Tag Archives: Study

As Liberal Churches Dwindle Away, Conservative Churches Thrive

A new study from Canada shows that the liberal Gospel that seems more concerned with liberal issues than Christ is in decline and the authentic Gospel labeled wrongly “conservative” by some is thriving.

Over the last five years, my colleagues and I conducted a study of 22 mainline congregations in the province of Ontario. We compared those in the sample that were growing mainline congregations to those that were declining. After statistically analyzing the survey responses of over 2,200 congregants and the clergy members who serve them, we came to a counterintuitive discovery: Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline. The results were published this month in the peer-reviewed journal, Review of Religious Research.

We also found that for all measures, growing church clergy members were most conservative theologically, followed by their congregants, who were themselves followed by the congregants of the declining churches and then the declining church clergy members. In other words, growing church clergy members are the most theologically conservative, while declining church clergy members are the least. Their congregations meet more in the middle.

For example, we found 93 percent of clergy members and 83 percent of worshipers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb.” This compared with 67 percent of worshipers and 56 percent of clergy members from declining churches. Furthermore, all growing church clergy members and 90 percent of their worshipers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers,” compared with 80 percent of worshipers and a mere 44 percent of clergy members from declining churches.

Great Commission culturally insensitive?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

For example, because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally. Thus, they all held the conviction it’s “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” and thus likely put effort into converting non-Christians. Conversely, because of their liberal leanings, half the clergy members at the declining churches held the opposite conviction, believing it is not desirable to convert non-Christians. Some of them felt, for instance, that peddling their religion outside of their immediate faith community is culturally insensitive.  Full article at Washington Post.

 

Study: How Decades Of Divorce Helped Erode Religion

church-aloneA study by the Public Religion Research Institute has found that divorce could affect a child’s religious identity as an adult.

People whose parents divorced when they were children are significantly more likely to grow up not to be religious as adults, the study found. Thirty-five percent of the children of divorced parents told pollsters they are now nonreligious, compared with 23 percent of people whose parents were married when they were children.

Family instability affected not just commitment to religion.  Even those who retained some semblance of religion are much less active religiously.

Cox said his team found that even children of divorced parents who are religious are less religious than their peers. Thirty-one percent of them go to services every week, compared with 43 percent of religious people whose parents were married when they were growing up.

In the 1980’s divorce rates reached their peak, a time when nearly half of all marriages ended in divorce.  The children from those divorces have grown up.  The religiously unaffiliated has risen from 5 percent in 1972 to 25 percent today.  The decline of religious affiliation coincides with the coming of age of the children of those 1980’s divorces.

“A lot of the narrative around the rise of the nones, or the rise of the non-affiliated, has focused on how there’s changing cultural preferences, that people are choosing to move away from religion,” said Daniel Cox, one of the researchers on the new study. “I think there’s also a structural part of the story that has not gotten as much attention. We wanted to focus on the way millennials were raised, which is different from any previous generation. And part of that is they’re more likely to have grown up with parents who are divorced.”

Church became silent as divorce rate increased in the 80’s to not alienate congregants.  The silence affected the children of divorce when no comfort was offered.  Absent church when most needed.

Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary:  “Everything in a divorce gets divided. Literally everything. Parents’ friends get divided. Relatives get divided. Everyone takes sides.  Even religion takes sides. The church gets divided. Dad leaves Mom’s faith, or vice versa. Negotiating those worlds becomes difficult.”

Root said churches are not doing enough to speak directly to the concerns of children in those situations, so the kids lose faith in the ability of the church to help them. He said that when the divorce rate climbed in the 1980’s, many members of the clergy, especially mainline Protestant pastors, stopped speaking out against divorce so as not to alienate struggling congregants. But by going silent on the subject, they didn’t offer any comfort to the kids.

As adults, Root said, those same people do not believe the church will respond to their adult problems. “They’re now thinking, ‘I’m dealing with depression.’ Or, ‘I’m dealing with my own marital troubles.’ The church must not have anything to say to me, because when I was 8 and dealing with divorce, my Sunday-school teacher didn’t even say, ‘Man, Amanda, that must be really complicated for you’,” Root said.

Online:  WaPo – How decades of divorce helped erode religion

Study: Want ‘Sustained Happiness’? Get Religion

church pray photoA study by researchers in London found the key to sustained happiness lies in joining a religious group.  The power of faith.

A new study suggests that joining a religious group could do more for someone’s “sustained happiness” than other forms of social participation, such as volunteering, playing sports or taking a class.

A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.

“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”

Researchers looked at four areas: 1) volunteering or working with a charity; 2) taking educational courses; 3) participating in religious organizations; 4) participating in a political or community organization. Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness, researchers found. Washington Post

Photo by Art4TheGlryOfGod

Study: Conservatives Better At Self-Control Than Liberals

selfcontrolResearch studies have found that individuals who identify as conservative have better self-control than those who identify as liberal.   The reason for the difference is thought to be how much a person believes in the idea of free will.

Conservatives are more likely to believe that they have free will and that individuals have the power to change things, that a person is largely responsible for his or her own outcomes and has greater control  over their outcomes.

Liberals by contrast “believe that everything is controlled by forces outside of their control – such as by their genes or society, the researchers claim.”

They classed conservatives as those who endorse traditional values and the status quo, while liberals ‘endorse egalitarian ideals and progressive change’.  They found that the conservatives were better at ‘regulating their attention’ and persisting with tasks. And they found the difference between the two groups was linked to how closely they believed in free will.

The authors wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: ‘Three studies document a clear difference in self-control as a function of political ideology, as political conservatism (versus liberalism) was consistently related to greater self-control.’

The researchers said that while it was possible there might be other explanations in for the differences in performance and motivation between the two groups rather than free will.

They note that other researchers have found conscientiousness, religiosity and happiness have been linked with conservativism ‘could contribute to the present findings’.

But the authors argued their tests showed a belief in free will was the key reason in the differences between the two groups.

The researchers from the universities of Cincinatti, Indiana and Florida said their research followed on from previous studies that found conservatives tended to be more studious at university than their left-wing counterparts. DailyMail