Reverend Chi-wai Wu, the general director of the Hong Kong Church Renewal, expressed his "prudent optimism" towards Hong Kong churches while commenting on the results of the Hong Kong Church Research 2004.
The Hong Kong Church Research is organized by HKCR every five years. The research of the year 2004 was the fifth. And the results were released on Jan 21st.
According to Reverend Wu, the remarkable increase of church attendees shows that Hong Kong churches are developing towards "a healthy direction". In the past five years, the number of church attendees increased by 4.3% per year, and reached the ammount of 216,739, while the number of churches only increased slightly by 52, to the number of 1,181.
He commented that the increase of church attendees was due to the improvement of services. These years, the churches in Hong Kong paid great effort to ameliorate their services, such as organizing services to match different lifestyles and education backgrounds, increasing the services during weekdays, holding special workshop for services, and so on. Teenagers, surprisingly, showed the most remarkable increase in the past five years. The number of teenage services increased more than 100%, resulting in a more than 200% increase in the number of teenage attendees.
The improvement of teenage ministries, Rev.Wu said, would serve as an important motivation for church growth.
He also speculated that the change of mission strategy had brought great growth to churches. In recent years, the number of large evangelism gatherings kept reducing in Hong Kong, while 84.9% of churches turned to focus on the evangelism based on churches, built on close contacts and relationships. He suggested that this strategy might be fit for the social situation of Hong Kong -- which was going through economical downturn and social tension.
However, Rev. Wu advised church leaders not to give credit for this growth to a certain ministry, but to respect the contributions of every Hong Kong church.
Another thing he mentioned was that Hong Kong churches were putting "mission" in a more and more important place. 60.6% of churches have developed a mission department, while 28.9% have sent missionaries to other regions. Hong Kong churches were also more involved in social issues, which, he said, reflected their comprehension and action of the commission for the Gospel.
Reverend Wu, nonetheless, showed concern for two main reason. First, he said, there was a lack of Bible teaching. Second, Reverend Wu was concerne about the rapid minister replacement rate in Hong Kong churches.
The study showed that only 30.8% of believers took part in Sunday schools or Bible studies -- a reduction from the 32.8% of 1999. And more than 30% of the total number of ministers resigned from their positions in a course of more than two years.
"It might suggest that we have more 'religious consumers' in church today," he said, "but less devoted believers. We have to probe into these two aspects in the future."