dear ephesus
7/19/13 at 02:08 PM 28 Comments

Empty Churches: The Decline of Cultural Christianity in the West

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We've heard it all before - Christianity in Europe is dead. To quote the famous German philosopher Frederich Nietzsche, when it comes to Christianity in Europe... "God is dead."

We've come to believe that all Europeans see Jesus as irrelevant and faith as a crutch. We've been told that secularism has completely won over European culture replacing Christianity as Europe's worldview.

And, as a result, thousands of empty churches litter the European landscape while their culture shifts evermore towards secularism. Not only this (we're told) but Islam is quickly replacing Christianity as minarets tower over church steeples from Hadrian's Wall to the beaches of Sicily.

But is this true? Is Christianity really dead in Europe?

Empty Churches: The Decline of Cultural Christianity in the West (a free ebook) is an attempt to demonstrate that cultural Christianity – not Christianity itself – has declined in Europe. It examines how evangelical churches in Europe live in a culture that increasingly marginalizes the faith. Furthermore, it examines how the same marginalization is coming to evangelical churches in America and what we can learn from both European churches and scripture about how to move forward.

Here are a few excerpts of Empty Churches.

"THE RESULT

The result of these three things (individualistic religion, a century of war, and a disregard for apologetic evangelism) is the rapid decline of cultural Christianity in Europe. So, to what extent has cultural Christianity declined?

This question is also difficult to answer. But, we can explore the results in four observations about Christianity as a whole in Europe."

"OBSERVATION ONE: Many Europeans still identify themselves a Christian, but do not actively attend Christian services."

"OBSERVATION TWO: Many Europeans are “unchurched,” meaning they have never step foot in a church for any reason besides weddings, funerals, or christenings. They have never gone to a church service to hear the gospel preached, worship in song, nor fellowship once in their entire life.

Consider the following infographic with regard to the population of unchurched Europeans."

"OBSERVATION THREE: The religious landscape of Europe is rapidly changing.

As a former continent known as “Christendom”, Europe is experiencing a rapid change in religious diversity. The two fastest growing religions in Europe are secularism (no religious affiliation, agnosticism, atheism, &ct.) and Islam.

...another way of demonstrating Europe’s rapidly changing religious landscape is through three religious 'snapshots' of Germany, France, and Britain."

"AMERICA'S DECLINING CULTURAL CHRISTIANITY

It should come to no surprise that the cultural conscience of America is shifting away from alignment with Christianity. This will, no doubt, challenge the evangelical church throughout our nation. With this as a reality, what can we learn from European churches who have gone through a similar change in their own culture?

...consider the following infographic on the next page that demonstrates how our culture is changing. It will attempt to demonstrate that American culture is experiencing a change in how it views violence, drug use, human sexuality, and faith."

"...along with a rise in disbelief among Americans, church attendance and church planting is declining. Granted, there has been a boost in church planting numbers during the past decade (perhaps this is why the number of young evangelicals, between 23–35, rose 21% to 25% in the past 6 years), overall church attendance is still declining. As a result, many churches are closing their doors.

According to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), in 1900 there were 28 churches for every 10,000 Americans. Just fifty years later, that number plummeted to 17 for every 10,000. Since 2004, the trend is expected to continue at an 8% decrease every 4 years. This is despite the fact that our population is increasing.

The following infographic demonstrates this data where the church icon represents one church per every 10,000 U.S. citizens. The blue represents U.S. population growth."

"...the third thing we must admit is that a decline in cultural Christianity in America does not mean the decline of Christianity in the world.

This is a crucial point to understand. Jesus promised His church that it would never end.

Matthew 18:16 'And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'

...the fact remains that when Jesus said His gospel was going to be taken to the ends of the earth, He wasn’t lying.

Christianity isn’t dead. It’s not even dying.

Why? Because that’s Jesus’ bride we’re talking about. And she’s alive and well."

Find out more at Dear Ephesus or download Empty Churches now for free.

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Kyle Beshears (@kylebeshears) is a pastor at the People of Mars Hill in Mobile, Alabama. He is the author of Robot Jesus and Three Other Jesuses You Never Knew and blogs at Dear Ephesus on church issues and apologetics.

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