The coming Evangelical recession in America is already here
The current event of the day does not bode well for America on the whole, with regards to unity for a diverse people holding different convictions, and for the Evangelical church, on many fronts.
Within 48 hours of the official invitation, Pastor Louie Giglio announced that he’s “respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation” to offer the benediction prayer at President Obama’s Inauguration Day. News articles mentioned this as: Pastor withdraws from Obama inauguration after sermon on homosexuality surfaces (Fox), Giglio bows out of inauguration over sermon on gays (CNN), Pastor Backs Out of Obama Inauguration Over Previous Anti-Gay Comments (ABC). Right here in the United States of America, things feel a lot more like the Divided States of America. That’s sad.
And this is just one of many signs that things are not boding well for the churches in America with an Evangelical persuasion. A new book by John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church… and How to Prepare, synthesized data from a number of studies (including Gallup’s Organization, Barna Group, studies by David T. Olson, Dr. Christian Smith, journalist Christine Wicker) to conclude American Evangelicalism is more accurately between 7% to 8.9% of the American population, about one-fourth the size often claimed. In addition to inflated numbers, the author goes on to report alarming factors describing the state of the American Evangelical church:
- bankrupt: donation levels are declining
- hated: outsiders becoming increasingly antagonistic
- dividing: over political and theological issues
- bleeding: young adults leaving in unprecedented numbers
- sputtering: failing to make disciples
Dickerson himself was a former journalist, so he’d know how to do research and fact-check, so I’ll grant that his interpretation of the overall trends may be correct. Dickerson is now a pastor of a fast-growing church in Arizona, and he takes the space of the 2nd half the book to provide an overview of possible solutions. He’s honest enough to say that he doesn’t have it all figured out. The solutions he proposes are not proven. And I’m not sure his call for Evangelical churches re-forming its base and coming together is a good solution.
Download 2 free sample chapter free and read it for yourself & let me know your reaction.
Will this book finally open up the vigorous conversation that church leaders must have to address the reality of the crisis? While most of the numbers won’t tip the scale, the Evangelical church’s economic outlook may be the one thing that will get attention. Money has a way of getting attention more than anything else. In other words, the financial model is not sustainable.
The Evangelical church needs help, lots of help, more conversations and working solutions. Change is overdue. Time to innovate. Buckle up!
[disclosure: I received a review copy of this book]
In reference to the Louie Giglio withdrawal, this is what Christian Smith writes about this in Soul Searching in regards to the belief system of young people. He calls it “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. Everything is right except saying something is wrong. In the positive self-esteem movement, calling something wrong is tantamount to physical assault. One way I think we find our way through this is to gently critique the contradictions of our culture.