There're some interesting new membership statistics from the Assemblies of God denomination, which has had 24 years of continuous growth and is expanding at a rate faster than the U.S. population.
Current conventional wisdom insists U.S. Christianity is in full retreat. The facts are different. Once "mainline" Protestantism has collapsed. Some conservative denominations, after decades of robust growth, are now declining or moribund. Non-denominational Christianity is growing. And several conservative denominations are growing, including the Assemblies of God, which is a Pentecostal communion, Wesleyan in theology that emphasizes gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Assemblies of God also has the rare distinction of great racial diversity. Its Hispanic percentage of over 21 percent is greater than the nations, and its black membership, nearly 10 percent, almost equals the national percentage. Its Asian membership of over 4 percent is also significant. Forty percent of the denomination is non-white. And its number of the much-hyped Millennials, who are supposedly all secularizing, is likewise growing, comprising 21 percent of growth over the last decade.
There are today 12,792 Assemblies of God congregations in the U.S., a growth of 1,408 over the last four years. Here are other numbers from a denominational news release about church growth in 2013:
- Adherents increased 1.0 percent to 3,127,857
- Membership increased 1.4 percent to 1,805,381
- Major worship service attendance grew 2.0 percent to 1,918,686
- Water baptisms rose 4.3 percent to 137,375
- Spirit baptisms grew 2.9 percent to 83,731
- Conversions increased 0.6 percent to 456,395
- Credentialed ministers grew 1.6 percent to 36,434
Last year, the global Assemblies of God, which is a communion of several dozen largely national churches, grew 1.7 percent to 67,512,302 adherents, with 384,205 ministers and 366,105 churches and preaching points. The denomination in the U.S. is especially effective with immigrants.
While elites of fast declining, nearly all white old-line Protestant denominations talk big about "diversity," the Assemblies of God is actually practicing it. And it's not compromising its core doctrine or debating surrender of Christian sexual ethics, which liberals imagine is the magical ingredient for mass appeal, despite all evidence to the contrary.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), whose General Assembly is meeting right now, and which just lost a couple hundred thousand members, making it now smaller than the Assemblies of God, likely won't ponder the Assemblies of God example. They're too focused on same sex marriage and anti-Israel divestment.
Doubtless the Assemblies of God is full of its own problems and controversies, like all human institutions. But its evangelistic success across demographics, with a counter cultural Gospel that insists on the transcendent over the secular, merits examination by other churches hoping for growth.
For more info check out this analysis from Darrin Rodgers.
Follow Mark on Twitter @markdtooley.