Is the Evangelical Movement in Decline?
The other buzz is coming from an article in The Christian Science Monitor, propaganda rag of the Church of Christ, Scientist. The article made some pretty bold statements.
"Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants."
"There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. "
Turns out that the article isn't exactly as written. The article was co-opted as an editorial piece from a larger, three part blog post written by Baptist minister Michael Spencer. In fact, Spencer put a little disclaimer on his own website about the CSM article, which was picked up by a lot of national media, including the Drudge Report. I suggest you read the original. Many of the quotes in the CSM article have been outright re-written. In fact, the last quote above was actually:
"Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors."
Not quite the same thing. Spencer's article is well-written and thought out, and asks many important questions. And the big question is: what is the future of the evangelical church in America?
Spencer indicates that we do not teach enough orthodox doctrine to our youth and children. I would largely agree. In this day and age of seeker-friendly, multi-campused megachurches spouting the prosperity Gospel, it is hard to instill good theology. Can't bring people to the Cross if you never mention the Cross, can you?
Modern Christian music is no help, either, with it's catchy hooks and devoid-of-doctrine lyrics. Without a good, sound theological foundation, the music becomes the de facto theological base. Many of these are great songs that inspire worship, but they should not be the foundation of a doctrine. For that, I have a Good Book I can recommend.
I do not agree, however, with Spencer in that the future of the evangelical church lies with the absorption of evangelicals into mainline churches, especially Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions. There's just too much of a divide there. Once you've been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you never go back, so to speak. Now, while there are, for example, Charismatic Catholic churches, I do not see this trend expanding. (Though it's not a bad idea. I'll write about why not in a future post.) What I do see is a leaner evangelical church, thinner, more back to basics. Think Quakers with the internet. I see a youth movement toward traditional values driving a revival in the church.
But - if we do not get alongside our youth and kids, and provide them with a sound theology and solid discipleship, the church will be built on quicksand.
What's your opinion?