Is the Western church doomed?

For many informed Christians, the answer to the question in the title is: “Yes.”

The evidence for decline in the Western Christian church – including the evangelical church – is strong.  Churches in Europe are empty as are many in North America.  Spiritually, there is not much to tell between Christians and non-Christians.  Divorce rates are as high in evangelical churches as they are in the rest of the world.  Some evangelical leaders have been found guilty of sexual sin.  I could go on.

Our daughter was mentioning yesterday that her church is considering a Saturday night service to reach people who are too busy on Sunday with family matters – such as children’s sports – to attend church.  She noted that families are under a lot of stress as husband and wife are both working and they are busy in off hours taking their children to music or dancing lessons or sports activities.  Sometimes it comes down to the question: “Do I sacrifice my child’s chances for a brilliant career in hockey or music in order to go to church on Sunday?”

It’s easy for aging believers such as myself to frown on this haphazard church attendance.  But my wife and I didn’t have to face that Sunday conflict between church and kids’ sports when our children were growing up.

With a little ingenuity such as Saturday evening services, I think some of these issues can be resolved.  There are other aspects, though, which are equally effective in keeping people away from church – the competing attractions of society around us.

Sporadic church attendance combined with growing moral and spiritual failings in the Western church makes the future look worrying.

So, do we throw up our hands and admit the Western church will gradually die?

I am an optimist so my answer is: “No.”

I look at history and see that God can suddenly change things dramatically.  My reading of great revivals is that the Holy Spirit can transform an entire society.  The Welsh Revival in the early 1900s is a good example.  Not only did people commit their lives to Christ in vast numbers but bars were closed and jails were emptied.

It is said that the social situation was so serious and the church so corrupt in England in the 1700s that Britain could easily have faced a revolution on the scale of the French revolution.  But the Wesleyan revival turned England around.  The evangelical movement in the late 1700s led to William Wilberforce and other social reformers who brought lasting change to Britain.

People in those days were busy, too.  Men worked longer hours than they do today.  And women helped men work and looked after their large broods of children without the modern conveniences we enjoy.

Change is possible in Canada and the United States, too.  Revival often begins with a few people.  It is interesting that Old Testament prophets were commissioned by God to warn of disaster to come and sometimes the people listened and returned to the Lord.

I recognize that I need to attend to my own relationship with God and with other people.  God will take care of the big picture.

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2 comments so far

  1. Stephanie on

    We do have a future! Liked the post.


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