Neo-evangelical churches (my phrase) are not causing the overall growth of church attendance, but are actually “re-cycling” and capturing those who find their traditional Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Alliance or ______ church not “working” for them.
Bring it on “Harvest Fellowship”, “The Meeting House”, “Elevation Church” and the like, but please remember something and walk humbly. You must not fool yourselves into thinking there your church is some new and special “move of God” and that you are re-claiming and re-booting Christianity and saving it from cultural irrelevancy. Humility is a virtue and needs to be remembered by these growing churches.
Neo-evangelical church Pastors and their Elders and Boards must also stop and remember that professional worship music, engaging & entertaining Pastors/speakers, inviting facilities, good children’s programs, good coffee, and a casual vibe and dress align with the same underlying trends that can cause the growth of other human endeavours as well. There is nothing powerfully mysterious necessarily going on that cannot be seen in play at your average successful mall or even displayed by a nightly talk show host. If they remember this, perhaps they will stop kidding themselves that somehow they have stumbled onto the True Jesus while the poor Baptist church down the street is stuck on the wrong Jesus since they are loosing members to “SuperDuperJesusChurch”.
There are also good factual reasons for these churches to remain fully humble. That is you do see something very often in these churches – that the “membership” may be a mile wide and growing, but the commitment of the majority is still an inch deep. Studies of average giving and attendance and volunteering (and other measures of engagement) in these neo-evangelical churches shows no apparent difference with the traditional mainline evangelical Baptist/Alliance/Pentecostal/etc. churches from which they have re-cycled their attendees.
These churches need to be warned to not believe their own press. They also need to remember that should their “gifted and charismatic” Pastor resign or should they de-invest in all the other conveniences they will likely suffer the very same fate and lose members to the next neo-evangelical church and the next “gifted Pastor”.
I do not make this observation to be mean-spirited. I make it in the hope that it will lead to some more humility and self-reflection.