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.