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Christianity’s Growth Problem Isn’t Politics, It’s Our Failure To Have And Evangelize Children
The Federalist ^ | June 15, 2021 | Joy Pullman

Posted on 06/15/2021 6:49:26 AM PDT by Kaslin

Like just about every other Western Christian body, as well as the United States, the SBC is left to squabble over shrinking slices of a dwindling pie.

The New York Times put out a lengthy preview of the Southern Baptist Convention’s top controversies heading into their annual meeting this week in Nashville, Tenn. Members of the nation’s largest evangelical denomination are weighing the future of their religious body amid numerous theological controversies.

The way the SBC goes will significantly influence Christianity in the United States, which has since the nation’s inception been Protestant-dominated. As the Times notes, “About a third of the country’s evangelical Christians are part of the Southern Baptist Convention.” The SBC is therefore a big deal for anyone interested in American religion.

The convention’s 2021 meeting theme reflects one constant in evangelicalism and even tucked into its name: “We are Great Commission Baptists,” proclaims a logo for the event. “The Great Commission” refers to the biblical passage at the end of the book of Matthew. Christ leaves his disciples with this charge:

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

This mic drop comprises the final words of that gospel. Christians thus consider them central to our religious identity and mission. Yet — at least if you go by The New York Times’ story — it seems some Southern Baptists, like many evangelicals, have misinterpreted Christ’s words in such a way as to harm their own religious body, as well as the faith of the people entrusted to their pastors’ care.

Decline Stems From No Babies, Not Being Too Trumpy

The Times reports that one of the SBC’s concerns is “15-year decline” in members, both through potential theological schisms intertwined with politics, such as critical race theory, and through an aging and thus declining membership.

Southern Baptist leaders have been trying to win younger and more diverse members. But while younger evangelicals are still conservative, studies show they are more racially diverse, more likely to support rights for LGBT people and immigrants, and less supportive of Mr. Trump and his politics.

Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor running for SBC president, says evangelicals’ close association with the Republican Party risks alienating people they should be winning over, including the very demographics the SBC needs to attract to start growing again: young people and people of color.

While the Times makes much of contrasting the SBC’s political conservatism with its forecast of demographically decisive American leftism, it doesn’t note that the SBC’s decline is directly related to following broader American culture, instead of Christian beliefs, on a keystone of institutional vibrancy: fertility.

It’s relatively well-known that American Christianity is declining as a percentage of the nation’s total population. Increasing percentages of Americans, most of whom once called themselves Christians, are now calling themselves “spiritual but not religious,” “nones,” and other similarly apathetic labels.

The Times even notes “No religious group skews older than white evangelicals, according to the Public Religion Research Institute: Just 11% of white evangelical adults are aged 18 to 29, while 60% are 50 or older.” But it uses this to suggest the SBC’s alleged need to target young and nonwhite people for membership, sliding right past the obvious reality that the SBC would not be declining if its members merely had raised a replacement-level number of children and the denomination was able to protect most of those children from apostasy.

Instead, like just about every other Western Christian body, as well as the United States itself, the SBC is left to squabble over shrinking slices of a dwindling pie. As The New York Times highlights, such demographic pressures increase theological pressures to water down the faith in an effort to market the religious body to people who may be harder to reach than children raised within the denomination and with the resulting familial, historic, friendship, and philosophical ties.

Evangelization Starts at Home and in Church

I was raised an evangelical, and still consider myself one. (In fact, my adopted Lutheran tradition is the originator, or at least the popularizer, of the term “evangelical.”) As I watched my evangelical peers apostatize as they left childhood, it made me reconsider our churches’ frenetic verbal focus on evangelism. What trust — and financing — was it realistic to place in “evangelization” efforts run by people who are clearly unable to retain current members? Why doesn’t evangelization start at home?

In fact, I think it does start at home. Before running out and attempting to “gain more souls for Christ” (itself theologically suspect, as scripture — at least as Protestants understand it — clearly teaches it is Christ who does all the work to save souls), what about attentiveness to the “feed my sheep” charge Christ gave the Apostle Peter in another mic-drop gospel ending, in John 21?

