The Mantra “Conservative Theology Grows Churches” Doesn’t Work Anymore

The Mantra “Conservative Theology Grows Churches” Doesn’t Work Anymore August 11, 2016


It’s no secret that young people tend to be more progressive in morality and politics than older people. Robert Putnam’s book American Grace will give you all the statistics you need on that difference. But the generational shifts (certainly in white, American Protestantism) away from conservative institutional manifestations of religion and toward progressive morality–and away from strong allegiances toward institutional Christianity altogether (i.e. the “rise of the nones”) is getting harder and harder to ignore.

The cat’s out of the bag, and it’s not going back in anytime soon.

As I look around in my own context (Twin Cities, MN), it’s still true that the largest and most growing churches are still the more theologically conservative, evangelical ones. And no one is looking to mainline Protestant churches for church-growth inspiration or techniques.

So comparing “numbers” as evidence of theological or spiritual health just isn’t going to work anymore. And that’s good, because that should have never been the indicator in the first place.


Image One: By Brian A. Petersen (Flickr: hands raised: church worship background) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image Two: By Kevin King – Flickr: Shiloh Roadtrip 2010, Assembly of God Churh, Elvis’s home, Tupelo, CC BY 2.0,




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