The Real Reason Liberal Churches Are Losing Members? A Response To Michael Brown

BrownMichael Brown came out swinging, as he usually does, in a recent blog post explaining why liberal churches are losing members faster than conservative ones.

He kicks off by exclaiming:

Almost every day conservative Christians are told that if we don’t become more enlightened and progressive, we will become irrelevant to society as our numbers continue to decline.

In an Orwellian strategy straight out of the 1984 playbook Brown uses words like progressive and enlightened in an attempt to turn them into attributes true Christians (read Conservative) would want to avoid.

But shouldn’t we as Christians want to progress and become enlightened? Does the Body of Christ not want to move from ignorance to understanding?

Truth be told, Paul the Apostle became enlightened on the way to Damascus when he encountered Jesus.  That encounter allowed Paul to progress from being a strict enforcer of Biblical standards to an apostle known for his understanding of grace and compassion.

Lets face it, Paul was originally a religious conservative who physically and emotionally persecuted people that practiced this free wheeling wishy washy “grace” religion called Christianity that openly failed to maintain the standards of scripture.

Then he met Jesus …

…and he was enlightened…

…and he progressed…

And then he went around telling everyone he met that they needed to get enlightened and progress by meeting Jesus and following his Way.

But this went against the scripture of the religious people and what they understood was what God wanted so tried to kill him…

…things never change.

Michael Brown’s Four Spiritual Laws

In the post Michael Brown lays out four new spiritual laws that God will enforce.  The one thing you have to admire about evangelicals like Michael Brown, they always seem to know exactly what God will or will not do.  So here in no particular order are the 4 new spiritual laws:

1.  God will back His gospel, not some man-made, watered-down message.

The problem is that Michael sees the gospel like a directive from the management that needs to be enforced rather than good news that is to be proclaimed.  The good news that God is not mad at us and that he is for us is neither man-made nor watered down…it’s just good news!

Additionally I would argue that the evangelical structure Michael Brown maintains and which I grew up in is just as man-made and watered downed as anything he is casting a stone at.

2.  God will back the exaltation of Jesus, not some muddled, every-path-leads-to-God nonsense.

I don’t know of any progressive Christians that would argue that every path leads to God but I think what annoys Michael Brown is their belief that God is so big, so loving, and so full of hope for his children that he is wooing people to his Son Jesus whatever path they are on or born into.  That the Way that Christ taught might extend just a bit further beyond the white evangelical middle America audience Mr. Brown is no doubt speaking to.

3.  God will back the call to take up the cross and live for Him, not some flesh-pleasing success formula.

The irony of this statement is just how much harder it is for those Christians who are labeled “progressive” to live out the faith.  Most progressives are serious about what Jesus said we said “Love your neighbour” and “do good to those who despitefully use you”.  For that reason they stand up for the outsider, the foreigner, the scape-goat.  It is about as far from “flesh-pleasing” as you can get.

Additionally “taking up the cross” should be seen as a lifestyle to be embraced and not a “call” to be defended.

4. God will back biblical standards, not some meet-me-halfway, worldly-wise compromise.

Actually God tended to back Jesus over biblical standards.  When the religious conservatives wanted Jesus to promote biblical standards against the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute who washed his feet, and his disciples for breaking the sabbath, Jesus trumped biblical standards with  Kingdom Ways.

Attempting to enforce biblical standards produce a form of Godliness but deny its power  (1 Tim 3:5)  The power of a real God fueled Life.

It’s All About Fruit

The fact is there are some wonderful “conservative” Christians as well as some wonderful “progressive” Christians.  Michael Brown would divide the two into good and bad camps based solely on Biblical adherence to two of his primary criteria…where they stand of homosexuality and abortion.  Jesus said though we should judge people by the fruit they are producing not on affirmations of certain creeds.  There are some “progressive” Christians who don’t produce good fruit to be sure but here’s a truth Michael Brown most likely wouldn’t want to admit:

A “conservative” Christian who is producing “good fruit” will have more in common with a “good fruit” producing “progressive” Christian than their “non producing” conservative brother…even if the two conservatives are closer in their beliefs or creeds.  

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The Bible says even the demons know and believe Jesus is the son of God.  Creedal affirmation means little.  What distinguishes someone as a follower of Christ is the fruit they are producing.  Are they bringing life to those around them?  Michael Brown may call that wishy washy…I call it impossible except by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Conservative churches manipulate and control better

Michael Brown correctly acknowledges that liberal denominations have lost members faster than conservative ones.

There is a very good reason for that.

Conservative church leaders have less qualms about using manipulation and intimidation to keep people in their pews.  Liberal churches which are more geared to transparency and openness have less manipulative tools at their disposal. People can leave “easier”.

Ever try leaving a conservative church?

Because said churches tend to create an “us” against the “world” mentality, many people endure years of oppressive leadership rather than leave the protective bubble.  I’ve known a number of people over the years who organized a transfer to another city at work just so they would have a acceptable excuse for leaving their church.

It’s not all the  “churches that hold to conservative moral values are outgrowing all other religious expressions” that Mr. Brown suggests.

It’s just not about “conservative” and “liberal” Mr. Brown.  It’s about Jesus! Deep down I know that you know that. And I know that you know that I know that.  I just hope one day you wake up one morning as I did not too long ago when I realised some of the creeds and beliefs I held and grew up with were at odds with what Jesus wanted.

That was a good morning!

2 comments

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  • Andreas

    Reply

    I see this question similar the the perennial internet chestnut “Why do nice girls go out with jerks?” over which much vitriol has been, is being and, no doubt, will be spread. The problem is that terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are very difficult to define and, even worse, are a sliding scale (very similar to “nice” and “jerk”). Everyone has their own definition and stand. One man’s heretic is another’s pharisee. And the funny part is that we all assume everyone else has exactly the same definition and stand as us.

    I don’t think asking why liberal churches are losing members is the right questions. Maybe a better question would be why am *I* losing spiritually strength, in what way am I a pharisee and in what way am I heretic. And the right person to be finding an answer to that question is Jesus himself. Then we can all have a great morning like you, Steve!

  • Brad Taylor

    Reply

    Hey Steve – i have a way of answering this – well not mine…
    But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have.

    Power is Miracles here not authority.
    How many have the authors seen following them lately? (like last week, Jesus had it everyday..)

    If none – something is wrong…

    it is not a gospel of wise and persuasive words by POWER.

    🙂

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