One hundred years ago, about 94 percent of people in England went to church. Today about 94 percent don’t.
America is heading toward the same future if things don’t change immediately, said Dennis Pethers, an evangelist from London and author of More to Life.
“Over decades in England, people have been sliding away from church and a belief in God,” Pethers said.
“Generation after generation have stopped coming to church, stopped taking their children to church, until now most people not only have never been to church, but they don’t know anyone else who has ever gone to church.”
He said that most of these people haven’t rejected Jesus or turned their backs on Jesus. They just don’t know who He is.
“The real tragedy is that they don’t even know that they don’t know,” he said.
Pethers said some of the churches thought they would try to become more modern to appeal to the never-churched people.
“They started singing some new songs instead of the old songs, but the people still didn’t come,” Pethers said. “Why not? Well, these people didn’t know the churches were singing new songs because they’d never even heard the old songs!
“It can’t be about what happens inside the church,” Pethers said. “What is more difficult: to get people outside the church interested in Jesus or to get the people inside the church interested enough in the people outside the church to tell them about Jesus? Unfortunately, it is much harder to get the people to go outside.”
Pethers admitted that it broke his heart to realize it’s more critical for Christians to be changed than for nonbelievers to be changed.
“If Christians change and gain confidence and power to share how God is working in their lives right now, not in the past, but right now, the nonbelievers would be taken care of,” he said.
According to Pethers, there are four crucial areas to help equip churched people to go to the world:
- Sunday school – This is where people are trained to know how to go out and invest their lives in others.
- Small groups – People sharing their life stories in small groups will have the confidence to go out and share with people outside the church, he said.
- Church starts – Pethers said in England, a church start is usually just a few people in a home sharing about their lives, while in the U.S, it’s more likely to be an actual new place.
- Collegiate ministry – “This is the most pivotal age for turning around the hemorrhage of people leaving the church,” Pethers said, “but also calling those who still have a memory of their parents or grandparents attending church to come back before they are lost for good.”
“We must get Jesus not just in the church, but also out into the world,” he said. “I believe that the measure of a church is not how many come, but how many people go.
“Revival used to look like this: How many people are lined up to get in the church? But true revival will look like this: How many people are lined up to leave?” he asked. “I’m just afraid that our churches may be full of people who aren’t Christian, but they don’t know that they don’t know.”
by Polly House, Communications Department