It’s a big question that many within the Christian community wrestle. Does your theology matter?
For many, the answer is a loud, “Yes!”
Recently, the Washington Post shared an article with a gloomy title for progressive Christians. In “Liberal churches are dying. But conservative churches are thriving“, the author shares the result of a Canadian study highlighting that churches with a more conservative theological perspective appear to be growing. The study of 22 churches seems to paint a dreary picture for the liberal/progressive church.
Within the UMC, my brothers and sisters with more conservative tendencies (especially those with ties to the Good News and Confessing movements) are sharing this study to defend and prove themselves right.
However, doing a little research myself, I found that 97% of my UMC clergy friends that shared the article in an effort to champion their particular theological ideology are serving churches experiencing slow, but steady decline.
So, maybe conservative theology isn’t the only characteristic that sets thriving churches apart?
Many of my UMC friends will remember the Towers-Watson study of 32,228 UM congregations. Most would agree that the Towers-Watson report found little to no relationship between theology and growth.
Others might argue that, rather than theology, opportunities for engagement and an outward focus would be key indicators of thriving churches. Conservative churches that don’t offer opportunities for people to get involved in meaningful service will most likely struggle to grow. At the same time, progressive churches that do offer opportunities for meaningful service might be thriving. Conservative churches that have an inward focus will most likely struggle to grow. At the same time, progressive churches that have an outward focus might be thriving. Again, maybe theology isn’t the best indicator of thriving congregations.
For me, maybe we should be less caught up in whether we are conservative, moderate, liberal, progressive or whatever label one desires to use. Maybe we should be more caught up in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the least and last among us.
The Washington Post article closes with the thought that churches that take seriously the call to “go and make disciples” are most likely to grow. That might be the valuable takeaway from that article.