For Evangelicalism, The Sky Is Not Falling But The Ground Is Shifting

The mission force is now living in and engaging a very different (and more challenging) mission field.

As I’ve written in USAToday, I believe the future of America will likely resemble the modern Pacific Northwest. While the majority there still claims to be Christian, it is more secular and progressive than other parts of the country. However, there is a significant population of convictional Christians who are living on mission in a post-Christian culture.

 

Facts are our friends and the facts for Evangelicalism are somewhat of a mixed bag. Regardless, two truths should be held simultaneously: Evangelicalism is not collapsing, but the future religious makeup of America will continue to become more secular.

1) The current reality does not match the pop culture view that the evangelical sky is falling.

Despite the flood of opinion pieces proclaiming the death of the church in America, not one single reputable researcher or sociologists believes Christianity or Evangelicalism in America is dying.

Recently, I interviewed Rodney Stark, one of the nation’s leading sociologists, and asked him about the state of Evangelicalism today. He was perfectly blunt. “I think the notion that they’re shrinking is stupid. And it’s fiddling with the data in quite malicious ways. I see no such evidence.”

The General Social Survey, the best-known ongoing survey tracking societal trends, finds the share of Americans who regularly attends a Protestant church has only declined three points — from 23 to 20 percent — in the last thirty years. According to Gallup, current church attendance rates are essentially the same as they were in the 1940s. Church attendance rates (over reported, yes, but consistently over reported so we can see trends) peaked in the ’50s.

But that’s Protestants. What about Evangelicals?

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