Archive of last 100 posts.

  • Church Growth Modelling – The State of the Art
    Background I started the church growth modelling project back in 1995 following a chance comment concerning the then-popular “Toronto Blessing”. A friend of mine noted the phenomenon’s growth and said: “It is spreading like a disease!” That got me wondering, could I model the growth in church membership and attendance using the mathematics of the […]
  • Enthusiasts – Quantity or Quality?
    In the church growth models, “enthusiast” is the name given to the Christian believer who is responsible for bringing unbelievers to faith. Which is better for church growth, more enthusiasts or better enthusiasts?
  • Billy Graham, Church Growth and Revival
    Given the news yesterday of the death of the great evangelist Billy Graham, I felt I needed to blog a few words in honour of a man who God used to do so much for the cause of the Gospel in the 20thcentury.
  • John Wesley Under the Contemporary Spotlight
    Recently I had a lengthy comment on my blog post about John Wesley in Wales.  The comments raised so many issues that I felt it needed a long reply. So I have made the reply into a blog!
  • John Wesley, Enthusiasm and Today’s Church
    Recently, while on holiday in Pembrokeshire, I passed a plaque in the town of Haverfordwest dedicated to the memory of the pioneer Methodist evangelist, John Wesley.
  • Church Growth Limited by Evangelistic Purity
    The fourth in the series on limits to church growth. The relationship between a mixed church and the effectiveness of evangelism.
  • Church Growth and the Perils of Second-Order Feedback
    Feedback is the process where an action has an effect, which in turn changes the original action. Either it magnifies it ­– reinforcing feedback; or it corrects it – balancing feedback
  • Feedback and Church Growth
    Feedback in a system that changes over time is the mechanism where an action results in an effect, which then in turn influences the original action. The action literally “feeds back” on itself. Reinforcing Feedback For example, if a population grows through births, the more in the population, the more people are born, thus even […]
  • A Prophecy of Church Decline
    At the beginning of the New Year, David Robertson, a well known Free Church of Scotland minister and blogger, gave ten prophecies for 2017 [1]. One of these particularly caught my eye: The Church of Scotland and the Church of England in the UK will continue to decline … One of the reasons he gives to […]
  • Infectious Church Growth
    An “Agent-Based” View The central hypothesis I use to model church growth is that religious belief spreads like an infectious disease. This principle is built into the limited enthusiasm model of church growth. The church contains enthusiasts, who pass their faith on to unbelievers, who convert to the faith. Some of those new converts also […]
  • The Rise and Decline of British Methodism
    Application of the Institutional Model of Church Growth Some while ago I introduced a model of church membership that explain the rapid growth of a church, only to be followed by decline as institutionalism set in [1]. The primary effect of institutionalism is on the conversion rate. Thus it is possible for a once vibrant, […]
  • Rise and Decline of Western Civilisation
    Brexit, Corbyn and Trump It has been an interesting year in politics! I started writing this on the day that Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected leader of the British Labour Party. Perceived as an anti-“establishment” figure he has challenged the political orthodoxy of his party by mobilising grass roots support to sideline the majority of his […]
  • Modelling Secularisation
    Part 3 of Christianity versus the Diversity Ideology In two previous blogs [1,2] I have been constructing a dynamic model of the competition between Christianity and the new secular ideology. The idea is that as Christianity declines in the West its role in public institutions and spaces also declines, leaving a neutral vacuum now being […]
  • Churches or Political Parties: Who has the Largest Membership?
    I write much about the growth and decline of Christian churches, but given the political events in the UK following the EU referendum I thought I would compare church membership with political party membership to see who is the stronger. One result of the referendum has been a vote of no confidence in the Labour […]
  • Revival is Real
    After all the blogs on church decline, I felt I needed to write on something more positive. Not that I am negative about the future of the Christian church. The Lord Jesus promised that his gospel would cover the earth before his return, and he said the gates of hell would not stop him building […]
  • Conversion to the Diversity Ideology
    Part 2 – Justification of Hypotheses In a previous blog [1] I outlined a system dynamics model of how Christianity is losing ground to a new movement in society, which I nicknamed the “Diversity Ideology”. I chose this name because people in the movement affirm a wide diversity of individual practices and lifestyles, especially in […]
  • The New Ideology
    Part 1 – Model Construction In the last two blogs I have referred to the “New Ideology”, an ideology which is gradually taking the place of Christianity in Western societies [1], and causing division in the Christian church [2]. So what is this ideology, and can its spread be modelled? First some clarification of terminology. […]
  • Where to Plant a Church?
