The coming evangelical collapse

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ageofknowledge
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The coming evangelical collapse

#1

Post by ageofknowledge » Mon Sep 21, 2009 7:40 pm

BIG changes are coming in our demographics and culture. You can go out fighting a losing battle or begin searching for a strategy that will yield positive gains over the coming years.

Letting go of losing strategies and finding winning replacements, mind open looking to God for wisdom, are going to be key if want to see real results on a large scale.

Because the times they are a changing...

Read this article:

The coming evangelical collapse
An anti-Christian chapter in Western history is about to begin. But out of the ruins, a new vitality and integrity will rise.
By Michael Spencer
from the March 10, 2009 edition

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.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. 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. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success — resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

•Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before — a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to "evangelize" Protestantism in the name of unity.
Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church's problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society." That doesn't mean they'll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of "empire subversion" will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.
Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born [assuming Christians CHANGE]...

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#2

Post by JC333 » Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:21 pm

Sounds to me like someone is trying to limit the power of the Holy Spirit and what a dramatic change it can have not just in a person, but in a society. y:-?


EDIT: Thanks for sharing.


y>:D<

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#3

Post by ageofknowledge » Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:33 pm

JC333 wrote:Sounds to me like someone is trying to limit the power of the Holy Spirit and what a dramatic change it can have not just in a person, but in a society. y:-?


EDIT: Thanks for sharing.


y>:D<
Then you need to get the wax out of your ears.. lol because that's not what I'm doing or saying at all. Instead of sticking one's head in the ground like an ostrage and denouncing people who bothered to open the window and see what's happening outside of the evangelical shrinking God bubble, it makes much better sense for believers in this country to examine the changing demographics and begin consulting with God in prayer and other people as to how to engage them.

But then if your theology is so calvinistic and dispensationalistic that it no longer provides the best fit for benefiting the world around you I would expect such a reply.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#4

Post by JC333 » Thu Sep 24, 2009 7:29 am

ageofknowledge wrote:
Then you need to get the wax out of your ears.. lol because that's not what I'm doing or saying at all.
You wrote this article? y:-/

ageofknowledge wrote:Instead of sticking one's head in the ground like an ostrage and denouncing people who bothered to open the window and see what's happening outside of the evangelical shrinking God bubble, it makes much better sense for believers in this country to examine the changing demographics and begin consulting with God in prayer and other people as to how to engage them.
I'm not trying to stick my head in the ground, and if I still am then please tell me. I just think that this article is trying to say that there isn't any hope for a revival in a society that's becoming increasingly secular. While yes, change is happening, and I admit that, I don't think we should lose hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.



y>:D<

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#5

Post by ageofknowledge » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:16 am

That's not what it is saying. What it is saying is that what we are doing isn't good enough. It then lists specific reasons why. The author, not me, of that article is right on target.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#6

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:26 am

This author's problem is exactly the same as the vast majority of evangelicals' problem. He has confused the decline of social justice and the increase of immorality and secularism with the decline of Christian influence. The "golden age" of pre-60s America, when everyone was "moral" and "went to church" and "respected the Bible" was no more or less "Christian" than it is today. It is a shame that we confuse a moral society with a Christian one. :p

The country seemed "Christian" in those days because it was socially conservative and immorality was shameful. We were, in those days, something of a shame and honor society. That changed in the 60s. We have always been a country that embraces classical liberalism, which supports three kinds of freedom: 1. freedom of dissent (political), 2. freedom of worship (religious), and 3. freedom of equal opportunity (social). Yet with the countercultural revolution of the 60s, a new freedom was pushed: freedom of morality--or better, freedom from morality. What happened was that there was a fundamental shift in which morality was seen as being an externally constraining force to being a strictly internal matter. Truth became relative, and post-modernism was born.

