Faith

Study: Fastest-growing churches have modern worship, teach literal interpretation of Bible

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A Canadian study has found that Mainline Protestant churches that have both modern worship services and teach a literal interpretation of the Bible grow faster.

The Canadian researchers who authored the study, "Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy," surveyed 2,225 churchgoers in Ontario, Canada, and interviewed 29 clergy and 195 congregants. The study will be published in next month's issue of the Review of Religious Research.

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"This study was important because it quantified empirically something that evangelical renewalists have been saying for decades — theology matters," said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News Magazine, a United Methodist publication, in an interview with The Christian Post. 

Lambrecht, who served for 29 years as a United Methodist minister in Wisconsin, told CP that people who are interested in the things of God "want spiritual substance, not just a feel-good message or the opportunity to engage in community service." The Church, he said, has to to be distinct from and offer more than local civic associations and charities. 

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A solidly Orthodox Gospel that motivates churches to adapt their worship life and ministries to engage the next generation more effectively will be one where the message remains the same, but the means of delivery look different.

The study also showed that services at growing "churches featured contemporary worship with drums and guitars, while declining churches favoured traditional styles of worship with organ and choir." 

"The use of contemporary Christian worship music is an example of that adaptation," Lambrecht said. "It has been around for over 40 years, yet some churches still resist making that adaptation." He added, however, that he's seen examples of churches that have more traditional styles of worship that are also yielding growth.

Pastor John Daffern who leads a Southern Baptist congregation in Columbus, Mississippi, calls himself "an apologist for the modern church."

"I pastor a church that fits that mold," said Daffern, who leads MTV Church, in a recent interview with CP after he read some of the study's findings.

"We are theologically conservative, according to that study, and yet we are unashamedly modern and we are in a sustained period of growth in our church, and that is in direct contrast to many of the Mainline churches and even some evangelical churches.

"And I think the wisdom of that study is the two parts. There does need to be a modern sense of an expression of the faith while at the same time a conservative, Orthodox view of Christianity," he added.

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