If you’ve been on the bloggernacle for long, you’ve probably seen some posts that note that growth in the LDS Church is flattening out, and these posts usually make the implication that this is simply an LDS phenomenon. However David French (a Presbyterian evangelical) recently pointed out that in America nearly all Christian religions are experiencing declining growth, and he thinks that evangelicals could learn a thing or two from the Mormons. French gave reasons why evangelicals are suffering problems:
- The church is overprotective.
- Their experience of Christianity is shallow.
- Churches seem antagonistic to science.
- The church’s approach to sexuality is judgmental and simplistic.
- They wrestle with the exclusivity of Christianity.
- The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
I would assert that these same reasons apply to Mormons as well. Here’s what French sees that Mormons are doing right:
- Mormons have bigger families.
- Mormons have lower divorce rates.
- Mormons share their faith.
- Mormons are “orthodox.”
- Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members.
- Mormons are less selfish.
Now, I think it is important to notice one other important factor when talking about growth rates. French says
Simply put, when America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious“, we have a problem.
So yes, we do have a problem. But I think the problem could be much worse. Here are some important questions to ask in relation to why Americans are becoming less religious:
- If “the church” was less overprotective, would that make a positive difference in growth?
- What can “the church” do to make Christianity/Mormonism deeper and less shallow?
- Can “the Church” be less antagonistic to science? If so, would that make a positive difference in growth?
- How can “the church” approach sexuality so that it is less judgmental and simplistic? Would this lead to more lax attitudes toward sex? Would that make a positive difference in growth?
- Should Christianity/Mormonism continue to assert exclusivity? If not, why would that make a positive difference in growth?
- How can “the church” be more friendly to those who doubt? Why would that make a positive difference in growth?
If you want to read the entire article, here is a link to French’s article. With all the talk of the Mall, I have to say I was intrigued with NBC’s recent coverage of Welfare Square, and French’s assertion that Mormon’s aren’t selfish. If we tried to address why people are leaving religion, would that increase growth? What are your thoughts?