On the Imminent Collapse of Evangelical Christianity

“The Church in America is dying, dying I tell you!”

It’s that much of what passes for Christianity today is just a spiritualized version of moralistic therapeutic deism. And sadly, the sociological and political connotations to the word “evangelical” often engulf the significance of this renewal movement, inserting a wedge between its cultural and aspirational definitions. Do we face significant challenges? Yes. And that’s been true of the church in every generation. Are we on the verge of immediate collapse? No. And the older I get, the more tiresome these predictions become.

 

Every month or so, I come across a news article or a new book that claims the evangelical movement is falling apart. We’re on the precipice of complete collapse, some say. “The Church in America is dying, dying I tell you!” We’re witnessing the last gasps of evangelical Christianity. The “nones” are on the rise, secularism is the future, and Christianity will soon be powerless.

Now, I would be the last person to deny the serious and persistent problems within the evangelical movement. It is true that many denominations (including my own) are in statistical decline. It’s also true that much of what passes for Christianity today is just a spiritualized version of moralistic therapeutic deism. And sadly, the sociological and political connotations to the word “evangelical” often engulf the significance of this renewal movement, inserting a wedge between its cultural and aspirational definitions.

Do we face significant challenges? Yes. And that’s been true of the church in every generation.

Are we on the verge of immediate collapse? No. And the older I get, the more tiresome these predictions become.

Nine years ago, Michael Spencer (a friend who was known as the “Internet Monk”) made headlines when he wrote an article predicting the “coming evangelical collapse”:

I believe that we are on the verge—within 10 years—of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed.

Around that time, I remember reading and reviewing a book that made a similar claim. Digging into the movement’s inflated numbers, the author whittled down our size until she found confessional, churchgoing evangelicals to be only 3.7 percent of the population. Our influence was about to implode from the inside, she wrote.

Well, we’ve got a year left for the Internet Monk’s prediction to come true, but the numbers tell a different story.

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