After the 2021 census, the Church needs a more positive and dynamic strategy

(Photo: Unsplash/Adam Rhodes)

The census figures on religious belief in Britain came as no surprise to those of us on the frontline of evangelism here.

The general picture they reveal confirms what we have long known: Christianity is no longer the default religious belief in our society and has been replaced by a complex and regionally varying mosaic of different kinds of belief and unbelief.

In detail, what these figures mean is much harder to determine. Because statistics on religious beliefs like these fail to distinguish between creed and culture, they are unable to discriminate between those who wholeheartedly practice a faith and those who merely belong to it by birth.

Nevertheless, the decline in those considering themselves as Christians cannot be ignored and in this, perhaps perversely, there is good news.

Many of us have long had the feeling that decisions at the highest level of many Christian denominations have been governed by an unspoken principle of what might be called 'quietly managed retreat'; a defeatist attitude that accepts decline and by doing so, manages to achieve it.

Amid this gloomy complacency, these census figures should be a bellowing alarm: the plane is descending so rapidly that unless action is taken disaster looms imminently.

We need a better, more positive and more dynamic strategy. In my view, and I claim the Bible on my side, what is needed is not a stripped-down creed tuned to the prevailing mood of the culture.

That won't work: no one goes to church to hear exactly what they get from the media and from their friends and colleagues. What will bring them in and see them committed to the church is the full- blooded, confident preaching of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paradoxically the way to change the census figures is to ignore them and instead focus on producing changed lives through Jesus Christ.

Canon J.John is the Director of Philo Trust. Visit his website at or follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.