Where Americas Churches Are Growing

By Buford, Bob | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, July 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Where Americas Churches Are Growing


Buford, Bob, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


All Scripture is breathed out by God, we are told in Timothy 3:16, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction ...

I doubt the same can be said of newspaper columns, but I nonetheless wanted to set the record straight after reading Ross Douthats piece on American churches in last Sundays New York Times. Douthat proclaimed that since the 1960s, conservative Christianity has often been compromised and liberal Christianity has simply collapsed.

Douthat is rightly concerned about the continued theological and numerical decline of mainline churches. But like many commentators, Douthat misses the story of hope running through the resurgent parts of American Christianity. Indeed, we are witnessing a reshaping of the national religious landscape a move away from mainline dominance toward evangelical, independent and charismatic/ Pentecostal churches, the group that my colleagues and I have the privilege to serve in our ministry at Leadership Network.

While the media has focused on the spectacular retirements and flameouts of a few prominent pastors, what hasnt been closely examined in the mainstream press, anyway is the dramatic rise of megachurches across the country. Consider, for instance, Matt Chandler, who a decade ago arrived as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Highland Village near Flower Mound, Texas. His congregation has grown from about 160 people to more than 8,000 a decade later.

Chandler, whose church has since been rechristened The Village, is no anomaly. In 2002, there were about 800 churches across the United States boasting average weekly attendance of more than 2,000. Today, more than 1,600 congregations have average attendance of around 3,500 per weekend, according to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research. And although critics often assume these churches are of shallow faith, participants report a higher degree of spiritual growth and devotion to classical religious disciplines than those attending smaller churches.

In evangelical Christianity, innovation abounds. For example, Chandlers church now operates at three different sites, having assumed the properties of churches in Denton and Dallas. Many megachurches have followed this pattern over the past decade, as theyve successfully expanded their ministries to new communities. (Several mainline churches are now trying the same technique.)

At the same time, Chandlers church is helping new congregations spring to life, having assisted in the planting of two independent churches in its local area. …

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