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Prayer groups at New Day Conference | Photo by Tom Beckwith

‘Churchianity’ vs. Christianity

New Day Conference explores discipleship in 'post-Christian' America.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Is there a difference between “churchianity” and Christianity?

Can one be a devoted church member yet not a disciple of Christ?

Is traditionalism killing the church? Or is theological liberalism to blame?

Or both?

David Young, senior minister for the North Boulevard Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, Tenn., speaks at the New Day Conference.

We live in a time of rapid decline in Churches of Christ and many other Christian groups in the United States. Congregations are shrinking and dying. Children and grandchildren are leaving the faith.

To explore what, if anything, can be done to reverse the negative trends in our so-called “post-Christian” world, more than 400 ministers and church leaders from 20-plus states came together for the fourth annual New Day Conference.

The North Boulevard Church of Christ, south of Nashville, hosted the conference last week. That growing congregation averages Sunday attendance of 2,100 and offers services at four locations in three languages: English, Spanish and Chinese.

“We want to kick down the gates of hell, and we want to do it in the name of King Jesus,” North Boulevard senior minister David Young told New Day attendees.

As Young sees it, both traditionalism and theological liberalism are killing the church.

What’s needed, Young contends, is a worldwide spiritual movement to introduce every person on planet Earth to Jesus.

Related: Can Churches of Christ reach millennials?

To that end, the North Boulevard church has set a goal of planting 100,000 new congregations in the next 30 years. No, that’s not a typo.

“We believe that if we cast a huge number and then say we’re not going to stop until we get there, then God will provide,” Young told me.

New Day attendees scatter throughout the North Boulevard auditorium to pray for mission work around the world.

The conference name matches the title of Young’s 2016 book “New Day: Restoring the Revolutionary Mission of Christ’s Church.”

Among 12 steps to a revolution that the book outlines: “Recommit to the Holy Scriptures, refusing to compromise for the ideals of theological liberalism while at the same time going beyond traditionalist readings of the Bible. Read the Scriptures as the living and transformational Word of God.”

For the last four years, the North Boulevard church has organized the New Day Conference to encourage sister congregations in the mission of “making disciples of all nations.”

“We get to hear all the ‘win stories’ from churches all over the country,” said John Magnuson, North Boulevard’s executive minister. “But all those stories are rooted in discipleship. It’s people joining in the mission of Jesus.”


Christians must regain their passion for sharing Jesus with the lost, said Buddy Bell, senior minister for the Landmark Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala.

We in Churches of Christ typically aren’t known for our passion, Bell noted in a keynote sermon.

“The issue is no longer my comfort. The issue is the mission of God.”

He gave the example of a little-attended Sunday night assembly where the song leader urges the sparse audience to get up and move a few pews closer to the front.

“Did you ever notice what happens in that moment?” Bell said. “Nothing.”

The crowd laughed because 99 percent of us have witnessed that exact scenario.

Bell joked that he likes to tell fellow Christians, “Either you get fired up for Jesus now or you will later.”

But the real answer, he proposed, is to mirror Jesus’ passion for lost souls (see the story of the woman at the well in John 4). And not only his passion but also his vision and focus on the mission.

Trying to be the “most progressive, funky” church in town won’t resonate with most longtime members, Bell said. But telling the truth that traditional ways of doing church aren’t keeping their children and grandchildren in the fold might.

“The issue is no longer my comfort,” he said. “The issue is the mission of God.”


Another speaker, Wesley Leonard, stressed that “our job as Christians really is to make other Christians.”

“I’m no longer interested in ‘churchianity.’ I’m interested in Christianity.”

Leonard said the Southside Church of Christ — the Orlando, Fla., congregation that he planted — has grown to 700 members by focusing on lost people and not traditions.

“We argue over worship,” Leonard said of Churches of Christ. “God is concerned about work — what we’re doing to save lost souls.

“I’m no longer interested in ‘churchianity.’ I’m interested in Christianity.”

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Murfreesboro, TN, USA

Filed under: discipleship growth and decline in Churches of Christ Inside Story National New Day Conference North Boulevard Church of Christ Tennessee Top Stories

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