Because of the lousy pastor! I know...
I am not referring to the global church, which is growing faster than at anytime in the history of the Christian faith. There are not just thousands of people becoming Christians in China and many African countries, but millions. The evangelical church in South America is growing exponentially. I heard this week of church planted with 16 people in Singapore just over 5 years ago that now has a congregation of nearly 1500. The kingdom of God is expanding and nothing can stop it. Jesus is building his church!
But what about in Chessington? In the "West"? Why are churches in the UK at best growing slowly, at worst emptying fast?
Some of the decline is easy to explain. Where people no longer preach the gospel as revealed by God in the Bible you can't expect lives to be changed. The apostle Peter writes to Christians:
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Peter 1:23)
No word of God, no new birth. No Bible, no new Christians.
But there are many churches where the Bible is preached faithfully each week and there seems to be little growth. What about them? I fear that we're too quick to blame the culture around us. "It's a post-Christian society. It's much harder these days. People just don't want to listen." As though the declining numbers of church attendees has nothing to do with the people in the churches!
Whereas I think that the Bible would be quicker to point the finger at us. The Christians. God's word would encourage us to think about what it might be about us that could be hindering gospel growth. I certainly was made to feel a little uncomfortable by the parable of the sower over the last few days.
The challenge of the parable is to listen to the word. When you listen and accept the word there is extraordinary fruitfulness. "Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown." (Mark 4:20)
That is a yield beyond the imagination of any farmer of Jesus day. So why no crop of Christians today? Because I think that must be what fruitfulness is. The verse before tells us.
"Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful." (Mark 4:18-19)
The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things. There are the reasons that the church is not growing in the west. It reads like an advertising agents agenda for things to tap into in his next campaign.
To listen to God's word, the Gospel of Jesus, we need to stop listening to the world around us. Sadly most of us spend more time dreaming of our next holiday/car/home improvement/meal out/weekend off/leisure activity (delete as appropriate), than we spend dreaming of knowing Jesus more.
Perhaps when Jesus becomes our treasure, then people will want to know more about him.