The obvious fallout was an increasingly "immoral" society and a conflict between religious social conservatives and popular values. You see, before, the fact that popular values were broadly in line with what Christianity taught as a practical way of life was largely coincidental. I say largely, and not completely, because the Judeo-Christian tradition did a lot to establish that value system, but we shouldn't be so naive as to think that those values were based on or determined by a biblical worldview.

With the decline in popular values, biblical values didn't change, and the gap became obvious. It becomes moreso everyday. "Evangelicalism" can't collapse because it never was built. It was always a mirage. The number of people who know and understand their Bible and who hold to a biblical worldview has always been very low. People in those days were simply following popular culture which, back then, had all the external trappings of the biblical worldview, but none of its spiritual foundations.

The author speaks as if we can somehow challenge evangelicalism--or Christians as a whole--with the right message and somehow, just maybe, pull ourselves out from this. That assumes that evangelicals could ever be differentiated from popular culture in the first place, which I contend, they cannot be. We don't need a second revival, another Great Awakening that is little more than a call to morality. We need to hold fast to sound doctrine. The world will do what it will, which is to decay. We can slow that process, but not reverse it. Our job is to point as many to Christ as we can so that when He returns to solve the problem, as many as possible will be rightly related to Him.

And the LAST thing we need to do is pay more attention to Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity. That's as deeply submerged in post-modern relativism as you can get. A focus on biblical authority, not personal experience, is the only thing that matters. It is what the Church is founded on. Whatever fires rage around us, the body of Christ that stands on His Word will be fine. Remember what Jesus said about the Gates of Hell.

tl;dr - evangelicalism matters about as much as any label. The issue is whether or not people 1) believe the Gospel and 2) are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. He can take care of everything else.
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#7

Post by ageofknowledge » Fri Sep 25, 2009 3:06 pm

Some interesting points Jac, and thank you for your reply; however, I do believe most people actually believed in the God of the Bible and the Bible in those days (something evidenced from polls at that time) which did have a cause effect on the culture in America. I don't believe the evidence shows it being incidental at all.

Also the author argues for holding on to sound doctrine as you do. But he also argues for changing the way we engage with the world around us so as to realize gains after accounting for losses. Not just the formation of God bubbles that ensure most Christian children end up Christians like their parents.

I believe he's right.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#8

Post by Jac3510 » Fri Sep 25, 2009 3:53 pm

Believing in the God of the Bible isn't the same thing as believing the Gospel, my friend. And just because a person believes in God and lives a moral life out of a legalistic interpretation of Scripture, buttressed by the general culture, it certainly doesn't mean that they are living on spiritual foundations.

With that said, I strongly agree that we shouldn't just be raising our children in little Christian bubbles. That's another topic for another thread, but anyone who says that sound doctrine is not the answer I think goes against the whole tenor of Scripture.

So says I, anyway. :)
Proinsias wrote:I don't think you are hearing me. Preference for ice cream is a moral issue
And that, brothers and sisters, is the kind of foolishness you get people who insist on denying biblical theism. A good illustration of any as the length people will go to avoid acknowledging basic truths.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#9

Post by ageofknowledge » Fri Sep 25, 2009 6:57 pm

Believing in the God of the Bible isn't the same thing as believing the Gospel, my friend. And just because a person believes in God and lives a moral life out of a legalistic interpretation of Scripture, buttressed by the general culture, it certainly doesn't mean that they are living on spiritual foundations.

--> I see your point Mr John Macarthur; however, the knowledge of God is desirable on many levels for societies. We have lost much of that (as evidenced by modern poles).

With that said, I strongly agree that we shouldn't just be raising our children in little Christian bubbles. That's another topic for another thread, but anyone who says that sound doctrine is not the answer I think goes against the whole tenor of Scripture.

So says I, anyway. :)

--> I can appreciate that enough to agree with it whole heartedly. However, your theology is different than my own in many ways yet we are both born again genuine Christians. That doesn't make us both right on a point of disagreement but it does mean we have to be careful about two things:

1. Thinking that one's theology is perfect and that everyone who disagrees with them is therefore wrong by default on every point of disagreement and then treating them as such.

