All of this is worrisome, and all of it should be resisted, but none of it represents an existential threat to the church. The only real threat is surrender — caving to the cultural, legal, and political forces demanding conformity. The church can and will survive persecution. It will not survive faithlessness. This is both a theological and historical truth.
In previous pieces, I’ve amply documented the decline and fall of the Protestant Mainline, those churches — like the United Churches of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA) — that abandoned biblical orthodoxy decades ago, in the name of cultural relevance and “inclusion.” Some are declining so precipitously that they may cease to exist within a generation. Already we’re seeing similar signs of decline in those Evangelical churches that are abandoning biblical truth on questions of sex, family, and marriage.
The day before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Nashville Scene — a local alternative paper — ran a long, gauzy profile of Pastor Stan Mitchell and GracePointe, a Tennessee church that’s done exactly what the culture demands and embraced same-sex marriage. In the midst of the lengthy ode to his courage, this small paragraph of truth stood out:
“We’ve lost half our church,” Greene says, adding that some who left were major donors. New members who’ve joined since Jan. 11 — roughly 30 percent of whom identify as LGBT — have offset those losses somewhat, but Mitchell estimates attendance is still down 30 percent from last year. The church has cut staff and expenses to the bone. Mitchell puts the current annual budget for church expenses at $1.3 million; as for revenue, he expects to bring in approximately $900,000 this year. “You can do the math pretty quickly and see that’s not going to work long term,” he says.
No, Mr. Mitchell, it will not.