Actually, It’s the Religious Left That’s Dying

Grace and truth cannot be separated without doing immeasurable harm to one or the other.

Reverend Roger Gench preaches at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on January 29, 2017 in Washington D.C. NYAPC is an affiliate of the More Light Presbyterians, a group that affirms LGBT lifestyles.

By Michael Brown Published on September 6, 2017

No sooner had the Nashville Statement on biblical sexuality been issued than we began to hear a common refrain from the left. “This is another sign that the religious right is dying! This statement represents the last gasp of the old, antiquated guard! It’s time to say good bye and good riddance! Let’s welcome the new thing the Spirit is doing!”

In fact, it’s the religious left that is dying. Those who uphold Scripture are seeing blessing and increase around the globe. Before I back up this statement, here’s what some “progressive” Christian leaders are saying.

Writing for the Huffington Post, seminary professor Greg Lancaster sniffs, “Their public audience shrinking, their public presence waning, and their credibility shot to hell, the Christian right needs attention.”

His article is titled, “The Nashville Statement and the Decline of the Religious Right.” He concludes with this salvo:

In the end we’re stuck with a meaningless document. It adds nothing to the conversation that hasn’t been said. If anything, its fake compassion increases the agony of LGBT Christians. All that’s accomplished by this document is a little press for the religious leaders who signed it, a whiff of air time for the disenfranchised. The Statement underscores the obvious: in the age of Trump, the Christian Right has lost its moral authority. These guys — they’re almost all men — may be have a spiffy website, but nobody’s listening.

Pastor John Pavlovitz is a frequent critic of conservative evangelicals. He recasts the Nashville Statement in his own words. He claims that the framers of the Nashville Statement are really saying, “We’ve chosen to wage cheap war on innocent and vulnerable people [homosexuals] in order to feel mighty again.” (Quick note to Pastor Pavlovitz: Do you really believe this?)

This is how he rewrites the statement’s Preamble:

Evangelical Christians are at the precipice of extinction — and we know it. We are a profoundly endangered species coming to grips with the urgency of the moment, of our impending disappearance, of the whole thing going sideways here in the Bible Belt — and we’re in a bit of a panic. 

We are leaking people from our churches, watching multitudes walk away in disgust, and losing market share in the religious landscape, as well as the vice-like stranglehold we’ve had on American politics for the past 241 years — and we are rightly terrified.

So much for the Pavlovitz paraphrase. Shall we return to reality?

The World’s Leading Churches Are Conservative on Sexual Ethics

It’s true that many evangelicals, me included, are deeply concerned about the moral and spiritual condition of our nation. And it’s certainly true that we are burdened for the many young people who have dropped out of church. They consider themselves “nones” — having no religious affiliation.

The most thriving, growing churches in the world hold to conservative sexual ethics.

But, as has been demonstrated time and time again, it’s the “progressive” churches that are “leaking.” It’s the liberal denominations that are fading. This is true in America as well as around the world. Since the so-called progressive Christians have pointed to numbers, let’s take a more careful look.

Out of the 100 largest churches in America, how many are conservative? The vast majority, at the least. The same with the fastest growing churches and the fastest growing denominations. Almost all of them hold to conservative biblical values, even if they are “progressive,” chic and cutting-edge in other ways. Almost all of them would affirm the basic tenets of the Nashville Statement, at least in private.

Out of the most rapidly shrinking denominations, how many are liberal? Almost all of them. Which seminaries are bleeding the most, conservative or liberal? Take a guess. And how about major youth gatherings — yes, youth gatherings — for prayer, worship and teaching? Which events draw the biggest crowds? If you said “conservative,” you’d be right again.

In recent years, I’ve been invited to speak on the subject of “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” at:

  1. The most financially generous church in America, which gives more than one million dollars to world missions every month.
  2. The largest megachurch in Europe, with a membership of more than 70,000.
  3. The largest evangelical church in the Philippines, with a sanctuary that seats 10,000 (and a much larger membership than that).

And this represents a much larger pattern: The most thriving, growing churches in the world hold to conservative sexual ethics.

