church attendance and resulting in empty churches or them being closed down

1. In the US in particular Mega Churches are killing the smaller traditional church but nobody realy likes a big church. Only the pastor benefits from a big church and financially at that See article False Preachers and Mega Churches

2. The rise of the "None" as in no religious affiliation whatsoever. These people are either Atheists or just don't belong to any religious group whatsoever and quite happily live their life without religion. You could say their religion is technology and social media. These are what I call the "i don't care" brigade. Twitter and You Tube is there Church. Their Gods are Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Jay Z. The Millenials or Generation X and Y are leading the way in Athiesm and no religious affiliation whatsoever See Article on The Athiest v The Christian. Who's right?

3. The 50's was the peak in church attendance. It was a tough act to follow. It's been in decline ever since. That generation still are solid church attenders but the problem is that generation is dying off and no new blood in sufficient numbers is coming to replace them hence the drop in congregation numbers.

4. Society is changing. Back in the day it was corner shops, Butchers, Bakers, Fishmongers, Post Offices, Pubs, Libraries, Banks in villages and of course Churches. These days Department Stores and Supermarkets have replaced all these, The Internet and email has changed the world we live in and wasn't round back then, same as mobile phones. Internet banking is killing the local bank, and the Internet is killing the local High St. Shops are also shutting down. All these establishments closing are a sympton of radical changes in society and Churches are just another victim, they are no exception.

5. Science seems to have an answer for everything these days, The Big Bang Theory and other such theories. We can create human life in a test tube, gene editing and other such things, means man is now playing God, hence the decline in the need for a Spiritual life and the need to attend a Church.

6. The signals being sent out by the Church are not exactly the fine and upstanding pillar of the community that it's supposed to be with the recent scandals going on in the church, another reason people start leaving the church in their droves. It's got me thinking for sure! A recent headline concerning The Archbishop of Canterbury being an illegitimate son by The Telegraph and DNA test confirmed is a prime example of this. What signal does that send out about the institution.

7. The cultural shift in our society is accelarating at a frightening rate, I think too quickly. Society is becoming more mixed and homegenised with many religions entering the mix and the traditional Christian Western based society is changing and is becoming more global at a local level. This is having an impact on the church and it's numbers.

8. Recent government activity reducing the role of Christianity in schools, public venues, displaying of notices such as "In God We Trust" and "The Ten Commandments" being removed from various prominent public positions especially in the US. This can only adversely affect peoples views on Christianity, although a true Christians faith will be unaffected regardless.

I personally think that the decline of the church is a result of external factors as mentioned above, these are in modern day society and people have changed and rejected the church for cultural or social reasons. People are quite independent and free spirited today, don't like to be told what to do and like to think they are in charge of their lives. The church doesn't fit in with their modern views and screen based lifestyle, where pretty much anything can be obtained at the touch of a button. The church doesn't meet their needs anymore and many of the things that the Christian faith is based on has been supposedly explained away by science such as the recent "Big Bang Theory" and the fact that we can now create a human life in a laboratory.

CNN Report on Atheism Rising Among Millenials

I also personally think that internal factors have also led to the decline of the church and that it is it's own worst enemy. If you look at the corruption in the Catholic Church and the Co f E, I think evil has got a foot hold inside it, is eating away at the very fabric and inner core of it's values, like a sort of rot or cancer setting in and it's starting to manifest itself in the day to day life of the church. Many leave never to return and form their own home based worship. The Christian faith isn't dead, it's the Church that's dying. Churchianity as I call it.

My regular church down the road where I live in Hertfordshire is one of those rare gems that is still surviving and has a healthy congregation but again it's not perfect, has problems in the finance department, which could affect it's status where it could be put on what is called "The Red List" if this situation continues. The Red List is a list of churches that are up for consideration to be shut down due to economic/financial reasons.

The age profile of the congregation at my local church is heavily skewed to the 60 plus age group. These have have been going to church for decades and are from the old school and form the cornerstone of that church. The problem is when these people depart this earth, I don't see a whole lot of new blood coming into this Church to replace them, just to keep the numbers at the same level. Again it's a slow ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. It's not just this church, it's happening all over the UK and globally as well.

Film Trailer When God left the Building Trailer

What's the answer?
I don't have the answers but I personally think just like the Industrial Revolution changed our world, the car replaced the horse and cart and mobiles have pretty much replaced land lines, society is evolving at an ever quickening rate being forced along with increasing technological advancements in every sphere of our lives. The church is going to have to move with those times, otherwise the way I see it, it will go the same way as the horse and cart. It's a sad fact... but true.

Here's the options that I think the church has. It boils down to five. There are probably other but probably not many more.

1. Carry on as normal bury their heads in the sand hoping the problem will go away and the congregation numbers will gradually pick up. It won't and this is a recipe for disaster and a dead cert way to get a church shut down, they will end up like the horse and cart.
2. Change the use to a community centre during the week where non religious people can meet and a spiritual place on the weekends where Christians can pray and worship. One will fund the other, may even get some new members of the congregation as a result.
3. Do what the C of E is rumoured to be planning and that's shut down the low attendance churches and only open them on special holy days such as Christmas and Easter and other such days. Cuts down on staffing costs but maintenance bills will still be the same.
4. Merge the churches in every town down from say 10 to 1 or 2 and have one or two full churches rather than 10 that are practically empty. Shut down village churches and those will have to travel to the nearest town Church.
5. If things are that dire, turn the places into homeless shelters, at least they would be fulfilling some sort of Christianity by helping the needy!

Number 2 above has already started to happen amongst the more savvy churches. This diversification is already being pioneered in some enterprising places. As the church report indicated, churches are hosting village shops, farmers markets, food banks, e-shopping collection points and Wi-Fi cafes. According to ChurchCare there are now 35 churches that are also sub-post offices. All Saints in Murston, Kent, even offers a community bank.

The Church Model in my opinion and quite a few other people's views is not biblical. They represent buildings that are beautiful and a triumph of human ingenuity. But also a visible symbol of redistribution of wealth from the poor to the churches; and of religion historically competing with monarchs for power and wealth. The church takes from the flock whereas Christianity is about feeding the flock. You could say the most obscene display of wealth that you can ever see, is in the Vatican. Don't get me wrong, attending Church I think is important, it's important to meet with other like minded people and hear correct doctrine, but it's not without it's flaws and some of these flaws these days are pretty major. Recent numbers suggest new non institutional churches are popping up and a lot of the traditional church congregation especially the younger crowd could be heading to New Style Churches and Non denomination Churches. Check out these numbers on how many churches have opened/closed via EAUK

On a final note I think the Church could evolve and go full circle and go back to what it used to be. Not a fancy building with high running costs that leeches it's flock, has somebody standing in a pulpit telling you when to stand, when to sit, what time to arrive, when to leave, what to think and all the rest. The Church mentioned in the Bible is merely "The Body of Christ", a collection of believers who meet up as they used to at their own houses and worship, no silver plate coming round asking for donations. A strong community that helps the needy in times of crisis going out into the community instead of locking themselves in a building. That's the true Christian way...........maybe that's the way things are heading and God is trying to tell us in his own bizarre way, that's what he really wanted all along!

Bible Quotes
Some relevant Bible quotes in connection with the Church and "The Body of Christ".

Matthew 18:17
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Romans 12:5
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

1 Corinthians 12:12
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

Further related videos over at The Twelve Gates You Tube

The Narrow Gate and Narrow Way. Few Find it!

The Church in the Bible V Modern Day Church Denominations
The Decline of the Church. Why and what's the future? The Decline of the Church. Why and what's the future? Reviewed by Frank John on June 09, 2016 Rating: 5
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