What has a Tyrannosaurus, Woolworths and many churches across the UK got in common? They all failed to keep pace with changes in the world around them and became extinct.
The harsh reality of life is we must fit the world in which we live. The choice is as blunt as ‘change or die’. As the world continues to change we have to be prepared to change along with it to remain relevant.
The challenge of being ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world’ has one that has long vexed the church. The gospel message should never be watered down to pander to a popularist agenda but neither should we revel in being so out of touch with modern day society that we become irrelevant.
Findings from a recent report by the Church Army’s research unit showed that in the decade up to 2010 18% of churches grew but 27% declined. This continues the trend of previous decades of ongoing decline in church attendance. A quote often attributed to Einstein is that insanity can be defined as, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results’.
If the church is to thrive it must be prepared to do things differently. Where we have been prepared to do this, for example in the Fresh Expressions movement, we see vibrant new life. Two thirds of all Fresh Expressions maintain growth and for every one person who becomes involved in a Fresh Expression 2.6 more people will join. I’m not sure if I have ever seen 0.6 of a person but that’s statistics for you!
We need to wake up and smell the coffee. The world is changing and we have to be prepared to change with it in how we communicate and engage people with gospel truths and grow disciples of Jesus. As the fate of the dinosaurs and the sight of many abandoned church buildings across our country shows us, a stark reality faces those that fail to adapt to a changing world.
Rob Funning Emmaus Leadership Project Director