Monday, April 25, 2011

Church Growth and Conservative Theology

This week our church had its largest Easter services ever—about 650 people worshipped at Bethany Community Church .

The growth of our church is exciting and a little overwhelming. It is overwhelming as we consider the enormous responsibility each of us has to care for those who are new to our flock. It is exciting to realize that one of the main reasons our church is growing is because of the thirst people have for our Lord Jesus Christ.

In an interesting blog by Al Mohler this week entitled, “Why Conservative Churches are Growing: David Brooks and the Limits of Sociology,” he discusses a recent article by Brooks in The New York Times. In the article, Brooks maintains that Americans “have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments.”

These are the hallmarks of more liberal theology. However, Brooks continues, “Vague, uplifting, nondoctrinal religiosity doesn’t actually last. The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False.”

As an example of the effectiveness of conservative churches, Brooks relates a personal anecdote: “I was once in an AIDS-ravaged village in southern Africa. The vague humanism of the outside do-gooders didn’t do much to get people to alter their risky behavior. The blunt theological talk of the church ladies — right and wrong, salvation and damnation — seemed to have a better effect.” In other words, the more conservative churches proclaim a message that is more effective in creating true heart change.

Sometimes when discussing church growth, people confuse means and ends. The assumption is that perhaps churches should be more conservative so that they will experience greater growth. But vibrant, biblical theology is not the means to the end of church growth. Rather, theology’s end is the glory of God.

My hope is that our church is growing not simply because we are conservative in our theology. My hope is that our church is growing because people are excited about their Lord Jesus Christ and are experiencing the joy of the Lord as we worship Him corporately for His glory!

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