The Hot ‘New’ Church Growth Method

Owen Strachan | January 12, 2017

A new study just unearthed a remarkable finding: conservative doctrine grows churches.

This isn’t necessarily what we’ve heard in recent years. Whether it’s the music, the attractive facility, or the feeling of community, we need something to keep the church growing—something besides biblical teaching. How surprising, then, that David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne have found that doctrine grows churches. In their peer-reviewed scholarly article for the Review of Religious Research, a prestigious journal, the trio present findings among mainstream Canadian churches showing that—contra the stereotypes—doctrinally conservative churches that reach out aggressively often grow. Churches that soften biblical teachings and de-emphasize evangelism often shrink.

What might these findings mean for the future of evangelicalism? Here are four quick takeaways.

1. This reverses conventional wisdom regarding pulpit theology.

As Haskell put it in a Washington Post op-ed, we had been told that liberal doctrine was needed to draw people, but the data show the reverse is true. It turns out people actually want to be called to believe in something, belong to somewhere, commit to Someone. Not everyone is drawn to conservative biblical doctrine, of course. But many are. What an encouragement this is to Bible-loving, gospel-preaching pastors…

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