Second Thought

Looking again at news and commentary


"The latest results from the 1989 Census (of churches in England) show that there are still more people leaving the churches than joining them.... The total number of churches known to the researchers and included in the 1989 Census fell by 662 since 1979....

"One thing I have noticed which warrants further thought is that churches usually look outward but declining churches look inward! The result of this in terms of numbers seems obvious. A church which is inward-looking is hardly likely to be able to counter the decline and grow numerically. It also seems obvious that in order to grow more, Christians need to look beyond themselves and share the good things they have with those who have not. The church is the one institution which was not formed for its own members but for those outside its ranks.

"Yet it so often happens that when a church begins to decline in numbers it becomes introverted. It concentrates upon itself—often with a renewed emphasis upon personal holiness at the expense of continued outreach. In addition, instead of going out to share the faith with others, there comes a concentration upon making everything comfortable for those who are still members and are faithfully coming to church. The policy becomes a justification for maintaining the status quo—but it is a policy of decline! Perhaps this springs from an expectation that if the building is attractive or the people more spiritual, outsiders will automatically come to join them.... We are, in fact, saying to those outside the faith, 'Come' to us whereas Jesus' command was to 'Go' to them."

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A Christmas star
December 21, 1992

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