Southern Baptists vs United Methodists

2016 Mark Tooley.jpg

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.

I love it when this happens

This just came in from Danny MacKay. I think he’s the one on the left:

Some friends and I were grabbing some breakfast and our waitress brought the food to us. I said to her, “Hey. We are gonna thank God for our food and say a prayer of thanks. Is there anything we can pray for you when we do that?” 

She looked each of us in the eye with so much resistance and annoyance. I could tell this was not a welcome offer. 

“If God could do a miracle in your life, what would it be?” I asked. 
“My daughter,” she said quietly and then walked away. 

So we prayed for her and her daughter without knowing anything about the situation. 

Three minutes later our waitress returned to our table with tears in her eyes. “Guys...I don’t know how to explain this. My daughter just texted me...

‘I love you Mom’. 

She told us that she never checks her phone at work, her daughter never texts her, and she definitely never says I love you. And then she struggled to keep herself together in the middle of that little restaurant on the side of the road as she stood by our table doing her best to stay composed. 

She was deeply moved. 

She hugged us all (twice) and said this was something she was not expecting. We shared with her for awhile about the love of God and how real He is and she told us she has some ladies in her life that for YEARS have been inviting her to a bible study. She promised us that now she is going to go 🙂

I love that God was pursuing her before we even met her. He is always working. Even in little diners off the beaten path on the side of the road. He knew her even though we didn’t. 

Wherever we go, the Kingdom of God comes near because we carry it within us. 

And it’s meant to be given away. 

Love people. Jump the fences of your fears and risk it. That’s where God is. And you’ll find Him at work with an extra spot just for you.

178-Becoming a Great Commission church

How does a local church take up the challenge of making disciples and planting churches? Steve Addison talks to David Bareham in Essex in the south of England.

David referred to:

Find out how you can get training.