Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

The empty pew — why?

Fifty years ago the Anglican Church of Canada asked well known author Pierre Berton to write a book on the state of the church and how to rejuvenate it. The book was called The Comfortable Pew, and it created a sensation when it was published. Here is a one sentence summary of the book that I found on the net: “He said the church had failed as an instrument of social justice and no longer served as a conscience for the nation holding people accountable to a high ethical standard.”

Ten years ago the church hired a consulting firm to advise them on demographic trends and the future of the church. As I recall the report stated that if present trends continued, in 75 years there would be two members left in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Pierre Berton’s talents in writing and historical research enabled him to write a number of best-selling books about important events in Canadian history. The Comfortable Pew was a good read too, but I fear that his vision of what people need from a church was distorted.

He wasn’t alone in that. Many church leaders have tried a variety of approaches and tactics to make their churches more attractive and relevant. Most of them have bombed.

The social gospel has been tried, especially here in Saskatchewan, and hasn’t created a more Christ-like society. Prophecy has enriched a few writers, but it doesn’t fill many churches anymore. Mussolini wasn’t the Antichrist after all; most of the generation alive in 1946 is no longer alive and Jesus has not returned. Christian rock music isn’t enough to fill churches Sunday after Sunday. If pop psychology is your interest, there are many other places to find it. None of these things are relevant to the real needs of mankind.

Unfortunately, far too many churches are focussing far too much of their energy and attention on things that have nothing to do with meeting the real needs of the people sitting in the pews. And little by little the pews are becoming empty.

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2 responses to “The empty pew — why?

  1. Bob Goodnough November 1, 2014 at 17:08

    Thank you Harold. It is scary and no church is immune to this kind of internal rot. Only the Holy Spirit can bring about cleansing and revival.

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