I am reading a book called, “The Great Evangelical Recession.” It is about the decline of the Evangelical Church in America. The author says that in the next 15-20 years when the oldest two generations pass away, the church will face an existential crisis. Membership will drop off dramatically from 7% of the population (where the most accurate research places it today) to just 4%.
Today most of the younger generation is abandoning the faith. Because most believers do not actively evangelize, there is little influx of new converts. Those few faithful who remain will be far less generous since the younger generation gives only one fourth as much as their elders do. So the church will lose seventy percent of its income. Since evangelism and discipleship has been largely delegated to paid professionals, many churches will just succumb to attrition as they downsize or eliminate their staffs.
At the same time, widespread acceptance of the gay rights agenda and the spread of atheism among the younger generation will put the church at odds with a society that is increasingly intolerant of those who hold Biblical values. As pressure from an increasingly pluralistic society compromises the church, it will fracture along political and doctrinal lines. Weakened and divided, it will lose the influence it enjoyed in years past along with the ability to stand up against its opponents.
None of these things are news to me. For many years now these forces have been shaping a church that has abandoned Biblical orthodoxy for a market-driven approach to ministry.
I have watched first hand as Christian leaders covered up sexual abuse. I have seen the church turn a blind eye to blatant immorality among its members. On the rare occasion when the church has taken action to rid itself of apostates, I have witnessed the outcasts easily and comfortably slip into mega-churches where they can blend in among the masses.
I have seen the proliferation of large professional staffs that multiply programs to meet spiritual needs rather than train members to disciple one another.
I have witnessed the transformation of the gospel message from one of reconciliation to God through repentance and faith to a remedy for the pains and disappointments of life.
I have seen worship degenerate as reverence and respect for a holy God has been replaced by a very casual and familiar approach to some sort of celestial benefactor. Theology has been wrung out of gospel music and replaced with emotional platitudes. I have seen the seeker friendly movement weaken the demands of the faith, producing a generation of Christians who give only 4% of their income to the church while amassing huge debts as they store up treasures on earth.
Christian leaders have built their houses on sand by relying on modern American marketing methods to build ever bigger churches rather than preaching the unadulterated Word of God and leaving the growth up to Him. By investing fortunes in physical plant, they have raised expectations so high that smaller congregations simply cannot survive. Total church membership is declining as the growth of big churches has come at the expense of smaller ones, say the authors of “The Great Evangelical Recession.”
In the parts of the world where the church is growing the fastest, there are no big buildings, elaborate programs, or paid staff. Neither are there very many Bible schools or seminaries. What is spurring growth is the aggressive discipleship of new believers, training them to share their faith with others and spread the knowledge of the Word of God.
Despite its monstrous churches, mega-staffs, modern media, and massive ministries, and the proliferation of seminaries, Bible colleges and para-church ministries, the American church has fallen on hard times. It suffers all the same ailments as the society at large – high divorce rates, indebtedness, addictions, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological disorders, etc.
Today most American churches have to do background checks on their volunteers to make sure there are no pedophiles among them. This is not necessary in the Chinese church I attend because pedophilia is unheard of. There is a much lower incidence of depression and other emotional and psychological disorders because divorce is rare and families are much closer. There are no programs for divorced people or people suffering from addictions or other disorders. There is just one large loving body that embraces all of its members as family.
I would urge anyone who is dissatisfied with the American church to find an international church with an English congregation. The Christian Missionary Alliance has both a Korean and Chinese Church within just minutes of our home. Both are vibrant and growing. Most members are actively engaged in evangelism. They reach out to their unsaved friends and relatives, teaming up to meet their spiritual and physical needs. Ministry is geared to the individual. So you don’t have to be a member of some disadvantaged group to receive attention. If you miss a Sunday, someone will contact you. Miss more than one Sunday and the pastor will pay you a visit.
There is also an American CMA church right next to our Chinese church. It is trying to merge with the Korean Church in a last ditch effort to avoid collapse. This is a typical market-driven American church that has experienced all the symptoms described in “The Great Evangelical Recession.” Sad to say, things don’t look too bright for them right now.