My friend Maggi Dawn pointed me to a couple of unsurprising, but nonetheless interesting stories online. One was headed “Christianity in Britain Must Innovate to Survive”, while the other was an editorial on “Disappearing Christianity”, again in Britain.
The first article references a report (PDF) by Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society which is more interesting reading than the article that merely articulates ones of the reports principal findings – that churches in the West need to “innovate” (which of course has multiple dimensions to it, including leadership selection and formation; discernment in culture(s) etc.); to realise we are in significantly changed times; times which extend very different invitations to churches who want to meaningfully and humbly gospel and incarnate a Jesus-shaped life in contemporary Western Culture. Here’s an excerpt from the first article whose headline I name above:
“…[C]onversion tends to be among those who have some Christian foundations, rather than none at all.
In one regard this is not too surprising: until quite recently the majority of people in England and Wales (the focus of this study) did have some Christian identity. But what it does mean is that as that pool of cultural Christians shrinks, churches are going to find themselves ever more challenged to speak to an audience that simply has no familiarity with, framework for and even sympathy with what they are saying. This is a new world, one that will demand much innovation and possibly some bravery…”
For related reading I recommend A Churchless Faith (and Church Leavers: Faith Journey’s Five Years On) by my great friend Alan Jamieson (the latter of his two books co-written by friends Jenny McIntosh and Adrienne Thompson); Gone For Good? Church-Leaving and Returning in the 21st Century by Leslie J. Francis & Philip Richter; Joining God, Remaking Church, Changing the World: The New Shape of the Church in Our Time by Alan J. Roxburgh; and another by Roxburgh Structured for Mission: Renewing the Culture of the Church. And of course, anything by Lesslie Newbigin.