While surfing the net a couple of days ago I came across several news stories about the Amish population boom. According to those news reports the Amish are growing so fast that a new Amish community is established every 3 1/2 weeks. These Plain People are now the fastest growing religious group in America, and virtually all of their growth is due to natural increase, not conversion. Although they almost certainly didn't plan to, the Amish are demonstrating the potent power of being quiverful.
There's a lesson here for mainstream Christians.
I opined once before on the "quiverful" doctrine, which asserts that believers should forego contraception and let God determine the size of their families. In that post I expressed some reservations about the teaching and I stand by them. However, the surging Amish population highlights how "quiverfullness" can be a potent weapon to combat the Church's decline.
Let's face it. Christianity is under siege in modern America. Not only is the faith being attacked from without, but it is also collapsing from within. It's been reported numerous times that 70% of today's Christian kids leave the faith after high school and never return. Some have questioned that number, but if the actual apostasy level is "only" 40-50% it's still catastrophic because mainstream Christians, even conservative ones, are not reproducing enough to replace the defectors. The Amish have defectors too, but their high birth rate means they more than replace them.
Most modern believers seem to think of church growth only in terms of increasing membership in individual congregations. They also seem to believe that such growth comes, and should come, exclusively through conversion of unbelievers. The role that birth rate plays in growing the Church is lost on most believers today even though natural increase was one reason for the early church's rapid growth. Unlike their pagan neighbors, the early Christians rejected abortion and infanticide--both very common in the Greco-Roman world--as murder. Thus, they grew in numbers. Just like the Amish are today.
As I said above, I have some problems with the "quiverful" doctrine but I'm coming to believe it can be the salvation of American Christianity. Converting unbelievers is a duty for Christians and, I believe, will always be the primary way to expand the faith. However, natural increase also has a vital role to play in growing the Church, and it doesn't mean that every Christian woman must be constantly pregnant. The early Christians' higher "birth" rate consisted not only of having more biological children, but also of taking in orphans and rescuing exposed babies. Modern quiverful Christians should follow their example and eagerly take in the unwanted children of the world. They should build their large families, and thereby build the Church, through natural reproduction and adoption. If God wants us to be quiverful I believe He wants us to be so by emptying out the orphanages, foster homes, and embryo freezers where children languish and die.
The Amish are doubling their population every twenty years. They're growing their faith community exponentially. That's the power of having a full quiver. We can't deny it. The evidence is right before our eyes. The only question is whether the faltering mainstream Church will accept reality and change its ways. Evangelizing the lost doesn't seem to be working. If the Church can't convert new believers then it must grow new believers. The Amish are showing how to do just that, if we will but have the eyes to see.