Is Christianity dying on the vine?

Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
As per the hell thread?

Just for clarification, by "Christianity" I mean the more institutionalised versions of it. So one version of "The Church" - but that is such a loaded word, and Christianity is the one used in the original.

This partly comes from a book I am reading about a church pastor who is reaching unchurched people. He seems to be doing fine with it, but as he goes into more details, two things abecome clearer:

1. He is in the US. OK, that was obvious from the start, but the cultural aspects make this very different. He had a church of thousands. He moved on and set up another church, with many hundreds following him. There are not many places where that will happen.

2. He is preaching a standard Evangelical message. OK, he doesn't exclude people who don't agree, but he is anti-divorce (as an example). I am not sure he is that different from many others - maybe less dogmatic about membership, but still about "the right way".

But I think the whole range of "The Church" (if you want) is dying. And it needs to before it can flourish again.

Maybe??
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Comments

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I don't think Christianity is dying at all. It seems to me that much of the dead and unproductive wood has been cut out of the Church, and that the core teaching and example of Jesus is being shared more openly with the world as we love others as ourselves.

    While there are still some areas which need to be addressed within Church structures, I see God at work, and more people coming to see that this is good.

  • If we think how gardening works with some plants, like some vines.... There's a root. For many plants we garden a graft is put on to the root, and then this grows into, say a lovely apple tree, which produces lovely hybrid apples, suitable for the climate and good for eating. Then the tree dies, but the root stock grows and we get a completely different apple coming from that.

    What I take it is that all of the denominations, regardless of their claim to originality, correctness, antiquity, are grafts on the root of Christianity. Many of these are dying a slow death, even if they show a bit of regrowth here and there. No institutionalized church is truly growing. And some which look robust are decaying from the inside as mistreatment of people by their leaders is revealed.
  • Death and resurrection seem to me to be inevitable forces of nature, and our ideas and ideals.

    If it is dying it is only to be reborn, transformed.

    I was looking at the tree outside my bedroom window and its fat little mini-dragon-egg buds and I felt the great tide of life that runs through it. Primitive people must have felt the truth of the eternal recurrence of life and the hope of renewal.

    I wonder if this is why we started burying our dead? Did we hope to plant ourselves like seeds for our resurrection?

    If Christianity has to die, or is dying, or has died, then it's only temporary. Life wins.

    AFF
  • Dude. If Christianity is dying on the vine, there are a helluva lot of Africans and Asians who will be very surprised.

    I think you meant to say, "In the UK and/or America."
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    In the US, Christianity is getting replaced steadily and surely by the prosperity gospel.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    In the US, Christianity is getting replaced steadily and surely by the prosperity gospel.

    To my way of thinking, it is being replaced by social media. ISTM that Christianity requires at least one thing: "Be still and know that I am God." We are never still any more. We are on our cell phones all day long and fill the void in our lives with 140 characters and pictures of cats. It all feels like an electronic version of sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling, "I can't hear you."
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    wot Lambchopped said. Christianity is booming, and what we might call old-school hardline prejudiced Christianity at that. Liberalism is looking much more dodgy.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    As it is politically; it has achieved all it can achieve.
  • Mark BettsMark Betts Shipmate
    edited April 12
    mousethief wrote: »
    In the US, Christianity is getting replaced steadily and surely by the prosperity gospel.

    I'm not sure it's helpful to rebrand groups according to whether you personally consider them "Christian" or not. If you consider Prosperity Gospel churches not to be Christian, what were they before they adopted Word of Faith? Fundamentalist? Pentecostal? For each variant, you will find people saying, "Ah, but they're not proper Christians."

    A Christian is simply a follower of Christ - there's no test to prove how closely you follow him, to differentiate proper Christians from the rest.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Dead Horses Host
    edited April 12
    No test? 'Depart from me, I never knew you' looks pretty definitive, and is addressed to those who claim to be people of faith but ignore the impoverished and sick and oppressed. It is of course a divine test, not one which can be second guessed by human beings. But I don't think it pays us to get too complacent about its moral imperative.

    If believers in the prosperity gospel have ears to hear, let them hear.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    As I said in another thread, the church has lost a lot of people that is true, but it is stronger and leaner and those who remain are strong believers. It used to be that you went to church and that was that. It was what you did. That has changed and now it only those who believe go. That is Western anyway. Africa. and Asia are, as mentioned not loosing numbers. Christianity is in good shape.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited April 12
    Hugal wrote: »
    As I said in another thread, the church has lost a lot of people that is true, but it is stronger and leaner and those who remain are strong believers. It used to be that you went to church and that was that. It was what you did. That has changed and now it only those who believe go. That is Western anyway. Africa. and Asia are, as mentioned not loosing numbers. Christianity is in good shape.

