Why New Churches Are Growing

Will Willimon on a ground-breaking book

A few years ago, teaching for a summer in Southern California, I visited numerous congregations of my denomination. They were mostly graying, aging—obviously dwindling and depressed.

Why are we mainliners doing so poorly here? I wondered.

"Californians aren't religious anymore," I was informed by denominational leaders. "We are too socially progressive, too religiously sophisticated for most people here," explained others.

I concluded that what they meant was too boring.

California sociologist of religion Donald E. Miller is, like me, a product of mainline Protestantism. In the 1980s he wrote The Case for Liberal Christianity, beating the, if not yet dead, terminally ill horse of liberal Christendom. After that book he decided to "shelve all attempts at writing theology until I was retired and had earned the right to engage in speculative reasoning." Miller joined a liberal Episcopal congregation "where I did not need ...

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