    Big City, Small Town, or Rural? Despite church decline, church planting continues at a fast pace. In the cities of the UK the church landscape has a generous number of recently established, glossy, relatively wealthy, contemporary churches. It would appear something in church growth is working. Reflecting on current trends in evangelicalism, in the light […]
  • Rewriting History
    The other day I was visiting a mining museum in Wales. The lady showing us around was describing the poor working conditions in the early 1800s, 10 hours a day underground, plus a long walk to work and back. She then said: “they worked like this six days a week, then had to go to […]
  • Church Growth Limited by Inadequate Resource Production
    Limits to Church Growth 3 In two previous blogs, I looked at congregational growth being limited by: Demand from society [1]; Supply by the church [1]; Lack of enthusiasts [2]. However, even if there is an unlimited potential demand for Christianity, there are still barriers to church growth that occur from the way the church […]
  • Why Revivals Stopped in the UK
    And The Churches Declined In two previous posts I showed that the growth of the Presbyterian denomination in Wales came from a sequence of revivals that gave it a high conversion rate. Consequently its subsequent decline was due to a drop in its conversion rate resulting from the demise of revivals [1,2].  As the growth […]
  • Revival and Church Growth – Dealing with Objections
    In two previous posts [1,2] I used the growth and decline of the Presbyterian denomination in Wales to put forward two complementary theses: The growth of the church in the UK from mid-1730s to the 1870s was due primarily to revivals giving a large number of conversions. The twentieth century, decline of the UK church […]
  • The “Twitter Mob” and Free Speech – A Systems Perspective
    Some Thoughts on the Christmas Message of David Robertson, Free Church of Scotland  Recently David Robertson, Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, delivered a Christmas message where he said society was becoming a monochrome culture where genuine diversity was being undermined by a “mob mentality which threatens anyone who dares to be against the ‘equality […]
  • Church Decline Caused By Lack of Revival
    In my last blog [1] I showed that the primary cause of decline for the Presbyterian Church of Wales (aka Calvinist Methodists) in the 20th century was due to a large drop in conversions into the church. Additionally there was also a much smaller drop in birth rate, though not in child retention.  From this […]
  • Church Decline Caused by Lack of Conversions
    In my last blog, Closing Rural Churches [1], I said that no strategy to reverse church decline would work unless it deals with the root cause of decline, the church’s failure to recruit sufficient people to counteract its losses. In this post I will put forward evidence that lack of conversions is the primary cause […]
  • Closing Rural Churches
    Is This the Way to Church Growth? Recently in an article for the Guardian newspaper Giles Fraser suggested the Church of England should do to its churches what Beeching did to the railways, close its underused rural parishes. He further proposed concentrating resources in churches in “minster” type churches for the purpose of re-evangelisation [1]. […]
  • Communicating The Gospel
    Effective communication of the gospel is essential if those who do not believe in Jesus are to come to faith. How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Rom 10:14. However, if the message is unintelligible then they may not have heard enough clear information to believe. Clarity is vital. We […]
  • Cowboys for Jesus
    Recently my wife and I spent a month in the USA, firstly at a conference in Cambridge Massachusetts, then a few weeks touring Utah and Colorado. We have been to the States many times before and really enjoy the scenery, places and people. Whenever we go we try to find a church where we can […]
  • Anglican Church Decline in the West – Possible Reasons
    In the previous blog, I looked at attendance and membership data of four Anglican churches: Church of England (C of E), the Church in Wales (C in W), the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), and the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA). http://churchgrowthmodelling.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/anglican-church-decline-in-west-data.html It was clear that all four denominations were declining, but that in Wales, […]
  • Anglican Church Decline in the West – The Data
    The Anglican Church, once a key institution in the English-speaking world, has suffered decline for over half a century. Although in both the UK and North America there are many examples of growing and lively Anglican churches, as national denominations the trend is downwards. This decline is in marked contrast to continued Anglican growth in […]
  • Limits to Church Growth – Part 2
    The Reproduction of Enthusiasts In a previous post I investigated two barriers to church growth: Lack of supply of religion by the church; and lack of demand for religion in society [1]. For those barriers to be removed a church needs to take action to increase recruitment and not take demand by the population for […]
  • Institutionalism and Church Decline
    In a recent post, Gillan Scott, deputy editor of the Archbishop Cranmer blog, suggested that the Church of England might be more interested in managing decline than engaging in mission [1]. He quotes Peter Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden: “Unfortunately, there are bishops around the place who think: ‘Well actually, we’ve just got to cater for […]
  • Nagaland Revival 1976-1982
    Nagaland, an Indian state bordering Burma, saw dramatic growth in the number of Christians during the 20th century [1]. Composed of 16 separate tribes with different languages, the Naga people use English as their predominant language, which has undoubtedly helped the spread of Christianity.  The growth of Christianity among 13 of the tribes has been […]
  • Limits to Church Growth – Part 1
    All churches want to grow. It is part of the mission of the church to spread the faith, to make converts, to see new people come to Christ. For that mission to be fulfilled then either congregations become larger, or new congregations get planted. Thus growth is a legitimate expectation of any church. However it […]
  • The Eyam Plague of 1666: A System Dynamics Model
    At present the news is full of the rather frightening Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. Other infectious diseases also get into the news often, for example AIDS/HIV and flu. What is less well know is that such infectious diseases spread according to fairly precise mathematical rules. This follows from the person-to-person contact involved in the […]
  • Is the Charismatic Revival Over?
