Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The New South: growing less Christian

The following is an excerpt from Thomas Crane's article, "The new south, not what it once was."

"The South is changing and it's doing so fast. The South is growing at a rate five times faster than the midwest and northeast, and during the next 30 years the South will become the most populous region in the nation.

"Tyler Jones told the group gathered for the Advance the Church conference at Summit Church in Durham that evangelical churches are nowhere near close to keeping up with this type of growth. Jones, pastor of Vintage 21 Church, described the South as a region becoming increasingly less religious and more "post Christian" at a rate far faster than anywhere else in the country. More than half of the people in the South who say they are evangelical believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Only 36 percent of southern evangelicals believe their religion to be the "one, true faith that leads to eternal life."

Advance the Church seeks to start and revitalize churches in the South. This year's conference focused on contextualizing the Gospel in the new urban South.

Quoting Billy Graham, Jones said that in the South, "we have become inoculated to the gospel." Many Christians "claim it but don’t live it" is one way to look at what is happening in the South, but Jones believes a better description is "quaint moralism." People strive to behave morally, but morality has no capacity for transforming lives. "Our goodness is our own poison," Jones said. "We think we can demand that God owes us because we have been good and moral."

Rather than being inoculated by the gospel, Jones said some in the South misunderstand the gospel. "We have reduced Christ and the gospel and it has affected our churches in every aspect," he said. Some churches are full of Christians who, although they are regenerate, have never been challenged to apply the gospel and are more moralistic than gospel-centered. Other churches are full of people who think they are Christians but are actually unregenerate. "At the heart of the issue is restoring the gospel in our churches," Jones said.

Full article here.