Many churches are turning to flashy marketing to draw people in to church services, but by investigating the example of Europe (yes, I did say Europe) we may find a better way of re-establishing the prominence of the church in everyday life in America.
The Telegraph recently ran a column by Danny Kruger entitled There’s plenty of life left in the churches that looked at the decline of the Church of England and Christianity in general in Europe, specifically Great Britian.
His point was that while Anglican and other traditional denominations were experiencing a rapid decline in membership, other Christian groups were growing around the world and even in England.
He cites the growth of Christianity is the “new world” (America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and reason to not abandon faith in the faith of the “old world.”
It is pastors from Senegal who come to evangelise secular France, and Nigerians who pack the pews in London.
But what does that tell us of England’s Christianity. Surely, it is about to fall over and die any minute now. To illustrate the absurdity of that belief, Kruger gives us a quote from GK Chesterton:
Five times in the last 2,000 years the Church has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each case it was the dogs that died.
I guess this is the sixth time and the Church is find new ways to kill “the dogs.”
We do find some decline among “the old institutional denominations” (Anglican, Catholics, Presbyterians) and “the wacky fringes” (Jehovah’s Witness and “their strange brethren.”
But as Kruger examines, Peter Brierley’s Religious Trends, his hope for the future of “Christian Europe” emerges.
According to Brierley, the Churches that are growing are the ones which are orthodox but experimental: the Pentecostals and evangelicals, relaxed in style but strict in substance, liberal in all but doctrine and appealing not to liturgy but to grace.
The crux of Kruger’s message is for churches and denominations to “get orthodox, and get modern.” To uphold the foundational doctrines of the faith, while at the same time find new ways of expresses those timeless truths.
The denominations that are in decline are those that seem to have the equation reversed. Many are trying to change the message, while leaving the way they communicate it the same.
The message, the unchanging truths of the Bible, must not be compromised, but the medium by which we relay the Truth can and should constantly change with culture.
What is needed in Europe and America, to some extent, is both a revival and a renewal: a revival of the old doctrines that constitute the essentials of our faith and a renewal of making things “new again,” giving the old, true message a fresh, relevant package. Neither in and of itself will be as effective as implementing and experiencing both.