New Telegraph

Church membership dwindling across UK, America

The announcement by a Methodist Church in the United Kingdom that it is shutting down after 129 years of existence due to dwindling membership shook the Christendom last weekend.

The church located in Eastrington, Yorkshire said in a public notice it no longer has “enough members to fulfill the required church posts and not enough finances” to sustain its activities.

The notice reads, “It is with great sadness that we have to announce that our Methodist Church in Eastrington is closing after 129 years of worship.


“Unfortunately we no longer have enough members to fullfil the required church posts and not enough finances to maintain our elderly chapel. Everyone is invited to our closing service on Sunday 25, Sept 2022 at 2.30pm, followed by a tea.

“While it is a sad occasion, we are determined to celebrate and give thanks for 129 years of worship and service. Will you come and help us to have a good ‘send off?’ We’d love to see you as we know so many people within the village and wider areas have fond memories of involvement with the Methodist Chapel.”

Since then, the development has generated discussion about why some churches in developed countries are losing membership, as against what obtains in the developing countries. Some have attributed this to the huge difference in the needs of the two worlds, as against the motive for the faith in the first place.


Background of Methodist Church

A former Deacon in the Anglican Church, John Wesley, chartered the first Methodist Church in the United States on February 28, 1784. Wesley saw the need to provide church structure for his followers after the Anglican Church abandoned its American believers during the American Revolution.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church grew rapidly, numbering 450,000 members by the end of the 19th century, and became the largest in the expanding industrial areas, where the Methodist faith helped workers – both men and women-to endure economic hardship while alleviating hardship, such that Methodism became a middle-class church that was not immune to the excessive stress on the individual in material and spiritual matters that marked the Victorian age.

In time, the church had over 40 million members in 138 countries around the world. Along with like-minded people, he began a serious study of the Bible, regularly visiting Oxford prisons. The members of this group, which Wesley came to lead, were known as Methodists because of their “methodical” devotion and study.

Their study of the Bible enabled them to question what was described as double predestination, which Wesley regarded this as an erroneous doctrine and insisted that the love of God was universal.


Giving insight into the dwindling of church attendance in many orthodox churches, a minister with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ikechukwu Donald, attributed it to departure of the churches from answering basic Bible questions about the existence of man, purpose and future.

“Many churches have failed to answer such questions are ‘Why are we here? Who created us? What is the purpose of life? What is the condition of the dead? How did Jesus’s death and resurrection provide hope for salvation? What is heaven, hell, lake of fire and how can one live a happy and fulfilled life? What is the difference between Church and State?’

“This knowledge gap has left church goers or so-called Christians, empty, confused and despondent, such that they need serious and systematic Bible study to rekindle their faith and return them to the pathway of life. So one is not surprised that people are leaving one church for the other, because they are searching for God, purpose and meaningful life,” he said.

Bishop Stephen Adegbite of the Methodist Church Nigeria and the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Lagos State Chapter, in a chat with Sunday Telegraph blamed the declining rate of churches in western world on compromise, conformity with ungodly standards, lackadaisical attitude and contextualization.

Adegbite, said it was quite unfortunate that these days you find a church where a female bishop has as husband a fellow female, likewise a male bishop having as wife a fellow male.

He stated: ‘‘In the UK even in the Methodist Church and The Church of England (Anglican Communion), have both accepted same-sex marriage. If you are a minister and you do not join people of same gender in marriage you will be charged to court and you will risk seven years imprisonment. If you cannot do it you have to leave the church. This practice which is not a standard approved by God is why a lot of people are leaving the church. It is quite unfortunate.

‘‘Even for us in Africa, most of the established churches have severed relationships with these churches. You will know that they brought Christianity to Nigeria.

Incidentally, it is going to be 180 years next week that Christianity came into Nigeria through Badagry by Thomas Birch Freeman, a Methodist missionary from UK. We are marking the 180th anniversary of the birth of Christianity in Nigeria. Anglican Communion came after three months and the two churches observed a Holy Communion service together on December 24, 1842.

‘‘What we now see is that lackadaisical attitude, lukewarmness and unnecessary doctrines have crept into the church in the UK and America. Anytime we go to the United Kingdom (UK), it is only old people you will find in the church and they will not be more than 10 or 20. After the service they change the venue to a restaurant that is what they do now. They are turning the churches to supermarkets whereas we are turning supermarkets to churches in Africa.’’

