Attendance figures released by the Church of England show that Sunday worship attendance continues its downward slide and now stands at about half of what it was 45 years ago. The report from the Archbishops’ Council Research and Statistics Department, released Friday (March 21), shows that on average in 2012, 800,000 adults, or about 2 percent of the adult population, attended church on Sunday. That’s down from 1.6 million Sunday worshippers in 1968. Christmas and Easter services continue to attract the highest number of worshippers. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bring in around 2.5 million people and Easter services attract approximately 1.4 million. One of England’s top women judges, Baroness Brenda Hale, said the Church of England is in decline because it is so undemanding.
And it is undemanding because it long ago bought into the notion that to appeal to the world, you had to be appealing- thereby denying the power of the Gospel and adding to it in order to make it seem more attractive.
She recently told a conference at Yale Law School: “It has no dietary laws, no dress codes for men or women, and very little that its members can say is actually required of them by way of observance.”
Because it wishes to be everything to everyone. It has lost the plot. And that, tragically, is the trajectory of American Christianity as well. Believing that churches will grow when people are entertained or offered prizes or whatever bribe may be necessary to get them, and their kids, to show up, suggest that the proclamation of the Gospel in its simplicity isn’t adequate.
But of course, it is. ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself’ proclaimed Jesus. There’s nothing in the bible anywhere that suggests that celebrity pastors or bribes or prizes or gimmicks will move people towards God. Quite the opposite.
Perhaps it isn’t too late for American churches to learn that. Or perhaps it is.