Here's a graph I find absolutely terrifying. It shows church attendance stats for the UK (I think it's for 2005).
On the horizontal axis is a breakdown on the population by age. And on the vertical axis is the proportion of the population as a whole. The three colours on the chat represent those who are currently regular attenders at church (at least once a month), those who used to attend church but no longer do so and those who never attended church.
Roughly 60% of the population have never attended church. Roughly 30% of the population used to attend church but now no longer do so.
What terrifies me is what this means for those who have been leading the church over the past few generations. God entrusted the care of his people to them, and they presided over the decline of the church so severely that nearly 75% of those who are now 85-year-olds were once part of a church, but only 15% or so of children currently are. Roughly 80% of living Brits who have been part of a church are no longer part of the church.
42The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 12:42-48, NIV
I can hear in my head the sort of conversation God will have with people who were ministers during that time. When God tells them of the privilege it was to be made a steward over his household and family, and asks them what they did with it. When they try to make their pathetic excuses for how they did their job so poorly that 5 out of every 6 people in their churches left and the church went from being seen as the foundation of society to being a boring irrelevance in just two generations.
And the church leaders today who carry on the trend - who don't see that their job is about bringing people to know Jesus - it is about saving lives rather than making sure the few already in the lifeboat have more comfortable cushions as they watch the rest of the world drown. Is their lot going to be any better?
God's judgement and wrath against the vast majority of British church leaders over the last few generations is going to be terrible. And that scares me, because God has called me to follow after them, and I am beginning to see something of what an awesome responsibility it is...