Canadian researchers David Haskell of Wilfrid Laurier University and his colleagues Kevin Flatt and Stephanie Burgoyne have conducted a study of churches that finds a strong correlation between traditional theology and numerical growth. The growing churches tend to be conservative:
Those in the growing churches are significantly more likely than those at the ones in decline to agree with statements such as “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb,” and “God performs miracles in answer to prayer.” They’re also more likely to pray and read the Bible daily, the researchers found.
The authors surveyed 2255 attendees from 22 churches (13 of which were declining and 9 of which were growing). They also surveyed their church’s clergy (29).
“What we found is that the conservative theological positioning of clergy and attendees is a significant predictor of numerical church growth,” Prof. Haskell said.
On the subject of mission, unsurprisingly, the declining churches were more interested in social justice, and much less interested in evangelism.
Only 50 per cent of pastors in declining parishes agreed that it was very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians, compared with 100 per cent among the growing churches.