Thursday, August 11, 2005

the church and the west

moses - photo by jr woodward
Originally uploaded by dream awakener.

a front page article in usa today reads: Religion Takes a Back Seat in Western Europe. the article sites a values survey which was conducted in 2000 by the swedish-based group that shows how more and more people in western europe are in the category of people who "never" or "practically never" attend church.

according to the survey in 14 different democracy's in the west, when comparing people who never or practically never attend church, only the united states and italy's numbers decreased, in the other 12 countries the number of people never attending has shot up. France tops the list with 60% of the people never or practically never attending church. Britain is second with 55% in that category, and the Netherlands is third with 48% in that category. The interesting thing is that in the US only 16% of the people "never" or "practically never" attend church.

the other interesting stat in the article was that in france, sweden and netherlands, church attendance is reported less than 10% in some areas. the article states that "The forces driving the decline include Europe's turbulent history, an increasing separation between the church and government — and perhaps ... most of all, the continent's unprecedented affluence."

it is interesting that this article mentions that affluence is possibly the greatest contribution to the lack of people involved in church, saying "World Bank data show the per capita gross domestic product in Western Europe has tripled since 1980." it seems to me that Jesus said something about how it is harder for rich man to enter into heaven than it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle. and while western europe is seemingly growing less God focused, in eastern europe where things are more unstable and the economy is much weaker, more people are coming to faith. james does mention that the poor are rich in faith.

and while the stat in america as far as people who never go to church went from 18% to 16%, it doesn't reflect the fact that there has been a basic decline in regular church attendance compared to 1970. according to the isr national election studies, those who attend church every week has gone from 38% in 1970 to 25% in 2000. it seems to have leveled off over the last 20 years.

but the sad trend is when you track the age groups. according to the isr, 52% of people 80 and over attend church every week, 44% of those between 70-79, 40% of those between 60-69, 26% of those between 50-59%, 22% of those between 40-49 attend church weekly, 20% of those between 30-39 and finally 13% of those between the ages of 20-29 % attend church weekly in the u.s. does this age statistic indicate that america is going to follow western europe in time?

i don't believe it has to, if the church would fully understand and live out her God given mission and unselfishly devote herself to bring more of heaven to earth neighborhood by neighborhood. for when the church does that, more and more people can't help but want to be involved. this of course should effect how we view economics and every area of life.


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