Changes in Church Demographics: Conflict


Even though conflicts within American religion over ordaining homosexuals have received a lot of attention in recent years, and seem to be tearing some denominations apart, the overall level of conflict within congregations is about what it was in 1998, with 26 percent of congregations experiencing a conflict in the last 2 years that led some people to leave. (Interestingly, only 2 percent of congregations in the NCS-II reported a conflict over homosexuality.)

Wow. 26%! And this includes all sorts of Christian denominations throughout the U.S. We are bad to fight. We seem not to have been reading our Bibles.

2% of the 26% (1/13th) of this was about homosexuality. What’s the rest about? You have to figure the role of women and worship styles, as well as old-fashioned internal power struggles. 

But whatever the reason, it doesn’t speak well of Christianity.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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6 Responses to Changes in Church Demographics: Conflict

  1. Joe Baggett says:

    This is one of the main reasons that the spiritual seekers of this age are so turned off by organized Christian religion. So many people who are looking for spiritual meaning and purpose brush off Christianity because of the constant division of every little issue. This issue alone has also caused many sincere Christians to abandon the faith all together.

  2. dellkimberly says:

    At some point we have to be able to change the culture of religion in America as well as in our fellowship. We are caught in a culture that basically wants to know what does this have to offer for me as an individual. We need to change direction and culture. It needs to be about preaching Jesus and taking that influence into the communities around us.

  3. While I agree with both Joe and Dell, my view is the more fundamental issue is the desire for many to know they are saved and yet they are unconvinced of God's graciousness towards us.

    And if we don't truly accept that salvation is from God and not of ourselves, then we will continue to try "be perfect." And to be perfect we must have our doctrine right — which inevitably leads to disagreement and then to division.

    Keep teaching grace — it's the truth and the only assurance we should rely on.

  4. Bob says:

    We went to one non denominational group that actually prayed for all Christian congregations in their community. I thought that is one way to start fellowship.

    Isn't it strange that the basic format of Christian worship hasn't changed all that much in the last two thousand years? But if I could understand the original Greek manuscripts of the new testament and the nuances of the language of the first century then I might be in a better position to determine the true doctrine and who is right or wrong about worship and salvation.. That is if it really matters.

    I believe the Gospel is simple and how we should be like Jesus with the indwelling Spirit to be even simpler. Men and their little power struggles make the bible very complicated.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    In the Churches of Christ, the splits are very often occasioned by a failure to understand grace. But we're seeing 26% major conflict in other denominations — most of which don't suffer from the same doctrinal struggles.

    My own view is most church conflict is over personalities — or more precisely, who gets to rule the roost. Most church splits are power struggles.

    Now, sometimes genuine doctrinal disagreements drive the struggle for power, but splits happen when the means of resolving the disagreement is by vying for control, rather than by studying the Bible or compromise. And when people fight for domination rather seeking common ground with a spirit of humility, it's really more about power than doctrine.

    It may only be one side of the fight that seeks power rather than accord, forcing the other side to either surrender its principles or leave. But when one side or the other decides to win by asserting control rather than through reconciliation, the church splits.

    Obviously, this isn't always true. Sometimes the two sides really do try to find common ground, to study and pray together, and just have to go their separate ways. But it's rare, in my experience. Churches do that, but when they do, they rarely split.

  6. Joe Baggett says:

    I agree Jay most churches that split have to do with power struggles. Our doctrinal perfectionism just adds gasoline to the fire.

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