The National Congregations Study and Churches of Christ, Part 1

DU NCSResponReport11.inddDuke University has just released a report of its National Congregations Study for 2006-7, comparing American churches with churches in 1998. It’s an interesting read.  The survey includes 2,740 congregations across the country, and so is among the most detailed and statistically valid surveys available.

The full text is available for download.

The report concludes,

• Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations.
• Worship services are becoming more informal.
• Congregational leaders are still overwhelmingly male.
• Predominantly white congregations are more ethnically diverse. Continue reading


Church Growth: Andy Rowell Summarizes the Studies, Part 7 (Intimacy and choice, Minister and reputation)

churchgrowthl.jpgChurches that offer “intimacy and choice”

Scott Thumma argues that “niche” house churches and megachurches both are offering individuals a product they are interested in. “In certain ways, the megachurch is the complete opposite of the house church, but with hundreds of ministries, programs, and fellowship groups, it offers intimacy and choice in one package.”[19]

[19] Scott Thumma, “The Shape of Things to Come,” in Faith in America: Changes, Challenges, New Directions (ed. Charles H. Lippy; Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006), 194.

THe house church movement is growing rapidly in this country. It’s hard to measure because house churches aren’t listed in the phone book or any denominational directory, but it’s big. Why? In part because we live in a society desperate for real community. Continue reading

Church Growth: Andy Rowell Summarizes the Studies, Part 6 (High growth location, Changing worship)

churchgrowthl.jpgBeing in rapidly growing zip codes

Only one [other] external factor was significant in the growth or decline of the church—the change in the population of its zip code. Fast-growing churches—those that increased by more than 20 percent in attendance—were more likely to be located in zip codes where the population growth was higher than the national average. If a church declined or was stable, it was more likely located in a low-growth zip code where population growth was lower than the national average.[14]

Olson, American Church in Crisis, 132-133.

Some churches deal with this by packing up and moving to the high growth part of town. Most don’t have that option. Continue reading

Church Growth: Andy Rowell Summarizes the Studies, Part 5 (Being large or small, Being rural)

churchgrowthl.jpgBeing a church of 1000+ attendees or under 50 attendees

Well, I wasn’t expecting this one.

David Olson points out that large (1000+ attendance) and small churches (1-49 attendance) are growing at the fastest rates. “While the larger churches grew according to expectation, the smallest churches actually grew at a faster yearly rate. The churches that declined the most were those with a weekly attendance between 100 and 299.”[9] Continue reading

Church Growth: Andy Rowell Summarizes the Studies, Part 4 (Leadership, Prayer)


Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson report that “we let the data set the agenda, and godly leadership was at the top.”[7]

[7] Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 34.

In the Churches of Christ, it’s all about the elders. Lousy elders produce lousy churches. Great elders produce great churches. Divided elders produce divided churches. Great ministers are vital, but the best ministers in the Churches can’t overcome lousy elders. It’s that simple. Until a church produces a generation of Godly elders, it won’t grow — or if it grows, it’ll growing in a bad way (such as by sheep stealing or becoming cultic). Continue reading

Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: Heresy, Part 5 (Talk Like a Christian)

[Relocated from Part 4 and substantially rewritten]

We see two very different strands of thought winding through history — Abraham and Phinehas, Paul and Saul. The disciples of Phinehas attempt to follow him by destroying God’s enemies. They believe God will credit them with righteousness for defending God’s truth — against the Romans, against the Nestorians, Orthodox, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Consubstantianists, New Lights, Anti-seceders, and Burghers — and against whoever disagrees with today’s editor.

Nowadays, there’s not a print publication in the Churches of Christ that will allow a word to be published contrary to the editor’s beliefs. The Gospel Advocate won’t even print letters to the editor that aren’t effusive in their praise of the publication.

Debates in the 20th Century Churches of Christ were often embarrassingly brutal — filled with invective and ridicule. The attitude was: we’re on God’s side. Therefore, victory should be won at all costs. That attitude hasn’t entirely left us yet.

This attitude is inherited from the Zealots, from the intolerance of Medieval Catholicism, and from the Reformation — when warfare, the Inquisition, and the stake were the preferred means of persuasion. They are not Biblical. Continue reading

Backgrounds of the Restoration Movement: Heresy, Part 4 (Alexander Campbell, Quail Springs)

passioncartoonSeventh story

Alexander Campbell, one of the founders of the Restoration Movement, is noted for many things. A couple of things that are rarely commented on, but very important to my point of view, are his attitudes toward his debate opponents and toward those who disagreed with his writings in his periodicals.

Campbell engaged in a series of debates over the course of his career, some with national notoriety. One was moderated by Henry Clay himself. And he managed to get through each of these without personal invective and often forming a close, personal bond with his opponent. Campbell felt that it was critical to treat his opponents as well as he wished to be treated.

One of his most important debates was against a famous atheist, Robert Owen, and Campbell had Owen has a house guest at his farm. They remained friends afterwards, despite their fundamental disagreements. Continue reading