In the early 2000s, I can recall a publication from WorldNetDaily (unfortunately I have been unable to find the source today) in which it said that there was going to be another “spiritual revolution” in the next thirty years where “Christianity”- and by that meaning the particular American-type form of Evangelical Protestantism -would sweep over the entire world.
When I read this, I did not believe it because at the time, when I was scarcely in my 20s, its projections seemed to be based on fantasy instead of reality. I saw the beginnings of serious decline, having watched many people stop practicing religion and indulge in a lifestyle of incredible hedonism. Unfortunately, my estimations were a reflection of reality, and this pattern has continued. There has been no “revival” of Christianity save for in parts of Africa, India, and pockets throughout the world, but no serious change. The West has continued to decline as the elders have died and their descendants have left and are not likely to return in the near future.
Now a 131-page report, titled The Great Opportunity, published by the Pinetops Foundation and The Veritas Forum as a review of reports and surveys examining millennial attitudes toward religion, has determined that there are approximately 35 million youths raised in Christian families projected to disaffiliate from Christianity by the year 2050
According to the report’s authors and to Evangelical Protestant Christian author Greg Stier, the massive disaffiliation trend over the next 30 years is going to become a major point of missionary outreach.
“How about not just slowing down the bleeding, what if there was a revival that flipped those stats?” he asked. “That is what we are praying for. How do we flip the switch?”
“If you were to go back to the retention rate of Gen X from 20 years ago, that would slow down [disaffiliation] to 20 million young people,” Stier told The Christian Post. “That’s more than the First and Second Great Awakenings and all the Azuza Street Revival and all of Billy Graham’s converts combined.” (source)
In addition, the report also concluded that by 2050, Christians in America will make up just 59 percent of the country’s population as opposed to 73% today. Likewise, those without religion are expected to increase to approximately to 30 percent of the population in the same space of time.
What is of concern is that these numbers are considered to be the most hopeful scenario. In the projected “worst” scenario, the number of those who leave religion increase to 42 million, and those without religion up to 35% in the same time. As the report emphasized, “It is the largest and fastest numerical shift in religious affiliation in the history of this country”, and that the current generational loss from the Churches may be the largest ever in the history of the US, noting that unlike the situation in Europe, it is being caused by indifference as opposed to a process of secularization.
The report also admits that Evangelicals are losing the cultural war, and in the report admitted defeat at drawing members of the Millennial generation into churches, saying that most opportunity for them has passed, and that as the Zoomers are entering into college, a large amount of opportunity is also passing them by as well.
The proposed responses to this are almost the same as is heard in many Evangelical circles. The report called for “a doubling or tripling of church planting efforts” in the US, and estimated that at least 215,000 “churches” would have to be “planted” in order to maintain current levels. There is also talk of abolishing current forms of youth ministry into something called “transform youth discipleship,” to address current challenges. There is also the suggestion that Christians need to pray for another “Great Awakening” along the lines of the preaching of famed Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards. There is also emphasis on improving ministry training and training more leaders, which have been repeatedly noted throughout the years.
This report is interesting, and addresses the coming and current crisis of Evangelical Protestant Churches, for while the Catholics are already well into and going through a crisis of declining membership and will inevitably face more church closures and consolidation, the Church will be smaller but survive and will generally function as a more powerful unit among her members. The Evangelicals on the other hand have a larger problems because while the Catholic Church relies heavily on the current tax-exemption status of religious property to perform her ministerial functions, the Evangelicals rely on it even more because for them, religion is a source of income derived from essentially promoting Christianity in combination with American nationalism.
Just as during the Protestant Revolution, the subjugation of the Church to the state brought about her death because eventually the church was reduced to being a voluntary society of patriots who happened to enjoy this particular “club” among many. If citizenship could be related to the practice of Christianity, then there was no longer a point for a patriotic citizen to go to Church.
A similar situation is happening right now, but as the report correctly notes, it is being driven by apathy and not secularization. While there are many Evangelical Protestants of good will, the fact is that the Churches cannot give a cohesive answer to questions of faith and morals save for what they are opposed to rather than what is truth. Given that many will accept differences of opinion or express no opinion on matters of faith and morals, their adherents can think as they will, and eventually are able to justify themselves out of being Christians because in their minds, to be a “good person” and a Christian become the same thing.
There is a small movement, mostly among Catholics but also among some Protestants, towards a return to traditional practices. This movement should not be regarded as anything salvific for reviving the past, but rather the remainders of what was attempting to carve out and prepare for a future where Christianity is under attack from a society and by extension, a government that regards being a Christian as once did the Roman Empire- with subversion and a lack of true patriotism.
This decline is not surprising, for it is directly related to the crisis of faith and morals among Christians because one cannot hold two irreconcilable positions in perpetuity, as one must eventually be chosen in opposition to the other.
The kind of suggestions made by the report writers, while done with good intentions, will not address the crisis because it is one of morals and involves opposition to the social status quo, and since American Protestantism has largely been defined around reinforcement of a particular interpretation of the status quo, the stronger the status quo becomes in opposition to the basic teachings of Christianity the weaker it is expected to become.
Thus once again, Christianity is becoming a religion that is hated and something that will be practiced in silence as it was for many centuries. This is not a springtime that one is heading into, but a great winter, in which those who are Christians must walk down a long a hard path as Christ once did, and will be hated and persecuted to their ultimate destruction. Yet it is this death that will eventually bring about a resurrection, if not of Christianity in the west and around the world, then the justice of God on a world that has chosen to reject Him.
Choose now while one still can.