The Influence of the Religious Right “Has-Beens”

In contrast, churches like the once influential GracePointe in Franklin, Tennessee have seen a massive decline in numbers after embracing same-sex “marriage.” GracePointe lost as much as 80 percent of its membership in recent years.

What about national influence? Isn’t it interesting that this same, vilified “religious right” that was deemed dead just a few years back is the key group providing spiritual counsel to the president? And didn’t some of these religious “has-beens” help defeat pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton? And should I mention that a good number of the signers to the Nashville Statement can hardly be categorized as politically-affiliated members of “the religious right”? (It would take too long to demonstrate this now. But for anyone interested, the names are here.)

Mark Tooley puts things into a larger perspective. He notes:

Critics of the Nashville Statement should realize that about 95 percent of the world’s approximately 2.5 billion professed Christians are associated with branches of Christianity that share the Nashville Statement’s perspective. Of course not all are compliant with those teachings, and nobody complies completely, everyone relying on grace. But these teachings are the constant shelter under which the universal church rests.

And, he states:

Dissenting Christian institutions are almost entirely confined to declining Western liberal Protestant denominations. If the Nashville Statement’s critics were correct, these dying churches should be flourishing by their embrace of the spirit of the age. But in almost every culture and time, spiritual seekers are more drawn to religion that challenges, not that accommodates.

Depart From Truth, Depart From Blessing

Of course, numbers alone prove nothing. But since progressives keep pointing to numbers, we should respond with truth. What if we measure other signs of spiritual vitality — prayer, study of Scripture, winning the lost, caring for the needy and investing in family? Here, too, we see that, around the globe, those who hold to the authority of the Word are reproducing.

I have no problem with leaders wishing that the Nashville Statement made reference to the many sins in our own camp, such as rampant divorce and pornography. Or that it confessed our past failings to reach out compassionately to those who identify as LGBT.

But the reality is this. If the religious left departs from the clear testimony of Scripture, it will lack the blessing of God. And to that extent it will fail to do the very thing it wants to do: namely, reach a hurt and dying world with the message of forgiveness and transformation.

Grace and truth cannot be separated without harming to one or the other.

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  • Thanks, Mike! On the ball as always.

  • m-nj

    The appearance of a “decline” in Biblical christianity is merely the result of the CINO’s (christian in name only) and cultural christians leaving. They leave the Body because they were never really part of the Body.

    The one think I would also add is that we know based on the the Bible that there will only be a remnant of truly saved when the dust settles… it will be a “vast multitude”, but still only a small part or portion of those who claim the name of Christ.

  • Andrew Mason

    Pavlovitz’s article is kinda interesting, a bit like watching a blind man cycle towards an oncoming train. It demonstrates the divide between Biblical Christianity, and the Regressive faith. He is seeing his faith heading towards extinction, his kind of people dropping out of church, and worrying about the political environment. He thinks it impossible to be pro-Trump and pro-God, and that since man can’t serve 2 masters, the faithful have to turf the Bible in favour of politics. He thinks the only way to retain relevance is to preach hatred and espouse zealotry. He thinks genuine believers should be blindly opposing White supremacy, attacking mythical links to Russia, supporting the BLM and other racists, promoting Islam, and supporting those in Houston – on that at least we can agree.He claims the statement is a pointless attack on a vulnerable minority rather than particularly pertinent timing – Australia is presently wracked in debate over this very issue, and enduring the violence and vitriol of a hate filled Left. [The Nashville Declaration is relevant, and it has gone global]. Pavlovitz claims Bible Believers are using Scripture as a weapon against the weak and vulnerable in an attempt to feel mighty, and yet it is his ilk that appear on TV to attack bakers and wives who fail to kowtow to the homosexual agenda. He accuses Christians of paying lip service to love, grace and compassion, yet refuses to warn homosexuals of their damnation. He claims Christians are anti-science, and complains they’re too Bible focused, then criticises them for failing to cherry pick the right verses. He’s more interested in a social justice message than the Christian gospel. Worse, he claims Jesus never condemned anyone for their gender identity or sexual orientation when those concepts are modern constructs, yet ignores the fact that Jesus fully embraced OT ethics, rejected sexual immorality as much as any Pharisee, and defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman as per the Adam and Eve model. The concluding words seem appropriate though:

    … we’ve put these words in his [Jesus’] mouth and stood on a social media mountaintop and in our bully pulpits and shouted them to the world in one last gasp for survival.

