Thursday, December 11, 2014

Why Liberal Institutions Don't Grow

A fascinating piece by Connor Wood (HT: Joel Watts), arguing that the reason why liberal churches don't grow is because they are not strict. The thesis is that groups with strict standards--whatever they are--attract followers with a greater commitment and ultimately last longer.

It actually doesn't even matter whether those standards make sense or not to outsiders. The standard could be, "We are the people who don't use telephones" (Amish). It could be, "We are the people who don't drink alcohol" or "Our women don't wear anything but dresses" or "We are the people who live on a compound and have multiple wives."

Wood's fascinating suggestion is that liberal churches need to be strict about their open-minded, tolerant theology. Then they would attract followers who were more committed and stayed around longer.

I've actually thought about something along these lines before. I don't think I would necessarily have called it "strictness." It's more fervor for a cause. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that most men thirst to be fighting something. It can be fighting for a cause or fighting against an enemy, but you're going to get more men involved if you're smacking something.

Liberal seminaries are dying in part for the same reason, I think. They don't smack anything. They're boring. See what I did there. I'm making Wesley Seminary attractive by smacking other seminaries. :-)

So I can see Wood's point. If there were a liberal church that could convince people that they are the church that smacks fundamentalists, it might grow...

... or not. :-)


Anonymous said...

If you don't think liberals do enough "smacking" then you must not spend much time on your buddy McGrath's blog!

I don't think it has much to do with a desire to fight; rather, I think it has to do with the fact that liberal Christianty hasn't done a good job explaining exactly what they offer aside from a willingness to embrace evolution and the zeitgeist. I know what Paul's missionary journeys looked like, but I can't even imagine the content of a "progressive" Christian's missionary journey, or how that message would inspire converts. I guess it's a good thing that Christianity was Pauline in the beginning.


Ken Schenck said...

Of course McGrath's blog has fifty times the hits mine does, and mine only spikes in hits when I'm leaning toward a smack down. :-)

Is CNN the least watched of the three big cable news franchises (least smack-downish). FOX I'm pretty sure is the most watched (and voted most likely to smack).

Anonymous said...

Point taken, though McGrath's blog attracts at least as many atheists and agnostics as it does Christians, so that must be kept in mind as well, don't you think?

I'd still like to know what a "progressive Christian's" missionary journey looks like. How does one deliver a stirring sermon when one has to stop every other sentence and say things like "Well, Moses probably didn't actually exist, but... or "Of course, this is just a myth, but..." or "We must remember that Jesus never actually said 'before Abraham was, EGO EIMI', but those words were placed on his lips by who knows who for disputed reasons, but, hey, let's be inspired by it anyway! Some unknown person would have liked Jesus to have said it, so we can believe that while not his actual words, they are nevertheless true." Etc, etc, etc. :-)