If you preach it, they will come.
Stop accepting the Bible as true and admit Christianity has gotten it terribly wrong on homosexuality. This is the advice Rev. Oliver Thomas gives in a recent opinion article in USA Today for how the church can stop “hemorrhaging members” and see brighter days.
He warns that “the church is killing itself” because it has painted itself into a corner by actually believing what the Bible says. He contends that Christians should just admit that the Bible gets it wrong on so many important issues and that “reason and experience” should be our new guide, as if this is a new idea. He says the church is terribly wrong about sexuality, particularly homosexuality, and would do very well to wise up, lest it find itself reduced to a warehouse for cobwebs.
“Churches will continue hemorrhaging members and money at an alarming rate until we muster the courage to face the truth: We got it wrong on gays and lesbians,” he says.
We don’t have to wonder whether Thomas is correct. Not only is he wrong, but an impressive body of very strong data and experience demonstrates the precise opposite of what he claims is true.
Yes, many churches are hemorrhaging members, and have been since the early 1970s. But anyone who studies these things carefully will tell you this is happening almost exclusively in the more politically and theologically liberal mainline churches. These are the same churches that are doing exactly what Thomas calls for: rejecting the credibility and authority of Scripture.
This same research shows the churches he says must change or else are holding rock-solid steady in attendance. These are the more conservative congregations that unapologetically take the Bible at its word, including on homosexuality. His advice here is not just ill-advised, but the equivalent of telling any retailer that the way to growth is to stop being helpful to your customers and jack up your prices. Let’s see how true this is.
Research done jointly at Harvard and Indiana universities makes this clear, reporting that the number of adults attending liberalizing mainline churches has tanked precipitously from 35 percent of the American population in 1972 to 12 percent in 2016. This decline of the mainline churches began in the early 1960s when they started to question and officially change their positions on historic Christian basics like the deity of Christ, the existence of miracles, the reality of sin, and the atoning death of Jesus and His resurrection, as well as jettisoning biblical convictions about sex, gender, and abortion. People started running for the doors of these churches with every new compromise, and this exodus continues en masse today. It could hardly be worse if these pastors asked their parishioners to leave and never come back.
The Harvard/Indiana University research also shows that the churches that take the Bible as the reliable word of God are doing very well. Compromising on biblical truths was, and is, a devastating church-growth strategy. Holding fast to these truths and preaching them boldly is a very effective one. Let’s look at some real numbers from the folks at the Pew Research Center showing the same thing.
Pew’s “America’s Changing Landscape” explains that, between 2007 and 2014, mainline Protestant churches declined by 5 million adult members. This is hemorrhaging by any sober accounting. Churches in Pew’s “evangelical” category grew in absolute numbers by about 2 million between 2007 and 2014. Again, the exact opposite of what Thomas prescribes.
Since we all know liberalism poisons and ultimately destroys absolutely everything it is allowed to touch or influence, that’s no surprise—especially when we’re talking about an institution they hate as vehemently as they do Christianity. But here’s where things get interesting:
When same-sex-attracted Christians go to church, they are not choosing the pews of churches Thomas is calling us to become. Again, it’s just the opposite. Research conducted jointly at Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles by scholars who are not shy about supporting gay politics found that gay- and lesbian-identified people are 2.5 times more likely to attend churches that took a more conservative view on Christianity (including homosexuality) than the so-called “welcoming and affirming” congregations that celebrate it.
The authors of this study were paternalistically perplexed about why same-sex-attracted people would choose churches that they assumptively described as having a “hostile social environment to LGB individuals,” as if such people don’t know what’s good for them. Well, maybe same-sex-attracted individuals find such churches are indeed not hostile or hateful.
The assumption of bigotry and intolerance on the part of most if not all Christians is a core tenet of liberalism, irreducible and non-negotiable, which is pretty ironic in light of their present-day alliance of convenience with murderous Islam. The old mantra “love the sinner, hate the sin” was much more than just a slogan for the congregation of the small town church I grew up in, and I’m sure it’s probably the same in most others. It was an obligation for those sheltered folks, a standard to be lived up to. They might have been put off by homosexual behavior; they surely considered it immoral, a willful flouting of Biblical strictures against self-indulgence and morbid sins of the flesh. But the bottom-line truth is, in almost twenty years of every-Sunday-without-fail attendance and participation there, I can’t recall much in the way of either discussion of or interest in the whole issue. I damned sure never heard any “hatred” expressed over it.
Ironically, those rainbow flags you see flying outside some churches proudly announcing “We welcome all!” are not appealing to the very people they are intended to attract. It’s the churches that so many on the left mistakenly and irresponsibly accuse of “hating the gays” that are actually where many gay people find what they’re really looking for.
People seeking Christ are not looking for a scripture-denying church. They want the real thing, not in spite of it making real demands upon them and teaching the scriptures as they are, but very likely because of it.
Kinda surprising, that. A heck of a lot more thought-provoking stats and analysis to be found in the rest of the article, arriving here:
It’s finally time to stick a fork in the liberalizing project within Christianity that has been hard at work over the last 60 years or so. Hard numbers judge it a massive failure on every measure year after year.
If you know the Left and its established MO of infiltrating, corrupting, and perverting institutions until they’re brought fully into line with Leftist ideology, it’s pretty hard not to conclude that the “failure” was actually the real objective all along. Remember the unassailable truth of O’Sullivan’s Law: any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. You won’t find a better example of it than what’s been done to Christianity; its enfeeblement was accomplished in an incredibly short span of time relative to the fifteen hundred years in which it had flourished. The onset of the Church’s descent into fossilized irrelevance closely coincides with the Left’s ascension to dominance, which can reasonably be viewed as something more than mere happenstance.