American and Canadian church attendance is waning. But according to one religion professor, the liberal leaning in mainline denominations has only exacerbated the problem.
After conducting a study of 22 churches in Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University professor David Haskell came to what he called a “counterintuitive discovery.” Some congregations were more likely to expand, and it wasn’t, as he had expected, the more permissive ones.
“Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline,” Haskell wrote of his findings in a Washington Post op-ed.
Unpacking the study results, Haskell predominantly pinned church growth to strength of conviction. When controlled for this element, both liberal and conservative churches tended to expand. Additionally, the researcher noted that conservative churches took the Biblical exhortation to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” literally and seriously. Conversely, liberal congregations avoided this command in an attempt to be culturally sensitive. Naturally then, the churches seeking new members were more likely to swell their ranks.
Overall, Haskell’s conclusions may come as a shock to clergy from United Methodist, Episcopal and other liberal-leaning denominations, who have attempted to attract members with a less literal form of Christianity.
It may also dismay the liberal media, who tend to paint Evangelicals, and other conservative Christians in a bad light (and then jab them for mistrusting the mainstream media).