Coming Evangelical Collapse via internetmonk


“I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former ‘glory.'”


“Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning 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 that they will endure.”

More after the jump.


  1. As someone who teaches evangelical Christian students doctrine, I can affirm the truth of everything stated in the second paragraph. I want to cry about it sometimes. I want to drink because of it sometimes. But, mostly just cry.


  2. This one doesn’t worry me so much. I think one of the foundations of the evangelical church has been a sort of ‘get in, convert the pagans, and get out’ approach to life. My wife and I even had some people stuffing tracts in our hands a few weeks ago on the pier in Oceanside, but they were the ‘no conversation, no eye contact’ types. It made me sad. I bet it wasn’t a little pamphlet that turned their lives around.

    The future of the church relies on people being Christ-like, one on one, in every day, normal life situations.

    “I say let’s evolve, and let the chips fall where they may.” ~Tyler Durden.


  3. The author seems to be lamenting the fact that the evangelical church has done a poor job of educating its young people, and while that is true in a lot of cases, I aslo think that the young people it has successfuly educated are also leaving precisely because of their education. I can only speak for myself, but the more I know about evangelical Christianity the less I want to have anything to do with it. I know it will be painful for all Christiainity, but some things need to die (or as Anthony so deftly said using a quote from our favorite soapmaker, maybe evangelicalism needs to evolve).


  4. I don’t know if there will be a “collapse” in evangelicalism, but I do think we’ll probably see evangelicalism enter a monastic phase. By “monastic phase,” I mean a withdrawal from cultural power, a re-alignment of priorities, and a renewed vigor that comes from such withdrawal/realignment. This would be analogous to the monastic renewal movements of the 3rd-5th centuries and the middle ages, when monks and nuns withdrew, sought to purify Christianity of its excesses, and ended up leading renewal movements within Christendom.


  5. The article is a bit “The End is Near, Repent!”-y for me but I think the root issue is true.

    Evangelical movements suffer from the protestant authority problem more than other traditions and I believe young post-moderns sense this tension.

    Regardless of what happens to the Evangelical denominations (RIP or otherwise), I’ll bet that the positives of Evangelicalism (namely the necessity of a “conversion” as a part of Christian experience) will find greater emphasis in apostolic and mainline traditions as these disenchanted young people find a place in older churches.


  6. Reed:

    You’re right that evangelicals suffer from “the Protestant authority problem.” Alister McGrath’s Protestantism’s Dangerous Idea makes this clear in telling, historical detail. But there’s a flip side to this problem, or rather, there’s an opportunity. Precisely because evangelicalism is not tied into a particular form of authority, it is a highly resilient movement capable of continuous renewal.

    I’m a bit unsure of what to make of evangelical youth leaving it in droves for mainline churches. Apostolic churches (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican) I understand. But mainline? Good God, they’ve been bleeding people for years precisely because of stuck-in-the-mud structures; a spirituality that pooh-poohs the “heart” side of Christianity; and a theology that casts serious doubt on the doctrinal basis of Christianity, raising questions as to why anyone would join a church that believes so little. Here’s an article that’s apropos to the discussion:



  7. There is a very interesting generational swing of the pendulum at work here. My parents left the mainline/liturgical wing of Christianity (they were Lutherans) and ended up in the AG. A lot of people in the post WWII generation that I know did the same thing. Around here tons of people that age left the Catholic church and are now somewhere in megachurch limbo. There was a generational exodus (which in my opinion has to do somehow with modernism). Now, we are seeing a generational return. Much like our parents saying that the liturgical churches were dead, my generation is seeing the decay of the megachurch evangelicalism and leaving it for the vibrant life of liturgy. It’s an oversimplification I know, but interesting nonetheless.


  8. Hallelujah!!! If this can stay true it will be a very real answer to prayer.


    I would throw most Lutherans and some “Reformed”-types in with “Apostolic Churches.” At least to a greater degree than many other sub-sects.

    It think we are all experiencing an authority problem. Many Roman Catholics of a younger persuasion are becoming more conservative, feeling that VII turned the RCC too far off. I only hope that they can replace the profound thinkers that VII gave the whole Church.

    If the Anglican/Orthodox dialogues can continue to progress with the fruit that it has, perhaps they can balance some RCC conservativism.

    I think that if the Church of England is any indicater, there yet may be more hope for Anglicanism than the apocalyptic prophets predicted. They right now have a small handful of some of the greatest minds in the Christian world.


  9. Some of the fastest growing churches in the Twin Cities are “evangelical” style Methodist and Lutheran Churches. I don’t know that this is the norm, but it does present an interesting question.


  10. I meant my comment to address both this post and the one above on the Anglican Communion. Just in case anyone was confused


  11. I think as long as a church can stand as a counter culture source, then it will always be able to draw individuals in or back. The more the church conforms to the secular world around the less it will attract.

    So I don’t know if I’d agree with the second premise. The cultural wars of gay marriage, abortion, divorce, physical beauty and materialism is what secular culture promote. More critical IMO is that the secular promotes the avoidance of pain and suffering, increasing pleasure, extending the quality of physical life.

    Those churches who can supply reasons for why there is suffering and pain, why it is actually sometimes a great good to suffer and not avoid it, why giving into pleasure at the cost of the spirit is true pain and that the ultimate objective is not to be found in this life, but the life to come.

    I think such churches will thrive.


  12. George,

    “You’re right that evangelicals suffer from “the Protestant authority problem.” Alister McGrath’s Protestantism’s Dangerous Idea makes this clear in telling, historical detail. But there’s a flip side to this problem, or rather, there’s an opportunity. Precisely because evangelicalism is not tied into a particular form of authority, it is a highly resilient movement capable of continuous renewal.”

    I just got this book from Amazon, today. I am stoked to read it, and your comment makes me “giddy excited” to read it. You know, in that nerdy way.


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