Canadian researchers conducted a study of mainline Protestant churches (Anglican, Presbyterian, Uniting, and Evangelical Lutheran [the liberal denomination, as opposed to the confessional Lutheran Church of Canada]), comparing traits in congregations that were growing and those that are not.
They found that congregations that were theologically conservative are growing, and those that were theologically liberal are not. (Go here for the complete study.)
After the jump, religion columnist Terry Mattingly reports on the findings, giving the breakdown on specific theological points that growing churches affirm and shrinking churches reject.
Notice that this study applies to mainline Protestant churches; that is, to denominations that are, on the whole, already on the liberal side, at least in their national leadership. I’m curious about conservative denominations, some of which (such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and even, as I recall, the Southern Baptists) are stalled in their growth, though they aren’t declining as much as their liberal counterparts.
Granted that growth is not the main measurement of a church’s effectiveness and that growth is contingent on many different factors, such as location and demographics, this at least shows that orthodox theology is NOT an obstacle to growth, as has sometimes been implied. [Read more…]