As we have moved around Edinburgh and around other towns we have visited, we have seen sometimes elaborate, big church buildings that are no longer churches. In Dunbar's Main Street there is a sad looking building with boarded up windows and warning signs not to enter. In Dundee, by the port in a back alley, there is an old stone "Seaman's Chapel" that obviously hasn't been used for decades. Around Edinburgh they are sometimes empty edifices, but often a theatre, a night club, a hostel or put to use in some other way. All these were once busy places of worship.
Why are there so many people leaving the Church in Western Society? It is interesting that with the rise of Donald Trump, and the very right wing parties in Europe, some commentators are saying that we have a "spiritual" problem, that there is a lack of moral compass in the west now. They are saying there is a loss of empathy, a wider view of humanity and compassion. But, facing this need, the Churches in general, are not holding onto their people. Of course there is the evangelical/charismatic mega churches who seem to be booming, but even here there are reports of an "open back door" where people enjoy the experience awhile, but move on. One commentator has said that these conservative groups are the "death throws, the final gasps for breath, of a dying institution." I tend to think there is truth in that.
I wonder if the "gospel" we have been proclaiming is essentially true? People were attracted to Jesus by the inner authority, intrinsic truth they recognised in the things he was saying. I wonder whether in the nature of the institution, and the dogma of the "gospel message" that intrinsic truth has been distorted, or lost?
I wonder what attempts have honestly been made to examine the institution? Have we asked the important questions, or have we been just desperately trying to "man the pumps" without radically rethinking what a twentieth, or twenty first century spirituality would look like?
I also think that those who have been seeking deeper answers to these questions have often been burned out, or marched out, because of a reluctance for change. Does this also point to a failure to be converted to the eternal essence that people found in Jesus, and maybe just adherence to the dogma about Jesus and the institution? As I have had time to wander, walk and think, I suspect it is this inner essence that is missing, that people actually long for and respond to. I will do more thinking and probably burble some more on this.