We have all read the headlines: Church attendance is shrinking and Christians are losing their faith. What those headlines often don't reveal is which churches are in decline and why.
Now, a recent study has shed some new light on the difference between the churches that have seen their membership drop and those that have seen incredible growth in recent years.
The short version: churches that preach a literal interpretation of God's word to an enthusiastic congregation continue to expand. On the other hand, the mainline protestant churches that have progressively diluted or reinterpreted God's word have suffered losses of membership.
Previous studies had downplayed the role of theology in declining church membership, but new research conducted with 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario, Canada disputes those findings.
The study included 29 interviews with clergy and 195 interviews with members of church congregations as well and both theology and active church participation stand out as the key factors of a church's status.
More specifically, those churches that interpret the Bible literally and maintain a focus on evangelism are thriving. The paper will be published in the upcoming issue of the academic journal Review of Religious Research.
David Haskell, the lead researcher, stated that "if we are talking solely about what believe system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches, the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner."
He went on to emphasize that the growing churches in the study "held more firmly to the traditional beliefs of Christianity and were more diligent in things like prayer and Bible reading." Age of the congregation was an ancillary growth factor as well as the less
traditional use of drums and other less-traditional musical instruments in worship services.
The most powerful factor, however, was the belief system. Haskell's research into social groups indicates, not surprisingly, that churches with a consistent, unified message and clear boundaries between outsiders are more attractive to people both in the church and outside.
* The statement "it is very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians" was affirmed by 50% of the members of declining churches and 100% of the members of growing churches
* The belief that "Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb" is held by 93% of clergy and 83% of members of growing churches but only 56% of clergy and 67% of members from declining churches.
* A belief in miracles and that God answers prayers is held by 100% of clergy and 90% of believers in growing churches while churches in decline only report that 80% of clergy and 44% of worshippers hold this belief.
* Daily Bible reading is practiced by 71% of the clergy in growing churches and 19% in declining churches
* Weekly Bible reading is practiced by 46% of the members of growing churches and 26% in declining churches
Clearly, conservative theology and values are winning hearts to Christ as their church attendance grows along with their faith.
Meanwhile, liberal mainline churches continue to decline, losing membership as they have drifted away from God's clear message of salvation.
While the Christianity fights for survival in the West, the light of Faith is rising in the Muslim world. In spite of all the terrorism, violence, threats, and evils of Islam, millions of Muslims are giving their lives over to Christ and it is becoming so huge the Muslim world cannot hide it any longer:
According to a Christian convert named Reza, in 1994 there were about 100,000 Christ followers in Iran. “Right now, there are 3 million,” he told CBN News.
Reza believes this is the handiwork of the Holy Spirit that is sweeping over the predominantly Muslim Middle East country of more than 79 million people.
CBN News recently met and talked with Reza and other Iranian believers outside of their country in central Turkey where they have been forced to flee to avoid persecution in their native land.
The Christian news outlet found them possessing an “infectious and joyous faith,” clapping their hands and cheering like fans at a World Cup match when someone gets baptised in their house church. These are the Iranians who show that their country has two sides—one showing hatred to America and the other showing love for Jesus Christ and, yes, to America and Israel as well.
Reza said many of his countrymen, just like him, have turned to Christ by way of dreams or visions.
“I had a dream. I had a dream long time back and every time that Jesus was with me,” he said. “And in all of my life, He was helping me and I didn’t know who was this Person. Suddenly Jesus Christ was over there and He said, ‘Come to Me.’ And I came to that side and He accepted me.”
Raizal, Reza’s sister, said she joined her brother in fleeing Iran because of the “really bad situation there.”
“I couldn’t pray [to] God with all my heart because all trouble was there. Even if I say ‘Jesus Christ,’ they may kill me,” she said.
But despite the risk of arrest, detention and even death, believers inside Iran still keep the faith, their fellow Christian countrymen in Turkey said. (source)
Make no mistake, this revolution taking place is not just in Iran - it is all over the Muslim world.
Almost ten years ago, Al-Jazeera did an interview with the famous Libyan sheikh and Muslim missionary Ahmad Al-Qata’ni, and he said that in spite of the pious and bold words spoken by Muslims, Islam was facing grave threat and was in decline in Africa. Thanks to the work of Christian missionaries, he said that there was a possibility that Islam could actually disappear from many parts of Africa in a matter of decades:
In Africa, the conversions are so numerous that entire villages are apostatizing.
In Iran, as this article discusses, there are massive numbers of “underground” believers.
In Lebanon, going on the word of a phalangist colleague who has worked extensively with Muslims, the Catholic masses are full each week, but the clear majority are Muslims, who go because they believe in Christ and are actively seeking the way out of Islam.
Even in nations like Turkey, which are very anti-Christian, a missionary colleague of mine reports that there are many Muslims who have a secret interest in Christianity, but who are deathly scared of their neighbors around them, and so speak to him in secret about it.
This must be remembered in Europe, in the light of the manufactured “immigration” crisis. While there are many, many evil people, there are also Muslims who are becoming Christians there. Reports suggest that many of the European churches are finally filling up, and not with Muslims, but with former Muslims turned Christians.
For all of the hatred which Islam has for Christianity, the battle is not against men but, for the souls of men, including our gravest enemies. It is why sacred scripture so clearly states to love your enemies and pray for them so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven, not to generate hatred against men to achieve secular pagan political aims for the purpose of money and power.