    The Changing Nature of Worship Songs In a recent article for Christian Today, worship leader Noel Richards passed comment on the style of worship songs written in the 1990s and those written now[1]. His central thesis is that there were songs sung then, especially in the events like March for Jesus, that are not appropriate […]
  • Decline of the Church of England – Update 2001-2012
    A year ago I applied the Limited Enthusiasm Model church growth to the decline of the Church of England, based on its published attendance figures 2001-2011 [1]. Since then Statistics for Mission 2012 has been published by the C of E with various updates to figures [2]. This blog aims to analyse the revised C […]
  • Conversion – Hearts Strangely Warmed
    The Meaning of “Conversion” in Church Growth Models When I present my models on church growth, I invariably refer to the process by which a person joins, or starts attending, a church as their conversion. Like the words “believer” and “unbeliever”, this often causes some discussion with people, and various suggestions for renaming the conversion process […]
  • Membership Decline in the Southern Baptist Convention
    Every year the new edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches publishes the membership figures for all the Christian denominations in the USA [1]. Heading up the list of protestant churches is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), very much the flagship denomination of Evangelicalism [2]. However, despite a century of strong growth, the […]
  • George Carey and Church Decline
    It is not often church decline makes the national newspapers, but when a former Archbishop says the church is on the brink of extinction I guess such news is too hard to resist, even for a largely non-religious media [1]. What George Carey actually said was: “we are one generation away from extinction”, meaning the […]
  • The Decline of the Church of England
    The decline of the Church of England has been well publicised for many years. Because of the connections between church and state the future survival of the church is of interest to many agencies, both Christian and otherwise. Any new attendance figures are likely to make mainstream news, with discussion of the church’s future prospects.  […]
  • Update on the Welsh Outpouring 2013
    It is now  5 months since the phenomenon that has become known as the Welsh Outpouring started in Victory Church Cwmbran, Wales. Although I, and others, have referred to this as the “Cwmbran Outpouring”, Welsh Outpouring is a better description as this has always been about what God intends to do in Wales, not just […]
  • Liberal and Conservative Churches Part 1
    Recently I came across two comments about liberalism within the Christian church that struck me: Liberal theology cannot sustain a local congregation. It kills churches. In fact, it only survives due to tenured academics. Rick Warren [1] Congregationally speaking, Protestant liberalism is deader than Henry VIII. While survey after survey shows a secularizing American population, […]
  • The Singing that Ended the Dance
    Modelling the growth of the church in times of revival is fraught with difficulties as the work of the Holy Spirit is so unpredictable: “The wind blows where it wishes”, John 3:8. Social modelling of the sort I do in church growth depends on the reaction of people being predictable when large enough numbers are […]
  • A Bad Night for Foxes: A Meeting at the Cwmbran Outpouring
    The Cwmbran Outpouring, aka Wales Outpouring, has been running five nights a week since April 10th 2013, at Victory Church which meets in a converted warehouse in Cwmbran [1]. I have written a number of blogs on this outpouring from the perspective of church growth and revival. This time I want to describe one of […]
  • Are We in Revival? – Wales 2013
    Ever since the Cwmbran Outpouring [1] started people have been speculating whether this is revival; whether this is “it”, the one we have been waiting for. It has prompted much discussion as to what revival really is, and it is clear people have different understandings of the word. Only yesterday Melanie Fields preaching at Victory […]
  • The Spread of Humanism
    This week the Girl Guide movement in the UK decided to drop the reference to God from their promise [1]; it is now sufficient for a Guide to promise to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs”. The change was welcomed as a “progressive step” by the British Humanist Association, who have been long […]
  • When the Presence of God Persists …
    Models and Reality People sometimes ask me how I can model church growth, using mathematics, given that it is God who grows the church. I can answer that in two ways. Firstly we construct mathematical models of many things in the world, e.g. in  physics or economics. All are open to a quantitative understanding, nevertheless […]
  • A Second Visit to the Cwmbran Outpouring
    It is now over a month since Victory Church in Cwmbran opened their doors five nights a week to share with other people the work that God has been doing in their church. After my first visit I asked two questions: 1) Does this outpouring fit the limited enthusiasm model of church growth? 2) Is […]
  • Contagion in Cwmbran: A New “Welsh Outpouring”?