    And we hope that no one sees just how terrified we are of our own extinction.

    Regressives seem to have a greater affinity for media and social media than Christians, they excel at bullying and vilifying opponents, and if their numbers are plummeting – I’ve not seen a specific breakdown but trends seem to support the claim, then it is likely to be Regressives fearing extinction.

    • Hannah

      Bravo! Excellently put, my friend. It refreshes my soul to see that I’m not alone in my thinking. Grace be with you!

    • Micha_Elyi

      “Biblical Christianity”? That seems backwards to me. Christianity doesn’t come from the Bible, rather the Bible comes from the Christian Church that Jesus Christ left us and promised us that His Church would never die.

      To put it simply, Jesus left us a Church not a book. The authority of the Bible is derived from the authority of the Church, authority which Jesus gave to His Church.

      • Andrew Mason

        Not really. The Bible is the documentation God provided via divine inspiration. Yes some of the NT was based on Christ’s life and teachings, but not all, and definitely not the OT. If the documentation comes from the church rather than God, does it have any value?

        And while the church will never die, what counts as the church? Is it those who follow the God, and the Bible? Is it a particular denomination? To direct your focus at the church rather than Scripture requires defining what you mean by church.

  • timeout31

    I refuse to give credentials to those who attempt (and in some cases succeed) to water down the Word of God. It does not matter what any man may write or say or preach from the pulpit. If you decide to follow the musings of mankind, then it is all on you. It is the responsibility of those who love and have accepted Jesus, and everything He did at the cross, to know the truth.

    I read an article by AP that stated something to the effect that white christians have followed below the 50% mark. So looked up the polling company….PRRI

    Partners include The Atlantic, The Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center
    for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. All PRRI data is publicly available at the PRRI website and on The Roper Center archives at Cornell University. A bunch of lefty cinos. Give me a break!

  • Kathryn Rose MacDonald

    Interesting article. I am left to wonder….just because I’m curious like that…..how much of the decline of the “liberal” church and rapid increase of the “conservative” church can be attributed to changes in beliefs.

    Lifestyles that were formerly considered “deviant” are now “normalized” and do not carry the stigma or legal repercussions of the past. Those who, in the past, may have left the intolerance of the conservative denominations to join the tolerant liberal ones no longer find that necessary because those formerly intolerant denominations are now not only tolerant, but accepting of them. In many cases, the denominations are, through their governing bodies, changing their disciple or bylaws or or however that denomination lays out its core beliefs (I was reared United Methodist. We do that in the Book of Discipline. I don’t know how your denomination does it, I am sure you do, and that is the important thing.) to accept/welcome those “alternative lifestyles.”

    I just wonder if the numbers are giving misleading rates of increase and decline. Lemme be clear, I’m not having a go at anyone, I just had a thought is all.

    • James

      The decline of the “liberal” church relative to the “conservative” church can be almost entirely explained by the difference in birthrates between the congregations.

      • Kathryn Rose MacDonald

        Oh, yeah. I had not considered the birthrate factor. How did I overlook THAT? Thanks for reminding me.

  • Patmos

    If you affirm LGBT in your church you are dead as a door nail. There is zero life in you, zero Holy Spirit, zero salvation, and none of God’s glory.

  • James

    Sinking more slowly is not prospering.

    Liberal churches are collapsing, but not because people are joining conservative churches, but because people are leaving the church completely. These aren’t people who are hurt by church or had a bad experience in church, but people who have no interest in church whatsoever.

    They see what churches, liberal and conservative, are selling and they aren’t interested.

  • Bob Adome

    Yet, in restricted nations The Word of GOD expands like a wildfire. Only in western nations do the none’s grow.

  • JM

    I have no problem loving those who identify as LGBT. it is what all Christians should do just like we love should everyone else who practices any other sin but the thing is that homosexuals want acceptance and tolerance and that I cannot do. that is where the line has to be drawn. not only because homosexuality is a sin and sin is not to be tolerated nor accepted but also because why should I accept and tolerate one sin over any other? if you want to accept and tolerate one sin than you must also accept and tolerate all other sins too. homosexuals should not be the only ones receiving this special treatment. if you treat others sins as sin then should also treat homosexuality as a sin because that is a sin too.

