The recently increasing concerns over the growing number of Christians who no longer attend church is not as big a problem as most believe, a recent research study has claimed, as in many cases the act of stopping attending church does not translate to a loss of Christian faith.
"The majority of people who have abandoned church have not lost their faith," Dr. Steve Aisthorpe, a development worker with the Church of Scotland, stated during a church statistics conference held in Birmingham, as reported by Christian Today. "Those who are in church on a Sunday morning are the tip of the iceberg."
Aisthorpe's investigative research carried on for more than five years and involved 10,000 people. The findings, included in his book "The Invisible Church," indicated that about two-thirds of those who have stopped going to church still retain their faith.
"One thing that surprised me was the warmth that people generally expressed about the church. These were not people who were angry or negative about church," he shared.
The World Christian Encyclopedia lists more than 182 million churchless Christians. Aisthorpe's findings pose a challenge to the current assumption that church attendance is a reliable indicator of the Christian faith's health and scale. He did acknowledge that Christianity in Britain is in decline but not as much as previously assumed.
"The overall picture is less one of decline and more one of change," Aisthorpe assessed. "People are expressing their Christian faith in less institutional ways."
Aisthorpe also noted that his study shows that churches that are resistant to change and those dominated by a single group are more likely to decline. He identified five distinct phases church-leavers go through before they actually stop attending church.
He pointed out that protracted frustration, disappointment, and difficulties have led Christians to abandon the church. He accounts to the feeling of estrangement, one where the individual no longer feels relevant to the church as one of the underlying factors.
To address the problem, Aisthorpe suggested to celebrate diversity.