Evangelicalism has rich roots in American history, but many have questioned the vitality of its future. While the Pew data caused many to wring their hands over the future of the Evangelical communities in America, the religious landscape also kindles a great deal of hope. What do the data really say? Where do Evangelicals see real opportunities? What are the challenges that jeopardize growth?
These essays address a wide variety of themes and are loosely grouped around issues of wisely reading the data, of focusing in hope on multiethnic growth and Millennials, of learning from the past and returning to roots, and of a renewed calling to mission.
This topic is part of our summer symposium on the Future of Faith in America. For more resources visit our Future of Faith main page.
THE REALITIES BEHIND THE DATA
W. David Buschart
Could it be that the rise in nondenominationalism is a parallel to the rise of the "nones"?
People are bad at facing facts, but the 21st-century church needs to face some serious facts in order to survive.
If Evangelicalism can’t build a big enough tent around its central pillars, it will mire in conflict and fade into irrelevance.
Thomas S. Kidd
The clamor about the imminent death of traditional faith, in the short term, is much ado about nothing.
The history of American Evangelicalism has consistently demonstrated three responses to shifting cultural, moral, and political developments.
The mission force is now living in and engaging a very different (and more challenging) mission field.
Conservative Evangelicalism seems to have invested more time and money over the last decade in building up a celebrity culture and publishing a disproportionate amount of fluff.
A MULTIETHNIC AND MILLENNIAL FUTURE
Are young evangelicals poised to remake God and faith to serve their own short-term needs?
Millennials, we're told, don't want to be told what to do from a pulpit. They want to sit and talk. They want to swap stories.
In a society of acceptance, it has become unacceptable to consider the consequences of sin or the resulting notions of confession, forgiveness, grace, and redemption.
Carolyn Custis James
Millennials will win in the end.
As the evangelical church in America attempts to embrace its inevitable and diverse future, there are two initial and inevitable steps.
The American Church needs to face the inevitable and prepare for the next stage of her history — we are looking at a non-white majority, multiethnic American Christianity in the immediate future.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
We'll be left with a church of upstream swimmers, people who cling to their faith identity despite a powerful counter current of anti-Christian sentiment.
Can the African American church experience teach us something about the condition of Christianity in America?
We don't have Mayberry anymore, if we ever did. Good. Mayberry can lead to hell just as surely as Gomorrah does.
Like ambassadors, evangelicals must learn the language and worldview of the people they are trying to reach.
An evangelical church that does not have its eyes squarely focused on the God who called it into being will not be long for this world.
Jennifer Woodruff Tait
Will evangelicals choose to go underground, or to disperse and leaven the whole loaf of American religion?
CALL TO MISSION
What is needed is a back-to-the-future revival. I see the stirrings of such an awakening already. It will be decidedly radical, global, and ecumenical.
Is there a "Center" that can hold evangelicals together, forming a focus for the content of our respectful engagement with others?
There will be dark and terrible times before we come out of the other end of the tunnel.
The future of Evangelicalism will either look less like Willow Creek or Mars Hill and more like St. Anne's or it will not exist.
If we don't redefine ourselves, we will end up reforming ourselves.
John W. Morehead
Evangelicalism pursues internal social dynamics as well as interactions with culture from a bounded set approach. But does this produce healthy congregations?
Can we apply the commitments of classic Evangelicalism to the lessons of the past few years in order to move forward intact and anew?
The nagging question for evangelicals is whether it is right to be right if we're not also redemptive.
Note: The Patheos Evangelical Future of Faith Forum, of which I was asked to participate, compiles insight to the future of faith in America largely based on flawed data from Pew Research. Pew’s data related to Evangelicals over the last several decades has used dissimilar criteria in its research and polling questions that erroneously define whom [Read More...]
D. G. Hart
This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on the Future of Faith in America: Evangelicalism. Read other perspectives here. If someone were an evangelical in 1859 and was wondering about the future of born-again Protestantism, would he or she have predicted a fundamentalist controversy in around six decades or the rise of a [Read More...]
Michelle Van Loon
(This post is part of the Patheos “Why I Am Still An Evangelical” conversation.) My four decades in the Evangelical world has been a pilgrim’s road trip. I came to faith in 1974 in the waning days of the Jesus Movement, and have since swum laps in a variety of different streams within Evangelicalism: fundamentalist, [Read More...]