NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: church growth.
We’ve all seen the headlines: Church attendance is at an all-time low. Millennials are abandoning their parents’ faith. The church is dying. All those doom-and-gloom reports tell a dire story about declining Christianity. But are they true?
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Glenn Stanton is doubtful. He studies family formation and church trends for Focus on the Family. He says all that bad news about the church is mostly fake news. Some congregations may be in decline, but others are expanding. Context here is key.
On this week’s Listening In, host Warren Smith talks to Glenn Stanton about what’s driving church growth—and decline. Let’s listen to a bit of their conversation.
WARREN SMITH: And you look at, say for example, the mainline churches, there’s been a collapse. I mean, nothing short of a complete collapse in churches like the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church. And but you’re saying that’s all true. But that’s not nearly the entire story.
GLENN STANTON: It’s not the entire story. Exactly. So, first of all, I mean, is the church shrinking? I, you know, and we as Christians aren’t used to talking like this. We’re definitive. But is the church shrinking? Yes and no. You know? Well, how can it be both? Well, it depends on what part of the church you’re talking about. The mainline denominations have been absolutely hemorrhaging members since like the 1960s, all up to the current day.
I mean, it is phenomenal. People are leaving those churches in droves as if the pastors are sending everybody a, “please get out of here invitation.” And you know what? They’re doing that by compromising on the faith, denying the deity of Christ, the reality of the resurrection. I mean, every time these mainline churches make a more liberalizing move, people leave those churches. Now what about the evangelical churches? What about the non-denominational churches? Those churches have been holding tremendously steady since the 60s, 70s. And in fact, they’ve even grown just a little bit. There’s a little bit of Harvard research that came out just recently, and it says that evangelicals are not in decline. That’s a quote. They say that evangelicals have grown from 18 percent of the population in 1972 to about 28 percent of the population, um, just recently. So there has been growth in that way. So here’s the story.
The bottom line is churches that are compromising on the truth, declining. And declining in big numbers, by the millions. Churches that are holding steady to the gospel, calling people to real discipleship, believing, taking the Bible at its word and Christ at His word. Those churches are thriving. And people are looking for, um, what I call whole milk Christianity. They’re not looking for Skim Milk Christianity, and people are moving in the direction of those churches.