The ground is shifting as nominalism is fading away and the Nominals are becoming more progressive and more secular.
Yes, college students tend to become more religious and more conservative over time, but let's not miss that the ground is, indeed, shifting.
As I've written in USAToday, I believe the future of America will likely resemble the modern Pacific Northwest. While the majority there still claims to be Christian, it is more secular and progressive than other parts of the country. However, there is a significant population of convictional Christians who are living on mission in a post-Christian culture.
I used the Foursquare Church in my USAToday article, because most of those Northwest believers are now evangelicals (and the "evangelicalization" of American Christianity will continue as Mainline Protestantism continues to hemorrhage).
In 1972, around 9 percent of the population were regular churchgoing Mainline Protestants and 8 percent were regular church going evangelicals. Today, evangelicals who regularly attend church account for over 12 percent of the U.S. population, while Mainliners have dwindled to less than 4 percent.
The Future of American Evangelicalism
What we do know is that Evangelicalism is not as bad as the sky-is-falling crowd has proclaimed. However, the ground is shifting and it requires some rethinking and refocusing on mission (and writing on that has been most of my ministry focus).
The trends are challenging and should concern us. Society is becoming more secular. Nominal Christians are often dropping the label and frequently changing their values. And, while church attendance and involvement is relatively steady for evangelicals, this should just remind us that we need to engage the new reality where we find ourselves.
Simply put, the mission force is now living in and engaging a very different (and more challenging) mission field.