Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Going Fundamentalist for Christmas

Typical innit. No sooner had I confined all Beaker Folk to their rooms for worship in the interests of convenience and tailored worship experiences, than the Guardian tells me that I've got it all wrong.

If I want successful worship experiences, I've got to become a literal believer in the Bible. Only in this way will I ensure a growing church - and therefore a decent revenue stream.

Though needless to say it's not that straightforward.  I've listed the signs of growing and non-growing churches below, from the Grauniad, and some notes.
Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. 
So basically if you think you're in the job of growing new Christians, you'll be more successful at growing new Christians than if you don't. This is not really a literalist / liberal distinction per se. More a statement of the bleeding obvious. If you think it's very important to learn to drive a car, you're more likely to drive a car. If you think that it's important that people who have been let down by the Government's safety net are still fed, you're more likely to give to a food bank. If you're one of the 50% of clergy in declining churches that don't think it's important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians, I do wonder what on earth you think you're doing as a clergy, however
71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
Well, yeah. A clergy will read the Bible daily if they think it is worthwhile. And if they think it's worthwhile, they'll probably be in the realm of thinking growing new Christians is a good idea, they might give the impression they think what goes on on a Sunday is worthwhile, and that might make their church a more attractive place. Although what it doesn't do is tell us that the Bible reading is a literalist or non-literalist activity. Plenty of us can read it and believe it in non-literalist ways - especially around Genesis, Revelation, Psalms and what have you.
46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
If they're at a growing church they are likely newer, they'll be keener, they'll be generally more wanting to find out the Good News they've just heard of. So causation and correlation could be interesting on this one.
93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
As the clergy that read their Bible every day know, if Christ is not raised from the dead then everything else is in vain. You can hold your food banks, preach against racism, welcome people of all genders and none - but if you don't believe Jesus raised why should anyone come to church?
100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.
There's a pattern here. In growing churches, clergy believe more than their followers. In declining churches, clergy believe less. If you believe less than your congregation, I wonder why you're a clergy. But let's  move on.
The study also found that about two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.
Hate to be brutal here, but this is a bit cart and horse isn't it?  ie what is causation and what is correlation. If your congregation has two thirds over the age of 60, then they're going to be dying quicker than they are breeding. And vice versa. The alternative, that being part of a growing church makes you younger, would possibly be the best reason on earth to start going to a growing church.

So my conclusion? Based on the definitions in these questions, I'm a literalist. A bit of a shock, but I suppose the Guardian knows what it's talking about. Though I do wonder why the Beaker Folk aren't growing, in that case. But - if you believe Christ rose, you believe God can work, get on and worship. Preach the Gospel. If necessary use verbs. Don't count the numbers - keep the light alive. That's what you're called to.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!


  1. Didn't see the original article. Must have been well hidden on the Guardian. But sounds dreadfully smug. Sponsored by HTB?

  2. Those referencescabout over 60s breeding, well that Abraham and Sarah stuff is a bit disturbing,not sure I have it in me, ha ha , oops...


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