    Ah, the old "they weren't proper Christians anyway, we've got just the true believers now."

    I'm afraid I don't believe that line.

    I mean, there's problably an element of that, but our Western society is just getting more secular; it's that simple. Were the above the cause, the higher proportion of elderly people still regularly attending would be mostly the nominal "attending because it's what you do" types - IME they are not. Older people are more likely to believe in God because there was more belief in God around in their formative years.

    There's real decline. In the UK people are pretty much split three ways between believing in God, being effectively atheist and believing there's "something" but they don't know what. Most of that 30% who do believe in God don't go to church, so it's less a case of non-believers stopping their attendance but actual believers no longer thinking Church is relevant.
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    I think it would be interesting to survey people to find out why they stopped attending church. I think you'd find a significant number of people stopped attending a local church because the services changed and they no longer felt comfortable and/or welcome, and they didn't have the time and/or energy to find another church when to do so meant travelling significant distances. I'm in that camp.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I have to admit it is changing. My bishop points out that the last 60 years was actually an anomaly when it came to church attendance. That was because of the post WWII era. Soldiers coming home, getting married, raising their kids in the church. The percentages, at least in the US are returning to pre war levels.

    Used to be a regular church attender would have his or her butt in the pew at least three times a month. Now it is down to two or less in some places.

    I also think we kind of took outreach for granted. Everyone around us seemed to be Christian. No more.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    I don't think it is about numbers - the question is not "are the churches full". The question is whether the faith commuities are being faithful, are expressing Christian faith? I think.

    Bear in mind, I am asking this without having a clear answer - just that this is a question worth thinking about. It can be dying on the vine even if the churches are full, if they are not changing people? Making them better?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Expect it to explode with Africa's sub-Saharan population.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Expect it to explode with Africa's sub-Saharan population.

    I can see African and South East Asian missionaries coming to the US and Europe
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    It's already happened - I've met African missionaries who worked on the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I don't believe that anybody who puts out a shingle saying "MD" can call themselves a doctor. I similarly don't believe that everybody who claims the title "Christian" is one. But this argument might as well be a dead horse because we will never come to an agreement on what constitutes a Christian.

    But someone who thinks our God is just one in a long line of Gods, and was begotten in a bed on a planet named Kolob --- that's just not Christianity no matter how you dress it up. And somebody who thinks that people can demand God do certain things and God is beholden to them and forced by their words to do those things -- that's just not Christianity no matter how you dress it up. Hurl all the feel-good missiles you want.
  • Yes. Agreed.

    I also agree with Karl LB.

    I don't think Christianity is in 'good shape' at all. Lots of people attending church in Nigeria or Nicaragua doesn't mean it's in any better shape or worse shape than when most people in Europe or North America or Australasia attended church.

    Nigerian Pentecostals I've met have told me how 'nominal' much revivalism is in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    I think the whole thing about it being 'better' now because the people who still go to church are only those who who truly believe because all those nasty nominal people have stopped attending, is simply a way of putting a brave face on decline.

    I don't think the churches are a busted flush, there are encouraging signs in some places, but I think we're all in for some lean times with pockets of growth and vitality here and there - and I'm not singling out any particular tradition as having either a monopoly or dearth of that.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    The wonderful growing churches in Africa are overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist as all hell. If the church is growing, it's growing the wrong direction.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    No change in oooooh two thousand years there then.
  • These are associations for mutual reassurance among first-generation urban people. They are not c
    Martin54 wrote: »
    No change in oooooh two thousand years there then.

    Oh joy. Fascist worship sets in again. What is the point?
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    The wonderful growing churches in Africa are overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist as all hell. If the church is growing, it's growing the wrong direction.

    Which is why I just want to question whether this is Christiantiy growing or dying? given that homophobic and sexist faith is not really in tune with most of the modern world.

    One part of the question, I suppose, is whetehr teh extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled version of Christianity is an indication of growth or decline?
  • mousethief wrote: »
    The wonderful growing churches in Africa are overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist as all hell. If the church is growing, it's growing the wrong direction.

