Research

Southern Baptists vs United Methodists

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Mark Tooley challenges the conventional wisdom that evangelicalism should become more progressive to prevent its decline.

The popular conventional narrative asserts that young people in droves are quitting evangelical Christianity because it’s too socially and politically conservative. Of course, the implication is that if only Evangelicalism would liberalize, especially on sexuality, then it might become more appealing.

But all the available evidence as to what happens to liberalizing churches strongly indicates the opposite. Mainline Protestantism is in many ways what critics of Evangelicalism wish it would become. And yet the Mainline, comprised primarily of the “Seven Sister” historic denominations, has been in continuous free-fall since the early to mid-1960s. Its implosion accelerated after most of these denominations specifically liberalized their sexuality teachings over the last 20 years.

  • Episcopal Church peaked in 1966 at 3.4 million, now 1.7 million (50% loss).

  • Presbyterian Church (USA) peaked 1965 at 4.4 million, now 1.4 million (68% loss).

  • United Church of Christ peaked 1965 at 2.1 million, now 850,000 (60% loss)

  • ELCA (Lutheran) peaked 1968 at 5.9 million, now 3.5 million (41% loss)

  • Christian Church (Disciples) peaked 1964 at 1.9 million, now 400,000 (80% loss).

  • United Methodists peaked 1965 at 11 million, now 6.9 million (40% loss).

  • American Baptist peaked 1.5 million, now 1.2 million (25% loss).

What unites these denominations in decline? The undermining of Biblical authority. Tooley points out that the two Mainline denominations that have not officially liberalized on sexuality, United Methodism and American Baptists, have declined the least.

In contrast, All growing denominations in America are conservative, including the Assemblies of God, which in 1965 had 572,123 and now has 3.2 million (460% increase), the Church of God in Cleveland, which in 1964 had 220,405 and now has 1.2 million (445% increase), the Christian Missionary Alliance, which in 1965 had 64,586 and now has 440,000 (576% increase), and the Church of the Nazarene 1965, which in 343,380 and now has 626,811 (82% increase).

What about the Southern Baptists, America’s largest evangelical denomination? They have been in decline for the last 18 years from 16.4 million to 15 million. That’s a loss of 8% compared to the average Mainline loss of 50%. While SBC membership figures are down, its worship attendance was up by 120,000 in 2017.

Meanwhile the Southern Baptists have been planting churches with a 20% increase in the number of churches over the last twenty years. There’s been a strong focus on planting black and hispanic churches. Something the liberal/progressive Mainline denominations find impossible to do.

I’ll have more to say on this topic soon. Over January I’m working on my next book which is on the Lifecycle of Movements — how they rise and fall.

10 fruitful habits of multiplying movements

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Researcher, Jim Haney on the habits that result in fruitfulness in multiplying movements of disciples and churches.

  1. Ghanaian Proverb—“If there is anything between you and power, remove it.”  Fruitful practitioners deal with the things that prevent the Holy Spirit from empowering them. 

  2. Share the Gospel often, and invite people to receive Christ on the spot. 

  3. Gather those you share with into groups, whether they are believers or not.

  4. Plan for groups to become churches.

  5. Do not overly complicate witnessing, discipling, and forming new churches.  Jesus said, “Follow me; I will make you fishers of men.” 

  6. Train for what you want; follow up for what you expect. If you are a leader who sends people for training, guarantee that they have opportunity to use their training and report their results.  

  7. Speak so they understand.

  8. Scratch where they itch.

  9. Expect and plan for results.  If you abide, fruit will come.

  10. Live among those you want to reach.  How close?  As close as Jesus was to his disciples.

The flip side: Ten habits that stifle a movement.

Interview with Jim Haney.

Christian commitment around the world

There shouldn't be any surprises — around the world, the Christian faith is growing fastest where levels of commitment are highest and populations are growing fastest.

The UK, Europe, Austalia, and to a lesser extent, Canada, are in trouble. In the western world, the US is the exception.

read the full report . . .

How to make sure you never see a multiplying movement

Researcher Jim Haney identifies 10 things prevent multiplication of disciples and churches:

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  1. Living the myth that as a researcher, mobilizer, organizer, administrator, dynamic leader or resource provider, that you are exempt from making disciples of lost people.
     
  2. Spending too much time on things that do not make disciples of lost people.  (Family, organizing your video library, spending time on the computer, etc).
     
  3. Overemphasizing that you must gain cultural awareness before making disciples of lost people. Paul learned a lot about culture as he walked around Athens, but he never got very far until he quit debating and started sharing the Gospel.
     
  4. Sending missionaries to make disciples of lost people and planting churches who have not done this prior to appointment.
     
  5. That missionary teams that are stuck on seeing little fruit will see fruit one day if they remain on the field.  Leadership needs to diagnose where teams are stuck in their prayer life, witnessing, inviting to receive Christ, immediately gathering new believers into churches, empowering local leadership, using models that multiply and provide structure, accountability and presence to help teams get unstuck.
     
  6. Not knowing any lost people, witnessing to them or praying for them in the last 24 hours.
     
  7. Aiming too low.  I often see churches where its four old women, one old man (who is usually blind), and children.  Ask God for a man of peace who will believe and bring you to community leaders.  However, like Barnabas, we not only don't go after Saul, we are afraid of him even when we hear he has become a believer.
     
  8. A fuzzy vision of what you are on the field to do-engage, multiply churches, and see them join in the Great Commission.  
     
  9. That I have to know the worldview, language, and sell my father's cow before I can begin to witness to lost people.  (I already said this, but it bears repeating).
     
  10. Anything short of preparing your people group as if the King is coming.

170-Tracking Movements - Jim Haney

Testing the health of a multiplying movement

Don Dent and a team took a trip to Asia to test the health of a multiplying movement which has planted 20,000 churches in eight years.

Here's a summary of what they found.

  1. These churches multiply, i.e. churches plant churches that plant churches.
  2. Evangelism is normative among these churches and a large portion of the believers are actively sharing their faith.
  3. There is accountability to share the gospel.
  4. Almost all additions to local churches are through baptism following conversion from another religion. 
  5. New churches result primarily from evangelism and baptisms instead of planning, money raising, and grand openings. 
  6. I met several teenagers who have already started one or more churches. 
  7. Local church leadership is almost always chosen from within the group on the basis of who is faithful in sharing their faith and training the new believers in discipleship.
  8. Intensive mentoring is a primary means of raising up quality leaders. 
  9. These churches show deep commitment to mission partnership. One network of churches gives 30% of their offerings to mission work outside their local church. 
  10. Although gospel proclamation is the priority in ministry, the believers also pray for the sick and demonized.
  11. A commitment to on-the-job practical training is essential to growth. 
  12. Several networks that are approximately five years old have planted churches in several other countries. 
  13. A majority of the leadership is between the ages of 22-40.
  14. False teachers are trying to infiltrate the church, but leaders are equipped to counter them. 
  15. This growth is taking place in a climate of persecution, where it is illegal to become a Christian. Believers can be beaten, thrown out of the village, and jailed.

keep reading. . . 

169-Tracking Progress Downunder - Dave Milne

Dave Milne has been tracking progress towards multiplying movements in Australia. He talks to Steve Addison about the lessons.

For a copy of Dave's research when it's released, send me an email.