He also maintained that it was an error for people to think they have to shun church attendance to earn a living or that they have it all and do not need God. Likewise, he urged parents and wards to be convinced of their Christian faith in order to pass it on to their generations who will continue walking in the path of righteousness. To this end he underlined that salvation and making it to heaven remain the ultimate.

Bishop Cyriacus Uwanaka, General Overseer Pentecostal Restoration Church, said church closures and dwindling membership are not peculiar to UK, America and other parts of the Western world. He stressed that placing other things above the worship of the true God was a step in the wrong direction.

“I don’t know how to mention name of some big Churches that closed in Nigeria; thank God some have restarted though may never get to their former levels.

‘‘There was a big Church near Orile Iganmu in Lagos, pastored by a very popular man of God. It had branches all over the world, was given a large property at the founders community. It closed down with all their branches all over the world. The founder was even barred from entering some nations where he had branches, not by the governments but by their former members who vowed to deal with him if he dare enter those nations. The Church has restarted at Orile their headquarters but may not get anywhere near what it was.

‘‘There was another popular church with a very popular miracles-working General Overseer at Lekki which made heavy waves in the 90s. It has closed down. It is now trying to open some branches but may never get to their former levels though only God knows. Churches are closing down in Nigeria almost every day and many are planted also daily in Nigeria and Africa.

‘‘People no longer take routine jobs and regimented family life seriously. Also, fast development of cities and technology driven economies have reduced people’s belief that God alone can help them or solve their problems. They believe they can work harder, earn more money and take care of what they believe God will do.’’

According to Uwanaka online membership or online church attendance for whatever reason including busy schedule, working to meet up with bills, wealth pursuit and other reasons negate God’s injunction that says ‘‘Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is…’’

The Bible scholar who noted that times have changed added, “So as the elderly people who were used to routine 8 a.m to 5 p.m jobs and believed in government pension after retirement go home, the young ones who are technologically driven believe in making quick money and are so busy to go to church to sit and listen to any message.

‘‘…The third reason could be the type of messages which remained on what was being preached to the people of routine jobs and lives to the people of increased knowledge and technology. Time changes, though the Bible has not and God has not. Presentation of the Church messages must have the consciousness of the times and seasons or dispensations. This is not to say it must condone sin but must understand times and seasons and prepare messages that should accommodate the changes as they unfold.”

He also referenced global increase in occultism, asserting that many occultic organizations are springing up with church form of meetings as ‘‘many young people in Europe belong to such places which pretend to be Christian Churches but doing the work of Satan. Many inquisitive young people are attracted to such places and they are increasingly giving in both messages and directions what those young people were not getting from the Church of God. So Satan is manipulating great number of people away from the Churches all over the world and taking them to science and technology.’‘

Africa on a mission to evangelise UK, America

Adegbite introduced a new dimension to the issue, stating that Africans, particularly Nigerians, are on the course of taking the gospel back to the Western world, said “I say to people that when you look at the map of Africa, it is like a pistol, where Nigeria is located is like where the trigger is. So we are going back to evangelise the world.

“But I say to you that I just came back from Germany a few days ago, people are still going to church in Germany. They are still worshipping God in Germany. Where I worshipped in a local area, over 300 people came to worship in an ecumenical service. They knew we were around, so they organised an ecumenical service and we were part of the service.

“You know Germany is a Christian country whether you go to church or not your tithe is deducted from your salary. But in the UK now what they worship is football. On Sunday morning everybody has gotten a ticket to go and watch Arsenal and Man U.

In America their own is basketball. It is quite unfortunate but that is the situation. What the churches in America and Britain are living on now is the inheritance left by their forefathers.


They have lots of investments that is why ministers are getting their salaries, otherwise members coming to their churches can never pay their salaries. “For us here we are getting closer to God and going back to evangelise them and win souls for God. That is why the black churches are growing more as most of the whites do not go to church…

The failure of the parents is that they themselves are not convinced of the religion passed to them by their own parents. It is what you have that you will give. You will see that many things are happening in their communities, you will feel sorry for them.


“I was in Baltimore and was listening to their local news, and the person that received us said before 4 p.m. four people would have been gunned down. But from 1p.m. to 4p.m later the local news reported five fatalities…

Anyone that believes in God will know God is the only one that blesses, protects and guides and that is the only hope to the numerous problems that we are facing in life.”

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