Two years ago TIME magazine highlighted an evangelical “megachurch” whose pastor had led the congregation to affirm gay marriage and to welcome LGBT persons as full members of the church (see the sermon announcement above from two years ago). The story made quite a splash at the time, even though many pointed out that the church wasn’t really a megachurch and could hardly be seen as a bellwether of things to come.
A once-large Nashville-area Evangelical congregation that made headlines after its pastor announced that the church would conduct same-sex marriages is selling its campus and relocating to rented space.
After his announcement of LGBT support in 2015, Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church in Franklin, Tennessee was profiled in Time magazine. But what was a much sought-after sign of Evangelical movement towards LGBT affirmation may have been wishful thinking on the part of cultural progressives pouring money into programs that aim to shift Evangelical pastors’ views on sexuality…
Changes ultimately were not limited to teachings on sexuality. In August, the Nashville Star reported that GracePointe would share space with another progressive congregation, now describing itself as “unapologetically interfaith”.
A visitor to a recent service counted approximately 240 attendees, a fraction of the number that once participated.
“The public embrace of LGBTQI people and same-sex relationships by Mitchell and GracePointe Church in 2015 has led to a major decline in attendance and revenue,” Out & About Nashville reported in September. “The half-empty lot bears evidence of a minor exodus over two years of congregants.”
GracePointe has listed the 12,000-square-foot modernist chapel and 22 acre property where the church has met since 2009. The property, initially listed in February at $7.5 million, was dropped to $5.7 million in March and $4.9 million in April according to real estate records. The property is now under contract according to the Franklin Patch, and the sale could finalize by year’s end.
The loss of more than half of the congregation has hurt GracePointe’s financial stability, Mitchell told Out & About Nashville. The congregation is hoping the sale of the church property, along with budget and staff cutbacks, will improve finances.
This is a sad but predictable result of a pastor who leads a church to apostatize from the Christian faith. Walking away from Jesus is not a catalyst for church growth. On the contrary, it is the catalyst for church death. Believers in such churches will eventually leave, and those that remain to embrace the error will be an unfaithful remnant. It may be a gathering of people, but it will not be a gathering of born-again people and will not therefore be a church of the Lord Jesus.
Gay marriage and homosexuality are going to become the occasion for a great winnowing of the evangelical ranks, and we are going to be seeing a lot of that in days to come. Those churches that have been evangelical in name only and that have not been conducting themselves with biblical integrity are going to get exposed on this issue. Many of these “evangelical” churches will buckle under pressure (like GracePointe) and will be known as “formerly evangelical” in very short order. For that reason, GracePointe’s falling away is not the future of evangelicalism but of former evangelicalism. And that is a big difference.