The indefatigable Peter Brierley of Brierley Consultancy has just brought out, under his ADBC Publishers imprint, a 24-page synthesis of statistics relating to 21 issues which are likely to be of concern to Christians.
Entitled 21 Concerns for 21st Century Christians, it can be ordered (priced £2, inclusive of postage) from Dr Peter Brierley, The Old Post Office, 1 Thorpe Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent, TN10 4PW. Cheques should be made payable to Peter Brierley.
Each of the concerns is the subject of a single-page article. The sources of data are not given for each article but can often be inferred from the aggregate note about major sources which appears at the beginning of the pamphlet.
The statistics cited go back about twenty years and some are projected until 2020. Several articles deal with church attendance (numbers 1-4, 8, 12, 15), while updated versions of two Brierley ‘old favourites’ – estimates of the religious structure of the British population, meshing religious affiliation with religious practice (number 5) and of church leavers and joiners (number 13) – are naturally good debating points.
Other topics covered comprise the religious implications of immigration (number 6), the growth in other religions (numbers 7, 20), the decline in Christian publishing (number 14), evangelical donors (number 16), and the attributes of church leaders (number 21).
The pamphlet was included with the mailing of the current issue (No. 14, April 2011) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly magazine for subscribers of Brierley Consultancy. The newsletter likewise contains several features worth looking at.
The lead article is on ‘Church Growth and Spiritual Life’ by John Hayward and Leanne Howells of the University of Glamorgan. They use mathematics to model church growth, with special reference to the ‘reproduction potential’ of church ‘enthusiasts’.
They then apply their methods to Church of England data, showing how it has moved from ‘a reproduction potential below the threshold of extinction in 2000’ to a position where it is now ‘close to the revival threshold’. The decline in Anglican churchgoing, it is argued, ‘has slowed in such a way that suggests that its attendance will start increasing slowly again.’
Also in this issue of FutureFirst are preliminary findings from the ‘Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England’ project, a three-year study being conducted by the universities of Durham, Derby and Chester.
One fascinating finding is that, while 27% of students claim to be religious, 46% describe themselves as spiritual. Moreover, although roughly half the religious also thought they were spiritual, only a quarter of the spiritual regarded themselves as religious as well.