    Which is why I just want to question whether this is Christiantiy growing or dying? given that homophobic and sexist faith is not really in tune with most of the modern world.

    One part of the question, I suppose, is whetehr teh extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled version of Christianity is an indication of growth or decline?

    It's the last, unhealthy throw of the dice for a model of religion in its death throes. I wish it weren't in many respects because there is much of value about it, but the saturation in hate will kill it because it is not of God. Hate brings people together and drives out God.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    The attitudes are changing. I know several women vicars/pastors/church leaders. I am also friends with some gay vicars. Granted there are some that are anti these things but they are dying out.
    My question from all this is this. Why does the modernisation of the church mean it has to become more like the world? It is not the world. It can modernise in many ways. Even if it were to change drastically would it make a difference?
  • Oh fuck. Must we consign everybody who holds to the traditional beliefs of virtually all Christianity pre-1900 to the camp of "extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled" religion that ought to go straight to hell?

    If you say these things about the churches of modern Asia and Africa, you say them as well about the churches of ancient, medieval, and early modern Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.

    It's the "hate-filled" that particularly gets me. Seriously, you think that what, 90% of the Christian population that has ever existed or exists today falls into that category?
  • The5thMaryThe5thMary Shipmate
    Christianity is changing in good ways and bad. It's always been this way, hasn't it? When I was still partnered with my girlfriend and living in the Atlanta, GA (USA) suburbs, we attended a "church without walls", literally. Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta meets every Sunday, rain, wind, snow, blistering heat, etc. under a roofed but open picnic area. the church began primarily to minister to the LGBTQ community and would rent space in various churches sanctuaries/extra rooms. After getting kicked out of one of the long-term places where GSCC had been holding services (kicked out because a new pastor came along and said homosexuality would no longer be "promoted and protected"), the pastor and congregation (me and my partner included) decided on a radical new vision: We would celebrate our outreach and expand it to the homeless population in Atlanta.

    Long story short, GSCC has been holding services in Candler Park for close to fourteen years, welcoming anyone to come and have a meal and experience true fellowship. No one at GSCC cares if a person even believes in God. GSCC really strives to humbly follow the Christ.

    On the other hand, as mousethief pointed out, the churches that are preaching the "prosperity gospel" are alive and doing well, especially in the Atlanta area. The churches that require a homeless person to sit through a sermon in order to have a hot meal and a roof over their head for one night are still merrily rolling along. I know there was an actual point to this post but I seem to have lost it. Forgive me. If Christianity is "dying on the vine", what "brand" of Christianity? The Christianity of rules and regulations and pastors who are unwilling to admit maybe their beliefs need to change can all die out, as far as I'm concerned. The churches of any denomination that refuse to let The Holy Spirit convict them of their inhospitality, smugness, and arrogance are hopefully going extinct.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Oh fuck. Must we consign everybody who holds to the traditional beliefs of virtually all Christianity pre-1900 to the camp of "extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled" religion that ought to go straight to hell?

    If you say these things about the churches of modern Asia and Africa, you say them as well about the churches of ancient, medieval, and early modern Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.

    It's the "hate-filled" that particularly gets me. Seriously, you think that what, 90% of the Christian population that has ever existed or exists today falls into that category?

    Homophobic and sexist? Yes, virtually all Christianity until very recently.

    Hate? They would see themselves as very loving and ‘hating the sin’ - but were they? It’s easy to love people who are conforming to your worldview and prejudices.

  • Yes, in short. Go to Uganda and Kenya and tell me there is no hate of LGBT Christians or women they have taken against. Religion is used as an excuse to indulge in the certainty of hating.
  • And absolutely it's the same as setting fire to much of the mediaeval neo platonist crap that is the basis of far too much theological justification of hatred.
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Oh fuck. Must we consign everybody who holds to the traditional beliefs of virtually all Christianity pre-1900 to the camp of "extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled" religion that ought to go straight to hell?

    If you say these things about the churches of modern Asia and Africa, you say them as well about the churches of ancient, medieval, and early modern Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.

    It's the "hate-filled" that particularly gets me. Seriously, you think that what, 90% of the Christian population that has ever existed or exists today falls into that category?

    No, I wasn't identifying 90%of the Christian population. I was asking if this particular version of Christianity - which does appear to be popular - is a positive or negative indication.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited April 13
    Oh fuck. Must we consign everybody who holds to the traditional beliefs of virtually all Christianity pre-1900 to the camp of "extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled" religion that ought to go straight to hell?