    It would be a brave person to make the claim that there is a new Welsh Revival. Wales is known as the Land of Revivals, with at least 15 revivals between 1762 and 1862 [1], plus the beginnings of Methodism in 1735 and of course the famous one of 1904-5. The largest revival was that […]
  • “Church Growth in Britain” – A Review
    Book’s Purpose I have just finished reading a book called Church Growth in Britain[1], which may seem a strange title given the church in the UK has been in persistent decline since the 1950s, both in membership and attendance. The trouble with the national church figures is they aggregate a wide variety of churches with […]
  • Census 2011 – Initial thoughts on Religious Adherence.
    Today the figures for religious identity were released for the 2011 census in England and Wales. The headline figure is that the percentage of people identifying themselves as Christian has dropped from 72% in 2001 to 59% in 2011. As many are saying, the country is becoming less Christian. “Countries” to be precise, there are […]
  • Women Bishops and Church Growth
    Today was the day the Church of England narrowly turned down a proposal that would allow women to become bishops. Clearly this made headline news in the UK, especially as it had been widely anticipated that it would be passed. One may wonder what having women bishops has to do with church growth and why […]
  • Dealing with Church Decline
    Church growth is not just an academic study for me; it is personal. Not only am I fascinated by the growth and decline of churches; I am part of it. I belong to a church and engage in its mission, thus its success is something I am working towards, not just researching. My church happens […]
  • Enthusiasm and the Presence of God
    I love enthusiasm! It may be a crowd enthusiastic for their sports team, an academic passionate for their subject, or a child in raptures over their latest toy. It is a joy to watch, because the enthusiasts are so happy and their enthusiasm is infectious. However the best enthusiasm is the one that is for […]
  • The Strength of the Christian Church in the USA
    It is often remarked by sociologists of religion that the Christian church is much stronger in the USA than in the UK. This is reflected in the figures where in many places in the UK the church has less than 10% of the community in attendance. Compare the USA where it can be up to […]
  • Community & Relationships in Church Growth
    I recently had an email from someone who wondered if the limited enthusiasm model of church growth implied that the church should give more attention to building relationships within the community, and that the church should also become a stronger community itself. These comments really made me stop and think as it raised issues I […]
  • A Word I Never Use
    In life all people have words they never use, usually things like swear words which are deemed culturally offensive. However in church circles different types of churches have words they never use, or hardly ever. For example some churches never use the word “convert”, either as a noun or a verb. I guess the word […]
  • Types of Church
    For some months I have been helping to facilitate a church growth modelling workshop in Cardiff. The Church Growth Cafe has been set up though CICC, the Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and aims to produce a church growth model or models that will help inform growth strategies for churches in Wales. The real eye-opener […]
  • Church Planting
    Last Saturday I was at the Cardiff Men’s Convention, a day for Christian men. Great day, excellent talks, good worship etc. There were also some interesting round table sessions, where we got to speak with people running churches and missions. The one that intrigued me was the radical church planters. One of those threw out […]
  • Mexican Wave
    There is nothing like a conference to inspire your thinking and I have just come back from a great one in London, the annual gathering of the UK System Dynamics society. System Dynamics is the main methodology I use in my church growth models as it attempts to understand how change happens by looking at […]
  • Revival with a Smile
    There have been numerous candidates for the phenomena of revival in the last hundred years or so; the 1904 Welsh revival and the 1949 Hebridean revival are accepted by most Christians as the genuine article. More recently there has been the Toronto Blessing, Pensacola, and charismatic renewal itself, all of which have caused controversy. But […]
  • Mathematics and History
    July is the conference season for mathematicians. I have done many in my career but a history conference is a first!. Spent two days at the International Medieval Congress (IMC) in Leeds. Now what has this to do with church growth? Well medieval history is dominated by religion, in particular the Christian church. A group […]
  • Challenge to Change
    A week ago a colleague of mine organised a study day at our university on the state of the churches in Wales and what can be done. Wales has seen a steady decline in church attendance from half the population at the time of the 1904 revival down to – well estimates vary from 5-10% […]
  • Fresh Expressions – First Thoughts
    Church Growth is not all about maths for me. Yes it is my primary research project in university and it takes me to academic conferences. And it is a joy to use my trade of maths to bring some understanding to the way churches grow and decline. But church growth is practical: how can we […]
  • What is Church Growth?
    To kick off the blog of church growth modelling it makes sense to try to understand what “church growth” actually is. The church growth modelling project has run since 1995, but to understand the modelling we need to understand what is being modelled. To give the context, “church” means the Christian church. This is not […]