Mainline Decline, Part 4

From Dave Shiflett, Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity (New York: Sentinel, 2005):

"As the mainline has moved closer to flatlining, churches that have maintained allegiance to traditional Christian belief, comparatively speaking, have experienced membership increases." (p. xiii).

Shiflett cites a New York Times summary of the pertinent data, which noted that "socially conservative churches that demand high commitment from their members" are growing faster than any other religious denominations in America.  One observer indicated that he was "astounded to see that by and large the growing churches are those that we ordinarily call conservative. And when I looked at those that were declining, most were moderate or liberal churches. And the more liberal the denomination, by most people's definition, the more they were losing."

In his landmark book Why Conservative Churches are Growing (1986), Dean M. Kelley describes this phenomenon in provocative terms.  The successful churches, he says, "are not 'reasonable,' they are not 'tolerant,' they are not ecumenical, they are not 'relevant'. Quite the contrary."


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