empty_church

May 21, 2014

New Series: How Does Your Church Grow?

Four years ago, I stuffed the trunk of my car with everything I owned and headed for the bustling, competitive world of Washington D.C. As a timid, lonely intern, one of the first items on my “to-do” list was find comfort and community in a local church. Easy enough? Definitely not!

In a city filled with gorgeous, towering Christian steeples you might be surprised to learn (as I was) that these stunning sanctuaries are largely empty on Sunday mornings. But why? Many of these historic churches have rainbow banners hanging outside to show they welcome and affirm every lifestyle. Yet, a disconnect lies between their affirming narrative and bare pews. In fact, they are said to be dying.

Walk down the block away from the towering churches and enter a dimly lit theatre or rented space in an office building. There you will find (again, as did I) booming Gospel-centered churches who just welcome everyone. Secular and liberal Christian critics claim these churches don’t love enough because while they are welcoming, they are not affirming. Yet, their theatre seats and folding chairs are filled with, get this, Millennials.

In an effort to understand this gaping hole of cultural rationality, the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s (IRD) Evangelical Action program is setting out to uncover why the welcoming churches are growing and the affirming churches are not.

Now, you’ve probably read IRD’s data and research on this issue before. But sheer statistics, trends, and analysis are not the end goal for this series. I want to introduce you to the pastors of these booming church plants. Hear their stories, understand their teachings, and learn how they strike a balance between adapting to a youth culture and clinging to traditional Christian teaching.

Once a week, I will interview a different pastor from the Washington D.C. area and will post the interviews on Juicy Ecumenism. Tag along on this interview journey with me. Read for yourself why traditional conservative churches are growing and progressive liberal churches are…well, you be the judge.

 

P.S. — We want to hear from you! Leave any thoughts, comments and questions you might have for pastors trying to strike a balance between cultural adaptation and Christian teaching in the comment sections. This will help guide our discussions.

Gratefully,

Chelsen Vicari


 
  • Jeffrey Rickman

    I’m very excited to read about what you learn. It’s a topic I am very interested in. I have thought your contributions to be worth in the past, and know that I can trust your words to reflect a sober truth. May your series be blessed with much insight.

  • Mark J. Goluskin

    It would be great if when you are done with this to also seek those modernist Christian churches and have them explain why they CAN’T seem to grow.

    • Tiger

      I can answer that one: God isn’t there.

  • Greg Paley

    You are correct, author, lots of beautiful and historic churches proudly display the rainbow flag on their facades – and those churches are mostly empty on Sundays.

    Numbers are hard to argue with. The liberal churches embraced the sexual revolution, along with feminism and gay advocacy – and NO payoff in terms of numbers. When a church decides that its core mission is to boost the self-esteem of sexual minorities, the numbers drop – seems no one wants to be included in “inclusive” churches.

  • Garrett

    Looking forward to hearing what you learn. I’ve been encouraged to see God’s work in and through some of the historical churches that preach the Gospel and to see the solid brothers planting / revitalizing churches in the area.

    Blessings to you and yours,

    Garrett
    Del Ray Baptist Church
    Alexandria, Va

  • Andreas

    Sounds very interesting. I’ll check back and read your findings. Godspeed.

  • George M. Igawa Jr.

    I’m looking forward “hopefully” with your interview with biblicist/purist of the highest order, Dr. Mark Dever, Sr. Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He is a true theological herald of truth and doctrine. I’m blessed and edified by the 9Marks ministry and when he serves as a General Session Speaker at the Shepherds Conference in So. CA.

  • Chelsen

    Thanks all for your comments!

    I hope you’ve had a chance to read the two
    interviews published after this article. I apologize for skipping last
    week, but I was traveling.

    Tomorrow the next interview with DC Metro
    Church’s Pastor Jeremy Burroughs will be published. Thanks for your
    great responses and suggestions! – Chelsen