On 28th October 312 Christendom was born. That battle between Constantine 1 and Maxentius saw the former seeing a vision of a cross of light and the words “in this sign, conquer”. Many centuries later, the Enlightenment occurred, reasoning was used with science to critique Christianity. Perhaps in John 17: 15-16 where we read “in the world, but not of the world” reflects this stance. They may have felt more distant, remote, when considering the status of the faith prior to Descartes and Kant.
The passing of Christendom is not, in my opinion, the passing of Christianity.
Stuart Murray*1 pointed out in 2005 that then 1.6M people a year join UK churches but 2.8M leave: some die, some move house, but 1500 a week leave for other reasons.
You might have seen cartoons portraying churches which encompass a change of seating, coffee on tap, a dynamic preacher : in essence
if we make church brilliant the prodigals will return home!
Research has shown that actually what people miss, yearn for, is where they feel part of a community, they desire relationships. They do not want consumerism over church. “Most church leavers describe how a sense of duty, commitment, fear or guilt constrained their behaviour, preventing them from disengagement for some considerable time.”*2 They long to belong.
Let’s pause to reflect on how our individual churches may lose sight of the person, not show that love.
1 Sam 16:7 The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
Holy God, speak to us afresh. Help us to cast aside those things which hold us back from truly loving all, and seek to build those lasting loving relationships, to not be building-centred., but person-centred.
*1 Murray S, Church after Christendom, (Milton Keynes : Paternoster Press), 2005
*2 Aisthorpe S, The Invisible Church, (Edinburgh : St Andrews Press, 2017), pp. 35-6