    If you say these things about the churches of modern Asia and Africa, you say them as well about the churches of ancient, medieval, and early modern Asia, Africa, Europe, and America.

    It's the "hate-filled" that particularly gets me. Seriously, you think that what, 90% of the Christian population that has ever existed or exists today falls into that category?

    Well that's normal group behaviour. Groups benefit their members in competition with other groups. I agree it's absurd of we liberal folk to characterize, otherize, perfectly normal human behaviour in that ignorant polarized way. Religion, including liberal, binds and blinds. If liberals can't embrace (cooperate with) conservatives then they are just blind to their own hate. Because as we all know (inspired by what Boogie said), you can't hate the sin without hating the sinner can you?

    The point is @ThunderBunk, as the church becomes the state, subvert it with compassion. Salt it. Leaven it. You catch more flies with honey. When it's severe as in Roman persecution of Christians, go underground to protect people, support them and get them out of Rome, Russia, Brunei, Texas. Don't break the surface.

    I work with Muslims. You can't get more sexist, homophobic, conservative. Human normal. Only evolution, of morality, on the long arc, can improve on that. If the selection pressure is there. I can't imagine what that might be to be honest. In the meantime, suffer till He comes. And subvert.
  • I can and do "do" the compassion, with individuals, but not with the institution. It subverts it to identify it as subservience. But you are all forgetting that there is a world out there that needs to see that the church can do compassion itself, and is not so tied up with self-righteous hatred that shores up its own walls of indifference that it can't reach out beyond those walls and touch a world that feels forgotten and neglected. Your model cannot touch that world - it can only touch the minority within the world that is pre-programmed for a faith like that, and it is a minority.
  • A belief system based on exclusion holds a certain group for a generation. Usually the group or generation that has been displaced - either by immigration or by urbanisation. The next generation feels confident in their new surroundings. What does that excluding church, which excludes so much of that new experience, have to say to them?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I can and do "do" the compassion, with individuals, but not with the institution. It subverts it to identify it as subservience. But you are all forgetting that there is a world out there that needs to see that the church can do compassion itself, and is not so tied up with self-righteous hatred that shores up its own walls of indifference that it can't reach out beyond those walls and touch a world that feels forgotten and neglected. Your model cannot touch that world - it can only touch the minority within the world that is pre-programmed for a faith like that, and it is a minority.

    You're forgetting that nobody is forgetting that.
  • That's not my experience. I find church hierarchies full of people dedicated to precisely the task of forgetting it at all times.
  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I don't think it is about numbers - the question is not "are the churches full". The question is whether the faith commuities are being faithful, are expressing Christian faith? I think.

    Bear in mind, I am asking this without having a clear answer - just that this is a question worth thinking about. It can be dying on the vine even if the churches are full, if they are not changing people? Making them better?

    Yes, this.

    Those who criticise churches for being 'clubs' whether inclusive or exclusive, also seem to criticise the observation that there are less of those who saw them as 'clubs' and attended them primarily for that reason. Nobody has said that they were not 'real' Christians. The definition of a 'real' Christian is best avoided imo, it must inevitably be subjective, and spoken from the lips of someone who is not perfect themselves.

    The fruit of the spirit must be in evidence if the vine of the Church is healthy. I do see it, not only from those who attend the same church as me, but also from those in the various other 'denominations' - even those thought to be 'exclusive' - where they are reaching out with kindness to those who are not Christians and do not profess to be.

    Surely only those who are ready and willing to continue to grow ever closer to the example of Christ can be changed, whether inside or outside of the Church. As long as the leaders within the Church are non-judgemental and inclusive, preaching and teaching according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, those who do attend will grow when ready to, and so will the Church.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    The wonderful growing churches in Africa are overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist as all hell. If the church is growing, it's growing the wrong direction.

    Which is why I just want to question whether this is Christiantiy growing or dying? given that homophobic and sexist faith is not really in tune with most of the modern world.

    One part of the question, I suppose, is whetehr teh extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled version of Christianity is an indication of growth or decline?

    Umm churches in most of the modern world are still overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist, they're just more polite about it.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    I work with Muslims. You can't get more sexist, homophobic, conservative. Human normal.

