I’m sure we’re all aware that Christianity is a shrinking faith in the developed world but, given how successful some churches are, not everyone agrees that there is a shared problem. One of our key conversations at Urban Mystic is that of de-/re-constructing church.
Many believe that because some churches are growing that the problem is the way others churches are doing what they’re doing when doing church. So, if they improved their social media, adopted a better approach to worship, invested in better venue and equipment, rebranded, adopted the right programs and ministries, employed the right staff, etc. that they’d go from hobbling along to well-established. But that’s not really the case as most of their growth is transfer growth.
Speaking generally, many people are leaving churches with some leaving to find a new church and some who were raised as Christians returning to find a church. Much work has gone into creating churches and services that are attract people looking for contemporary, healthy and functional church. Nevertheless, the fact is that very few people who weren’t raised as Christians adopt the faith and many who were are leaving. It’s simple math here, the result being a decline in the number of people who identify as Christians coupled with a larger decline in the number of people who attend and become members of churches.
Many are quick to point out that Christianity is growing in the developing world. This is the case. The decline of Christianity is more of a problem in the developed Western countries than the developing countries, though that same trend is already evident in the more developed of the developing countries. This growth is largely due Christianity as we know it being a modernized faith. Where the world is developing there’s a crisis of values and faiths, usually resulting in Modernity winning. Where one generation holds on to their heritage, values and faith another is raised to live and work in a modern world. The result is therefore similar to what we’ve experienced in the West, the transition from one generation who believes and practices to a new generation that practices a faith they no longer believe. Sound familiar? Here Modernity appears to be the greatest evangelist allowing that new generation to discover and adopt a faith well-suited to Modernity.
But all our denominations, networks and associations are descended from the Reformation where Christianity re-invented itself in light of the radical changes in society. Just over 500 years ago we re-invented Christianity in a modernizing environment in relation to Modernity, requiring a lot of work and involving costly battles to arrive at what we take for granted today. How people are educated, make a living, and socialize had radically changed and people wrestled for an authentic faith. That same change had been taking place in the developed world, with a Reformation-centered and modernized Christianity failing to keep up with a post-modernizing world. A similar wrestling for Christianity to that of the Reformation and Modernity is taking place today. Urban Mystic is committed to this conversation as one of its key conversations.