2. Understanding there is room on non-essentials for disagreement amongst genuine believers and that we can work together as well as seperately to accomplish real material gains in our society if we are willing to work in a way that yields results.
Last edited by ageofknowledge on Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#10

Post by Canuckster1127 » Sat Sep 26, 2009 9:24 am

Michael Spenser is also known as The Internet Monk and this article of his, which was originally a blog series on his site, has generated a lot of attention. He's actually a Southern Baptist and also one of the louder voices within what is called by some (inclusing Spenser) the post-evangelical movement.

I find him one of the more intriguing voices out there and usually find what he has to say very interesting even when I don't completely agree with him on some issues. Other voices that tie into some of the genre include George Barna and his book Revolution.

Thanks for putting this up. It's been generating a lot of conversation and I think it's important because the trends are strongly changing and there's good reasons for some of the questions.

bart
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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#11

Post by B. W. » Tue Sep 29, 2009 11:48 am

The article reminds me of this passage of scripture…

2 Thessalonians 2:3, “…Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…” KJV

I think that the lesson learned from history stated that the ancient Romans also thought Christianity would fail…

I find Jesus' words to be true instead…

Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” KJV

Psalms 37:35,36,37,38,39,40 is pretty good too…

Question? Is our faith in man or the Lord?
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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#12

Post by Canuckster1127 » Tue Sep 29, 2009 12:07 pm

B. W. wrote:The article reminds me of this passage of scripture…

2 Thessalonians 2:3, “…Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…” KJV

I think that the lesson learned from history stated that the ancient Romans also thought Christianity would fail…

I find Jesus' words to be true instead…

Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” KJV

Psalms 37:35,36,37,38,39,40 is pretty good too…

Question? Is our faith in man or the Lord?
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A falling away from what? Are you suggesting that evangelical institutional churches represent the whole of Christianity or that a moving away from institutional churches by definition represents a falling away from the church universal?

I think many of the elements within institutional churches may represent more what the ancient romans introduced in terms of polity, organizational structure and there are those who believe that the moving away from these elements in today's overall church culture represents not a falling away but rather a return to what the church was originally given life to be.

Just a thought. ;)

bart
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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#13

Post by ageofknowledge » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:18 pm

I've heard elderly Christians rail against modern Christian worship music calling it "the Devil's music" as they cling to their outdated 19th century hymn book and push young people away from Christ/accepting Christ at their churches.

Now there's nothing wrong with enjoying hymns but what some of you seem to be missing is that each generation needs to have the Gospel presented in a way they can understand and accept internalizing it as they are born anew.

To hang on to ineffective strategies under the excuse that only your method is scripturally sound is a great way to ensure your message never reaches them. And I mean reach as in conversion.

The author of this article is right on target.

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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#14

Post by B. W. » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:21 pm

Canuckster1127 wrote:...A falling away from what? Are you suggesting that evangelical institutional churches represent the whole of Christianity or that a moving away from institutional churches by definition represents a falling away from the church universal?

I think many of the elements within institutional churches may represent more what the ancient romans introduced in terms of polity, organizational structure and there are those who believe that the moving away from these elements in today's overall church culture represents not a falling away but rather a return to what the church was originally given life to be.

Just a thought. ;)

bart
A falling away into apostasy…

There are several interpretations of what this falling away is and I'll leave that open for discussion for anyone who would like to elaborated a bit more on what it is...

Next, the Church is subject to many types and times of apostasy but it will not be conquered by it. By the Church, I mean those not who have not taken in apostasy and are led by it. I know that the Lord will prevail for his people in due time ;)
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Re: The coming evangelical collapse

#15

Post by ageofknowledge » Tue Sep 29, 2009 3:50 pm

So everyone can just ignore reality and carry on ineffectively waiting for God to act B.W.? I never understood this kind of thinking because it's unscriptural.

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