    There are LGBT Muslims and feminist Muslims and this kind of attitude is SO harmful and Islamophobic. The 'Islam = homophobic' is I suspect how most Islamophobia (instituional or otherwise) is going to play out in the future and it's important to resist that (and how it's going to be presented as an 'acceptable' Prevent). Saying 'Muslims are all homophobic because that's just normal' is harmful to all Muslims and LGBT people but it is going to end up killing LGBT Muslims.
  • Pomona wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    The wonderful growing churches in Africa are overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist as all hell. If the church is growing, it's growing the wrong direction.

    Which is why I just want to question whether this is Christiantiy growing or dying? given that homophobic and sexist faith is not really in tune with most of the modern world.

    One part of the question, I suppose, is whetehr teh extreme conservative, fundamentalist, hate-filled version of Christianity is an indication of growth or decline?

    Umm churches in most of the modern world are still overwhelmingly homophobic and sexist, they're just more polite about it.

    That's what I wonder about, but lack knowledge about. Well, the C of E retains an official homophobic approach, doesn't it? Ditto, Catholic church. But there are clearly individual churches which are gay friendly, and not misogynist. I guess you take your pick.
  • True.

    As an Anglican Lay Minister (albeit rather tending towards 'devout agnostic' these days), I often have No Idea what the Official Position™ is on any subject.....

    Fortunately, God be praised, individual churches/parishes tend to follow their own paths, often leading to much more inclusivity than may appear from 'official' pronouncements (which are usually composed mainly of Fudge, anyway).
  • You cannot take current intolerant Christianity as the same thing as pre1900 Christianity. Not the same at all.
  • Well, I think ISWYM, but could you elaborate a little, please? Why use 1900 as a cut-off point, for instance?

    Not nit-picking, honestly.....
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I don't think nice individual churches make enough of a difference to the whole to count them. That's not to say I don't appreciate them, but individual churches flouting official doctrinal positions don't prevent the doctrine from existing.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    True.

    As an Anglican Lay Minister (albeit rather tending towards 'devout agnostic' these days), I often have No Idea what the Official Position™ is on any subject.....

    Fortunately, God be praised, individual churches/parishes tend to follow their own paths, often leading to much more inclusivity than may appear from 'official' pronouncements (which are usually composed mainly of Fudge, anyway).

    I love the label ‘devout agnostic’ :mrgreen:

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host
    Pomona wrote: »
    I don't think nice individual churches make enough of a difference to the whole to count them. That's not to say I don't appreciate them, but individual churches flouting official doctrinal positions don't prevent the doctrine from existing.

    That was part of my reason for addressing institutional religion, rather than individual churches.

    FWIW, I don't think the Christian faith will die out - because I believe there are some people and places that will keep it going. But at 1% of the current spread it would be "dead on the vine" IMO. If institutionally it is dead, it will be totally different from what it is today.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Pomona wrote: »
    Martin54 wrote: »
    I work with Muslims. You can't get more sexist, homophobic, conservative. Human normal.

    There are LGBT Muslims and feminist Muslims and this kind of attitude is SO harmful and Islamophobic. The 'Islam = homophobic' is I suspect how most Islamophobia (instituional or otherwise) is going to play out in the future and it's important to resist that (and how it's going to be presented as an 'acceptable' Prevent). Saying 'Muslims are all homophobic because that's just normal' is harmful to all Muslims and LGBT people but it is going to end up killing LGBT Muslims.

    I work and walk for half an hour each way to work and live among very mainly working class Muslims. Thousands of them. I have multiple Muslim neighbours. None of whom are LGBT or feminist. None. They wouldn't make it to sundown. They could not swim in those waters. Who is that fact harmful to?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited April 13
    The latest survey of religion in America shows that those who indicate they have no religion is up 266%. They now equal the number of Roman Catholics 23% and are slightly more than the Evangelicals who are at 22.2%.

    I know that at our Lutheran Church camp we are finding about 1/3 of the campers are Lutheran. 1/3 of the campers are from other denominations/religions; and about 1/3 of the campers say they have no church.

    That is not to say they are not religious. Many people just seem turned off by the way Evangelicals have an unquestioning loyalty to Trump. And it seems to hurt other denominations who are either middle of the road or more liberal, It seems we have to come out to say we are not like them (the evangelicals).

    I really wonder want will happen to evangelicals when tRump's house of cards collapses.
  • The ones in the closet, the women whose lives are restricted by inappropriately transposed and often reinforced? Just to start with. These people are there, even if they are invisible.
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