In the 2011 UK census, nearly 60% of the population want to be recognised as Christian. Many other surveys show that the proportion of the population who regularly attend church services is between 5% and 15%. (Tearfund report on churchgoing 2007, http://www.eauk.org/church/research-and-statistics/english-church-census.cfm, Religious Trends – Brieley)
This data shows that there are 45 – 55% of the UK population who want to be associated with Christianity but are not being supported by the various churches in the country. To my mind this is not an acceptable situation. Something must change.
The popular representation of Christians is that we are uncaring unloving people: We are sexist, not allowing women bishops. We are homophobic, not allowing gay marriage or gay clergy. We are ignorant – ignoring scientific data and insisting that the world is 6000 years old and was created in six days. We are hypocrites and child molesters. We instantly jump to judge everyone else’s behaviour whilst being just as bad ourselves. Our bottom line is that “you are going to Hell if you don’t believe what I believe”. Of course, that’s complete b*****cks, but it certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to explore what Christianity is actually about. I wrote my first book “The Leap” to address some of these issues.
So there is an image barrier that prevents the 55% exploring their spiritual roots. But there are many other barriers. To name a few:
- long working hours leave people exhausted (Nearly 20% of men and 6% of women work over 49 hours per week – 2011 census). We want to relax and do something enjoyable at the weekend and the image of sitting in a cold uncomfortable church pew is not very attractive.
- entertainment is at our fingertips in the comfort of our own homes, we don’t want to go to the trouble of going out.
- nearly 50% of the population live alone (2011 census). There’s all the housework to do. The barrier of going out alone can be immense, loneliness is a hard habit to break
Jesus came to bring life in abundance. We are missing out! We catch glimpses of what life in abundance might be in the spirit of the Olympics, in the national celebrations and street parties of the Jubilee. Neighbours got to know each other, perhaps speaking for the first time in years. The hearts of the people in this nation are good – look at the response when Claire Squires died – nearly £1million donated. http://www.justgiving.com/Claire-Squires2
The church in the UK needs to provide opportunities for this spirit (which is a reflection of the spirit of God within all of us) to grow, for individuals to explore and develop their spiritual side, their humanity.
We need to fight against the materialist mindset that tells us we are simply a bunch of chemicals.
We need to fight against the economic mindset that tells use we are just consumers, human resources, a drain on the economy.
We need to free and inspire the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child to love one another, forgive one another, and love God – with all our hearts, minds and souls.
Let’s go for it! Let 2013 be a year we remember.