Here is my letter written to the Church Times this week:
Thank you for the fascinating and insightful articles on the state of the Church. But two issues hover just under the surface and need more attention.
The first is that the real need is not for greater understanding, but for greater willingness to act. Many of the key observations—that teams inhibit growth, that Common Worship puts up barriers, that we need younger leaders—have been known for a long time, but have led to little or no change. Ten years ago, Bob Jackson highlighted the ‘self-inflicted wound’ of delaying selection to ordination, yet this year a mere 22% of those entering training were in their 20s. It has long been known that men coming to church bring their families, but this key to church growth has been almost totally ignored.
What will it take for the Church to act on what it knows, rather than simply accumulate more knowledge?
The second issue is that of theological tradition. Just 27% of laypeople invite friends to Church—but this varies enormously with theological tradition. As Robert Warner points out, Pentecostals and Anglicans do attract students, but ‘these new Anglicans mostly attend Evangelical and Charismatic churches’. Amongst the sociology, we also need to engage with theology.
Why should Vicky Beeching get out of bed on a Sunday morning? For all sorts of interesting sociological reasons perhaps, but for churches that are growing, the main reason is theological: an encounter with the living God.