Why Church Attendance Has Declined


C. S. Lewis considered George MacDonald to be the greatest theologian of his day. And it was George MacDonald who said, “To give truth to him who loves it not is but to give him more plentiful material for misinterpretation.”

The Christian world frequently finds herself marveling at the world’s apathetic response to divine phenomena like the Bible’s many clear prophesies, the impeccable life of Christ, the archaeological substantiation of Scripture and the signature of God upon majestic creation.

But as blind as the world is to the clear proof of the Scripture’s truth, much of the church today is blind to equally lucid indicators that seem to be charting her decline, and in some cases, her demise.

It is predicted that the Church of England will plummet in attendance from 4 million to 350,000 attendees by 2030. That gives 10,000 churches an average of 35 worshipers.

Another author notes, “A series of Eurobarometer surveys since 1970 in five key countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy) shows that regular church attendance fell from about 40% of the population to about half that figure.”

According to the Barna research group, church attendance across denominational lines has suffered a five-year decline bringing church attendance to its lowest level in two decades.

The information is out there and is plastered in blogs, books and sermons. However, the “Why” of the decline is being avoided. Wayne Grudem in his book, “Evangelical Feminism,” charts the digression of sound doctrine in America.

Starting in the 50’s many churches jettisoned the verbal inspiration of the Scripture which naturally undermined the authority of God’s Word. With that foundation gone it did not matter to Bible students that the qualifications of an elder/pastor in I Tim. 3 were all in the male gender.

Cultural relativity became the mantra rather than Scriptural integrity and many women began to hold an office that God never designed for them (I Tim.. 2:12).

With the verbal inspiration of Scripture in shambles, the floodgates of German liberalism and higher criticism unleashed their deluge of sophisticated attacks on the substitutionary atonement of Christ (more endearingly called cosmic child abuse), the exclusivity of the Gospel (you don’t need to believe in Christ, just have a Christ-like heart), the JEDP theory (denying Mosaic authorship; Num. 33:2, Deut. 31:24, etc.), the Q document (making the Gospel writers plagiarists; Lk. 1:1-4) , etc.

And so a little over fifty years later here we stand, watching the Episcopal Church approve of her first openly homosexual Bishop broadcasting his desire to be a “June bride.”
There are many who have followed the trend more meticulously than I. I’m just an observer. But the answer to the “why” question of church attendance is obvious. When an individual, church or denomination belittles sound doctrine as too philosophical or intellectual they are removing the very soul of the church.
They are telling soldiers to fight when there’s no homeland for which to fight.

They are telling missionaries to expend themselves for a Gospel they’ve mutated or relabeled as road 1,000 to heaven. Polycarp was not burned alive for Jesus the humanitarian;
Justin Martyr was not beheaded for a Christ who died simply as a moral incentive. Ignatius (a close friend of the Apostle John), condemned by Trajan, tormented by soldiers and thrown to the beasts in Rome wrote a letter to the Ephesian church exhorting them in sound doctrine and warning of false teachers.

Why? Because he knew that once sound doctrine is up for grabs the heart of the church is lost and she enters a morass of confusion, naively following whatever fad, phase and fraud casts its seductive eye upon her. It’s time we heed the words of Paul.

1 Timothy 4:6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

2 Timothy 4:3-5 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5But you, be sober in all things, Titus 1:8-9 9holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Titus 2:1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.