Shepherds — the antecedent of our word “pastor” — don’t go around rustling sheep. Shepherds tend an existing flock that grows almost exclusively organically, from within the herd. Shepherds cultivate those they are given; they don’t go around trying to convert goats or leaving their flocks to search for others. From where this Christian sits, our Western churches and most of their leaders have done a perfectly horrific job of tending to the lambs Christ has given into their care.

Too many men commissioned as shepherds are off wandering the mountains, leaving their sheep unfed and unprotected while wolves make off with the babies. The answer is not to focus more on wandering around in alleged search of random sheep, nor to steal sheep from other people’s flocks. It is to sacrifice anything necessary to beat off the wolves and protect the lambs.

If You Can’t Catechize People, Don’t Go to Africa

Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” contains the marvelous Dickensian character Mrs. Jellyby. Mrs. Jellyby is obsessed with what she claims is self-sacrificially evangelizing children in Africa, while her own children live in squalor and lack an education. Her hyperopia bankrupts her husband and earns her children’s rightful contempt and rejection.

I see in Mrs. Jellyby a parallel to many of the evangelical institutions I have known. They spend so much time, money, and effort on what they claim is evangelization while the majority of children who attend their churches grow up and leave the faith.

Evangelicals have led campaigns to “bring prayer back to school” while doing nothing en masse when those campaigns failed. With some notable exceptions, top Christian leaders did nothing to ensure that as many Christian children as possible would receive a Christian K-12 education, abandoning our faith’s historic practice of doing so in wisdom vindicated by research showing that a secular education is the number one reason Americans lose their faith.

Such leaders led campaigns against abortion while refusing to educate church members on the reality that all hormonal birth control can induce chemical abortions of very young babies. To what degree does withholding that massively important moral knowledge from members comprise participating in our nation’s abhorrent abortion regime?

Why is it that evangelicals constantly cite the Great Commission but not the original it echoes from Genesis, which commands people to “Be fruitful and multiply”? As my husband reminds me when I groan about being pregnant yet again, “multiply” encourages aiming for more than two kids.

Being Sex-Positive Means Being Fertility-Positive

Among evangelicals, the gift of sex has been widely framed as what not to do while failing to embrace its natural positive drive toward family formation, which requires the biological complementarity of male-female differences. Human beings’ good and natural desire for sex has a fulfillment point: making babies, and a stable family in which to raise them well. Even evolutionary atheists know that. God made us male and female not just randomly, because it’s fun (although it is), but so that we can be fruitful and multiply.

The combination of only a man and a woman in a lifelong union is the only way to create more human beings in the most optimal environment for the most important thing for everyone in that family: keeping the faith. A commitment to one’s family nurtures one’s faith.

As Mary Eberstadt has documented, family disintegration and the failure of family formation are strongly linked to apostasy. If that is the case, then Christians need to be doing things like countering the cultural insistence that people wait until they are financially comfortable before starting a family and stay artificially infertile indefinitely to help that happen; making theologically robust Christian K-12 schools the top priority of evangelization efforts; and making it more institutionally possible for young people to get started in life without college loans.

It’s not clear how much American Christianity’s decline stems from unthinkingly accepting our culture’s antagonism to sexual fertility and our refusal to prioritize evangelism in the home, but it’s clear there’s a relationship between these that bears deep introspection.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: baptists; birthrates; christianity; demographics; evangelicals; evangelism; evangelization; fertility; newyorkslimes; religion; sbc
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1 posted on 06/15/2021 6:49:26 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

No way would I want to have kids in this declining, dying society.

2 posted on 06/15/2021 6:56:03 AM PDT by ScottinVA (Enough. Divide the country.. now. )
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To: Kaslin

When the adults are displaying the fruit mentioned in Romans 1:18-32 (championing homosexuality in society) that is associated with first abandoning the knowledge of the Lord don’t expect the children to be taught the Gospel.

