“The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.”
“In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism.”
* * *
In 2009, Michael Spencer wrote three widely-read posts that became synonymous with Internet Monk on “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” –
- The Coming Evangelical Collapse, part 1
- The Coming Evangelical Collapse, part 2
- The Coming Evangelical Collapse, part 3
John S. Dickerson is an evangelical pastor and author of the forthcoming book “The Great Evangelical Recession: Six Factors That Will Crash the American Church … and How to Prepare.” On Sunday, he wrote an opinion piece called, “The Decline of Evangelical America,” in which he posited that Michael’s prediction has come true. “Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating,” he claims.
His evidence and observations?
- A 2011 Pew Forum poll in which 82% of evangelical ministers reported their sense of a growing loss of influence and a movement that is losing ground.
- Evangelical polling organizations such as Lifeway and Barna that have found in their research that: “a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely.”
- His own research project, which found that: “the structural supports of evangelicalism are quivering as a result of ground-shaking changes in American culture,” and that: “The more that evangelicals attempt to correct course, the more they splinter their movement.” His conclusion? “In coming years we will see the old evangelicalism whimper and wane.”
- Dickerson observes that evangelicals are a shrinking minority in the U.S., and he cites the work of Christian Smith, whose findings show that Christians who identify as evangelicals make up only 7% of Americans.
- The movement also faces a looming donation crisis.
- The reputation of evangelicals is declining as they find it difficult to adapt to rapid changes in culture.
- Though evangelicals have a relatively sophisticated network of communications and resources, their own machinery often gets in the way of their primary mission of making disciples and pointing others to Jesus Christ.
How can evangelicalism right itself? I don’t believe it can — at least, not back to the politically muscular force it was as recently as 2004, when white evangelicals gave President George W. Bush his narrow re-election. Evangelicals can, however, use the economic, social and spiritual crises facing America to refashion themselves into a more sensitive, spiritual and humble movement.
He suggests that much of the cultural backlash against evangelicalism is not directly so much toward their views as it is toward their posture of sitting as moral judges. Christians have forgotten that their faith started as a minority position in a pagan world, and unless they recover the ethos of being “resident aliens” in the world, they will continue to be marginalized.
He also reminds us, however, that weakness is not a bad position for Christians to be in. “For me, the deterioration and disarray of the movement is a source of hope: hope that churches will stop angling for human power and start proclaiming the power of Christ.”