To be honest, I’m suprised how much covering the 80 year old German pontiff is getting. However, people are writing and speaking about the state of the church in the UK – and not just the Catholic church. The question is being asked again – how many people are going to church and call themselves Christians in the UK?
Since I became a Christian the story has been one of overall decline in most churches in the UK. During the 80s, 90s, and 00s all the data seemed to be talking about decline in most churches in the UK – Anglican, Catholic, Methodist & URC in particular. There were pockets of growth – during the 1980s the British New Churches grew 144%; black majority Pentecostal Churches have grown quickly in many places particularly the cities. During this period the Baptist Churches in the UK have stayed about the same in number of members.
However, the signs are that the decline has slowed or stopped. Latest figures from Christian Research indicate that for the last 4-6 years the Church of England and Catholic Church have remained about the same in attendance in church. These are the largest single denominations in the UK – both accounting for just under a third of churchgoers.
This picture masks what is going on in real churches – where some are declining or even closing, and others are growing and planting new congregations. But overall it indicates that the scene in the UK is changing. Decline cannot be assumed by people or the media.
Revival this is not. But it is a step. As we change from a church made up of the nominal majority to one made up of the committed minority (thoughts about a ‘narrow road that leads to life and few there are that find it’ come to mind) – will the church in the UK be leaner, and more able to represent the wonder, but also the cost of being a disciple of Jesus?