The Evangelical collapse: A prediction


We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Michael Spencer

Check out the full article here.

What do you think? Is Spencer way off?

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  1. March 10, 2009 at 10:41 pm — Reply

    I think you would have to agree that he is at least a little right. It has been heavy on my mind in the last couple years.

    The reality is that the church in America has chosen some battles to fight that were probably the wrong ones to get into and missed the point to begin with.

  2. March 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm — Reply

    Maybe, maybe not.

    I think that, like in Europe, the mainline churches are disappearing because they’ve swapped any Christian content of real conviction with doing, basically, the sort of work that the Red Cross and the Salvation Army do much better. They’ve decided they should be of the culture rather than offensive to it and subversive of it, and that’s the end of standing for anything, especially anything as radical as Jesus.

    The evangelical Christians don’t have to go the same way, and certainly won’t in the next ten years. Those kind of collapses have happened before (for instance in the rather pious Germany of the 1950s, which turned into a 2%-church attendance land in the 1960s), but that usually goes hand-in-hand with major generational changes, deep disillusionment with the past, a paradigm shift in what life is to be lived for, and massive counter-cultural upheaval, which I don’t see any hints of being on the horizon.

    Let’s not forget that “evangelical” is a nomenclature that certain people self-describe with, others don’t, but that isn’t a factual descriptor of anything. And the most recent study shows a decline in Protestant Christianity, true, but not really dramatically so. Perhaps skeptics have simply become more comfortable calling themselves “agnostic” or “followers of no religion” (that category can include a lot of “followers of Jesus”, by the way, who oppose organized religion).

    Two things Spencer says that I think are true:

    — evangelicals will start more strongly forming their own countercultures rather than trying to dominate mainstream culture (they’re already doing that anyway)
    — the Pentecostal movement will increasingly dominate the evangelical presence (if the rest of the world, i.e. Africa, South America, and Asia are any indication)

    Other than that, it pretty much sounded like the same Christianity-is-going-to-the-dogs fare that’s been bandied about in the U.S. since it was just a British colony. You should read sometime what people were saying when all these Anglicans, Calvinists, Quakers, and Baptists suddenly had all these people running away from their organized groups and doing their own un-Christian thing and calling themselves Methodists. And then a little later that other group that kept insisting on calling itself “Christians only”. And we all know THAT meant the end of Protestant Christianity was near… to the dogs, I say, to the dogs.

  3. March 10, 2009 at 10:59 pm — Reply

    And also I think evangelicals LOVE thinking they’re about to become a small, persecuted minority. They’ve always loved predicting that. After all, it means they’re going to get raptured soon.

    History tells me not to count on it.

  4. March 11, 2009 at 7:41 am — Reply

    I think he has a few points to which we need to pay close attention. But overall, it is very pessimistic, alarmist, and untrue.

  5. March 11, 2009 at 7:46 am — Reply

    What do people think about this quote:

    We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.

  6. March 11, 2009 at 8:00 am — Reply

    I think he has a point there with that one. We’re not very good about formulating things out in a durable way, and we need to become better than simply saying “God is awesome” — but then, who really does only that? How many Christians do you know who don’t try to move beyond that as they mature?

    And, on the other hand, that’s been one of the strengths of the Protestant “evangelical” movement — that we know the core ideas and cling to the biblical text for the specifics. That makes evangelical faith, in fact, highly adaptable to cultural change.

    And third, I work with a lot of Catholic students, and when you talk to them you find an odd paradox: Many of them know next to nothing about theology proper or even about the Bible (one of them was shocked the other day when I told her that her name Rachel was, in fact, a Hebrew name and not an Irish one), but they cling very closely to biblical values, virtues, and attitudes, and have a strong and orthodox view of issues like sin. So perhaps “knowing next to nothing about their own faith” is not necessarily the same thing as acting unfaithfully. It’s not ideal, obviously, and it needs to change, but it’s not disastrous.

  7. March 11, 2009 at 8:30 am — Reply

    Todd, that quote is SO accurate. Our young people go to these Christian concerts, they go to things like Winterfest, they go on youth trips and such yet they know very little about the Bible. Our churches have gone to a “feel good” mentaility. Take Bible classes for example. How many do we have (for adults mind you) that are actually a study of a book of the Bible? Usually, none. They are more along the lines of “How to be a Christian in the work place” or “Loving others” or “Following the spirit”. Now, while those may be good classes, usually, they hardly ever have you open the Bible.

    In our lifegroup about two years ago, we spent a good month or two studying different events in the Bible such as Giants or the Ark or Demons. We really opened the Bible and launched into it. When we reached the end and were deciding what to study next, one person said “We need to get more into feelings and relationships. I’m not really interested in studying about Sampson or Paul anymore.” I really was taken back by that remark since, while studying, some people never knew a donkey had spoken or that Daniel did more than survive a lions den.

    Our worship services are not much better. We have moved to theatrics and drama rather than the word. We would rather be entertained by praise teams, drama and funny stories than actually getting into the word. Frankly, I really dislike worship now because of all this. The sad thing is, you go to a blog like Mike Copes and you hear him and others talk on and on and on about how, unless we CHANGE, we will keep losing young people. Well, SHOW ME THE PROOF. Show me. Show me the stats on how many young people are leaving and then show the me the stats that prove that if you do all stuff you are talking about they won’t leave. SHOW ME! The sad, sad truth is, they cannot. They have no studies, they have no proof, they have NOTHING but empty talk. Just like Obama and the economy, many of the leaders in the church just preach doom and gloom unless something is done but have nothing to back up what they are proposing.

    Many people my age (38) and younger that I talk to do are like me. They want to hear the word, not funny stories or videos or bands or praise teams. They want to learn what they used to teach in Lads to Leaders and things like that.

    Anyway, let me get off my soapbox.

  8. March 11, 2009 at 8:48 am — Reply

    Of course it depends on who you define as an evangelical, but 5-point Calvinism is all the rage right now, and I can easily see it taking the place of what we think of as “evangelical”

  9. Brad
    March 12, 2009 at 7:01 am — Reply

    I’m not really buying the quote. Especially the cause and effect premise. I do buy the fact that our youth aren’t knowledgeable. But it isn’t because of lack of orthodoxy, or because its the fault of our youth ministers and Christian media. I’m not sure what the cause is, but if I had to guess I’d say it has more to do with the influence of the culture at large than it does with anything else. They don’t know Bible facts and stories, and they also don’t know basic geography, history, literature, or how to spell anything. The problem is bigger than us.

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The Evangelical collapse: A prediction