One of the most consistent refrains, when recent Australian census data was released, was, ‘Yes, the number of Christians in Australia is down, but this is good overall for the Church.’ The reasoning for this was that people said this is just the ‘lukewarm’ leaving the church. They are now identifying as the unbelievers they already were.
But the problem I have with this oft-repeated argument is simply this: a brief survey of pastrixes (women impersonating pastors), Social Justice Warriors, and otherwise limpwristed Church leadership across the nation shows that a lot of the dregs are clinging tight to the Church structures.
There has been no cleansing of the corrupt theologies that are bringing the Church down. Such as feminism, egalitarianism, Marxism, environmentalism, and materialism (aka Satanism in its varied forms). They are still very prominent across the Church. The serpent’s stranglehold on many of the Church structures is tightening, not loosening, and this stranglehold is choking the life out of the Australian Church.
Evangelicalism is declining because of its adherence to baptised versions of all of these ideologies. This is the sad state of modern Protestantism. It is like a tree cut off from its roots floating in the wind, driven to and fro by every secular movement of society. Protestants were not always like this. We have great traditions, but they are being ignored.
It’s not surprising that in a time like this the kinds of churches we see growing are those which make no apologies for their traditional perspective. Churches that do not try to move with the times, but who unashamedly bring their ancient ways into the culture today:
The Orthodox Church is the fastest growing Christian denomination in Australia according to recently published 2016-2021 census data.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the fastest growing of all in Australia, while the Serbian and Antiochian Churches are also in the top 10.
The Greek Church grew by 17,400 members, the Serbian by 7,300, and the Antiochian by 4,400. However, the number of Australians who identify simply as “Christian,” without specifying a Church or denomination grew by 76,100.
The dominant wisdom in the Church is that the pentecostal or egalitarian denominations are those of the future and their progressive approach to worship and men’s and women’s roles are a large part of this success. Not all charismatic Churches are this way, of course. But many are egalitarian and the momentary success of that approach has persuaded some people that this is good.
But people forget that movements that go progressive often get a spurt of growth, before fading off for lack of deep soil. How can they have deep soil? Their growth is based on the pragmatic approach of matching the society around them.
Just observe the fate of many Church Growth leaders of the last 30 years as key examples (the Hybels, Driscolls, and much of the Church). Many such ministries grow fast and fade faster. The movements that last over time are those with firm, solid and unshakeable foundations. Not those who continually change their theology and practice to suit the whims of the culture around them.
Protestants should learn from this. Especially my own Baptist denomination.
If you give up your distinctives, you take away your distinct reasons for existence. This is not a way to create long-term growth, but a way to capitalize on the current decline to attract the people who find culturally “relevant” Church comfortable. Long-term growth comes from deep roots that aren’t swayed by culture.