3 posted on 06/15/2021 6:56:27 AM PDT by Rurudyne (Standup Philosopher)
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To: Kaslin


Of the pairs of Christian parents whom I know closely, none of their adult children are practicing Christians.

4 posted on 06/15/2021 6:56:44 AM PDT by Wuli
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To: Kaslin
There are other factors here.

I can empirically speak from my life.

We home schooled and attend an Indepent Fundamental Baptist church.

The entire family (5 kids) were involved with no evidence of rebellion or dissatisfaction until Mom wernt home in 2004.

I was a truck driver and couldn't leave my job, so we all did (2 kids left at home at the time, 10 and 13) the best we could, just like countless other families that have suffered the loss of a mother/wife.

Within 6 months, church became something disliked, youth group was stupid, the other kids were lame (etc.) and without going into details, though my kids were with family (an adult sister with kids of her own ) ... I (and now my new wife of 11 years) are the only ones that faithfully attend good, solid preaching.

I sit here on a computer (73, retired) and get an eyeful of the crap in this world and the problems in America and I guess by osmosis, my kids get the same thing and it just further alienates them.

I have no answer ... just sayin' ..... there's more going on that most Americans don't want to admit.

There IS Satan and he DOES have minions and they're doing a good job.

5 posted on 06/15/2021 7:02:14 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true, I have no proof, but they're true !)
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To: Kaslin

Catholic Church was right about birth control. Period.

6 posted on 06/15/2021 7:09:04 AM PDT by CondoleezzaProtege
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To: knarf
I was a truck driver and couldn't leave my job, so we all did (2 kids left at home at the time, 10 and 13) the best we could, just like countless other families that have suffered the loss of a mother/wife.

So sorry for your loss. No one should have to experience the loss of of a parent at such a young age.

Don't give up. If children have had a good foundation in the gospel at home, they often come back to principles and values with which they were raised when they are older and more experienced in life.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Mold a child when he is young, and he will be sure to mold when he is old. (Proverbs 32: 1)

7 posted on 06/15/2021 7:31:43 AM PDT by Jess Kitting
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To: Kaslin


8 posted on 06/15/2021 7:35:39 AM PDT by Southside_Chicago_Republican (The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog. )
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To: Wuli

This is what happens when you depart from Torah. Once you allow that we are not really obligated to keep all the commandments you begin to drift; imperceptibly at first. Then one day you, and your culture end up 180 degrees in opposition to the plain words of Scripture and you ask yourself “ how in the hell did I get here?,” God emphatically requires us to “observe all these commandments” because his Law is a living breathing organic whole. When you abrogate one of the commandments you weaken the whole. This is precisely the charge Jesus laid on some of the leaders in his day. This does not mean that we must keep the Torah to be saved. But is does mean that if we are true talmidim (disciples), we will keep it. Jesus exemplified it and expected all his followers to do so as well. It’s time for the SBC, and Christianity at large to admit that it made a huge mistake and begin the process of true teshuvah (repentance) that will repair the breach between Christianity and its historical, biblical roots in the revelation of Sinai.

9 posted on 06/15/2021 7:44:22 AM PDT by Torahman (Remember the Maccabees)
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To: Jess Kitting
None of my kids are evil, just back-slidden

They're still young, not yet old ... I'm claiming THAT element.

10 posted on 06/15/2021 7:52:11 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true, I have no proof, but they're true !)
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To: knarf
You're probably not old enough to hear those beautiful words:

"I should have listened more to Dad when I was younger."

"My father used to say . . ."

11 posted on 06/15/2021 8:04:20 AM PDT by Jess Kitting
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To: Kaslin

“Christianity’s Growth Problem Isn’t Politics, It’s Our Failure To Have And Evangelize Children”

NIDRI, No, I didn’t read it.

The only problems with “organized religion” is..

1. Its “organized”.

2. Its “religion”.

Religion = dividing believers into separate groups.

Denominations = dividing believers into smaller separate groups.

Churches = dividing believers into even smaller separate groups.

Bible studies = dividing believers into micro groups.

