A recent Daily Telegraph headline announced: ‘Christianity declining 50per cent faster than thought – as one in 10 under-25s is a Muslim....... Christianity could be facing a catastrophic collapse in Britain according to official figures suggesting it is declining 50 per cent faster than previously thought.’
John Bingham, the Telegraph’s religious affairs editor has analysed the 2011 census figures and his conclusions make chilling reading for Christians, while humanists and secularists rejoice. The key figures outlined below reveal a picture of near irreversible decline:
· The total number of people in England and Wales who describe themselves as Christian fell by 4.1 million – a decline of 10 per cent.
· This figure is bolstered by 1.2 million foreign-born Christians, including Polish Catholics and evangelicals from countries such as Nigeria.
· There are 5.3 million fewer British-born people describing themselves as Christians, a decline of 15 per cent in just a decade.
· The average age of Christians is over 50, with almost a quarter of Christians over 65.
· The number of Muslims in England and Wales grew by 75 per cent with 600,000 more foreign born followers of Islam.
· Almost half of British Muslims are under the age of 25. The average age of a British Muslim is 25.
According to Oxford Professor of Demography David Coleman.....‘this is a very substantial change – it is difficult to see whether any other change in the census could have been remotely as big. But I wonder how far it reflects an overarching change in society where it is more acceptable more normal to say that you are not religious or are not Christian.’
Given the downward trajectory of Christianity in the UK one might hope that such a near catastrophic situation would have a galvanising effect on our churches and their leaders both nationally and locally. Sadly, apart from a little hand wringing in some quarters, heads seem to be placed firmly in the sand.
One might at least expect our evangelical churches to be leading the way in programmes of national and local evangelism. Sadly this does not appear to be the case either with most simply deciding to batten down the hatches, retreating behind the church walls and concentrating on social club activities.
The Bible is quite clear about evangelism......it is the primary mission of the church and Christians, set out by Jesus himself when he said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
Many will argue that they are involved in outreach by providing finance to support missionaries in third world countries which is commendable. However, the foremost task of the local church is to reach out to the people of the local area with the message of salvation through faith in Christ. This cannot be done by hiding inside the church building. It’s time for leaders to step up to the mark......... no excuses and no opt outs !!!!