I recently read “Facing Decline, Finding Hope: New Possibilities for Faithful Churches” by Jeffrey D. Jones. We are in a situation where, for the most part, the traditional mainline denominations of the church are in decline in the UK and in western society. That is, of course, nothing new, and sometimes we do well to remind ourselves of that. However, there is no doubt that it poses a challenge. One thing that strikes me is that we can mourn the decline and get caught up in questioning why it is happening, when what we are actually called to do is to bear witness – and leave the rest to God.
The important thing is not to be concerned about what we might all ‘things going wrong’ but to be faithful to what God is calling us to be and do. There lies hope.
Jones reminds us that our focus needs to be mission. “Letting go of the congregation’s focus on its own concerns may be essential. Many congregations, especially those that are struggling, develop an inward focus. They are concerned about financial viability, maintaining programs, filling offices and boards. This is quite natural, but it is also deadly. Refocusing the congregation on what God is up to in the world is difficult, but essential. Simply asking the question may create resistance. Both practically and theologically this shift is needed, however. Chances of survival are greater if a church has a strong mission emphasis.”
We cannot ignore the challenges of decline, but we should not be focussed on them. What we need to do and be is missional disciples.