I always CRINGE at the use of the word “religion”. I am a CHRISTIAN! Not a Baptist, not a Catholic, not a Pentecostal, not a Methodist.

I am a man of “FAITH”. I have “FAITH” not religion.

It is the Christian faith because that is the ONLY REAL FAITH in the ONE and ONLY (Triune) GOD.

Your “religion” won’t save you. Your “denomination” won’t save you. Your “church” won’t save you.

ONLY the belief (”faith”) that Jesus Christ died on the cross for YOUR sins and rose from the dead. That you REPENT (say you are sorry) for your sins. Ask Him (Jesus) for forgiveness. ACCEPT His (Jesus) FREE GIFT of eternal life in Heaven.

You have to MEAN IT with every bone in your body. You must PROVE you meant it by changes in you life that reflect that you are NOW a “child of God”.

Pure FAITH! Not how many “hail Mary’s you say, not that you can speak in tongues (religious gibberish), not that you go to church on Easter and Christmas or EVERY SUNDAY/SATURDAY or EVERYDAY.

No matter how much MONEY you give. How many bible studies you attend. No matter how much you suck up to your priest, minister, pastor, leader.

To God all those things are filthy rags!

He wants your “heart” so He can save your “soul”.

12 posted on 06/15/2021 8:04:29 AM PDT by faucetman (Just the facts, ma'am, Just the facts )
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To: Kaslin

It is because the Church embraced the culture.

13 posted on 06/15/2021 8:32:09 AM PDT by redgolum (If this is civilization, I will be the barbarian. )
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To: Kaslin

Since many Christians think of sex as dirty, they tend to have fewer kids.

14 posted on 06/15/2021 9:08:46 AM PDT by JimRed (TERM LIMITS, NOW! Militia to the border! TRUTH is the new HATE SPEECH.)
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To: Jess Kitting
I'm 73, and my kids are all 20's and 30's

I have eight grandchildren

15 posted on 06/15/2021 9:22:06 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true, I have no proof, but they're true !)
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To: Torahman

It is - in terms of “learning” - somewhat like the way the Karate Kid was taught.

Many of the Karate motions his education began with seemed nonsensical, mechanical, repetitive and, at the time “of no use”. His “master” had him doing chores for him, but with demanding ways in which each chore was to be done. Being still “blind” to the deeper truth of Karate, the kid did not understand, at first.

Later, when he had to put his learned skills into practice did the importance of the “basic training” he received make sense, and paid off.

True Christianity is somewhat like that for children and for newcomers. The fullness of understanding it, and seeing it’s real positive effects, comes with living it, not merely being taught it. And that can take time.

Knowing how to tell young people, and newcomers “you will understand in time” is sometimes the hardest part of teaching successfully. As the teaching goes on, obeying the teaching comes first, in order for the teaching to be grasped completely, in time. Just like the experience of the Karate Kid.

16 posted on 06/15/2021 9:33:27 AM PDT by Wuli
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To: Wuli

There some real wisdom. Thanks!

17 posted on 06/15/2021 9:41:14 AM PDT by Torahman (Remember the Maccabees)
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To: Kaslin

Just like us Jews your problem is that you kowtow to every social freak out there and you put GOD in the back seat.

18 posted on 06/15/2021 9:50:39 AM PDT by Harpotoo (Being a socialist is a lot easier than having to WORK like the rest of US:-))
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To: Kaslin

This thread contains many valid points that add up. I would like to point of a couple: no parents are responsible for their kids ( sins of the father will be on the father and sins of the sons will be on the sons). Many previous “christians” were not truely christain. God is separating the wheat from the chaff.

19 posted on 06/15/2021 11:16:39 AM PDT by jimfr
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To: CondoleezzaProtege

It’s ironic since the Catholic bashers on here are always claiming everyone they knew who grew up Catholic is now an ex-Catholic. Articles like this suggest the opposite. Looks like a lot of people who are raised “Evangelical” don’t stick it and go apostate.

20 posted on 06/15/2021 1:38:31 PM PDT by BillyBoy ("States rights" is NOT a suicide pact.)
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