  • Thank you, Michael, for the following line:
    “I have no problem with leaders wishing that the Nashville Statement made reference to the many sins in our own camp, such as rampant divorce.”

    That omission makes the Nashville Statement very vulnerable to criticism. Since many evangelicals have been divorced at least once, it looks like the topic might have been “soft-pedaled” to avoid a backlash. A 2008 study by the Barna research group found that 26% of evangelical Christians who had ever married had also been divorced. Although the rate is lower among regular attenders, churches still might tend to avoid the issue in hopes of appealing to people who attend less often.

    Because there is a much lower percentage of practicing homosexuals in the population, they may represent a “safer” target, in a hypocritical sense, for criticism.

  • JM

    someone is going around flagging all of the comments, can the moderators restore the comments?

    • Myth Buster

      He’s done this on the other webpage too.

      • JM

        I’m a Christian and I mean a liberal troll is going around flagging the comments

        • Myth Buster

          No, I’m a liberal and he’s done it to me. He wiped out all the comments in one article and most of them in two others. He’s just maliciously flagging everything. How immature!!!!!!!!

          • JM

            There were about 13 or 14 comments here all agreeing with the article and now they’re all gone, even my comment was removed. do you actually think that Dr.Brown would remove comments from people who are agreeing with him and his article? only a pro-LGBT liberal troll who hates the truth would do that.

          • Myth Buster

            He’s flagged comments out in three articles, not just this one. I didn’t think Dr.Brown would remove comments. This person is just a troll flagging both conservative and liberal comments.

          • JM

            No, I don’t think so, a liberal wouldn’t remove comments from people who share his views. there were no liberal comments on this article at all before the comments were flagged and I know that because I was there and all of the comments were in agreement with the article and now they’re gone. the moderators need to restore the comments. liberals hate truth and want to censor it.

          • Myth Buster

            He did it to three articles. This is just one of them. On another article there were two liberals (me and another person) and about four conservatives. All 18 comments were flagged out (deleted) and placed into pending. This is a TROLL. All trolls are not just liberals. There are liberal trolls and conservative ones. They just disrupt to disrupt.

          • JM

            I’ll take your comments with a grain of salt, I still think it’s a liberal doing this, but even if what you are saying is true then I think comments should be reviewed before deciding to removed or not. the comments still need to be restored

  • JM

    Dr.Brown is right. liberal ”churches” are dying. conservatives ones are booming, these liberal churches were never followers of God to begin with. not only do they embrace a practice that the Bible says is an abomination. they are also supporters of abortion and side with radical Islam – people who want to kill Christians. anything that the Bible is against, these people are for.

  • Jim Walker

    Now I can understand better what the number 144,000 means…

  • Stephen D

    The Reformed Church I attend is thriving. We agree with the Nashville Statement. We have many families with young children and teenagers. We are not worried about being progressive or getting on any bandwagon. Commitment to biblical doctrine makes us independent of public opinion. God’s word makes us strong. Most importantly we understand that if we accept the restrictions the Bible places on sexual behaviour we cannot harm another person by what we do. We are glad that in the Bible we have a sure guide to behaviour that honours marriage and each other and blesses our children with happy homes.

  • John Vallotton

    “Let’s welcome the new thing the Spirit is doing!” This kind of spirit it not the Holy Spirit, the “Paracletos” (Counselor) sent from the Lord upon the church.
    I’m preaching in many churches about the decadence of our Western world. Guess what ? In all churches people applaud at the end of the preaching and they want more. We must not be afraid to announce all the counsel of God and the Bible is the Word of God.
    Pastor John Vallotton

  • BPatMann

    Thank you Dr. Brown. In January 2015, my wife and I left a rapidly declining UMC church that was getting too left-leaning for our tastes and joined an newly-planted campus of a multi-campus evangelical church. We started with 250 members and now we have more than 2000 regular attendees. We even had to add a 5:00 PM service recently to handle our increasing numbers. We see many of our friends from our old UMC church at our new church. It really is amazing!

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