Note: Posted Jan 27, 2009, updated on March 31, 2009 and again on April 22nd, 2009.
Seems as though I’m not the only one touting the demise of evangelicalism, much to the chagrin to denominationally loyal people. I wrote a piece a few days ago that took a bit longer than usual to put together. I wanted to ensure I was communicating my ideas coherently and without [too much] cynicism laced between my words. The basic premise was evangelicalism can only go so far with ‘missionality’ so long as they exist within their paradigm box. At the bottom I mentioned this in my article Spectrums of Missionality:
…doing ‘just enough’ [to remain relevant & pay bills] is not good enough, especially in a time where once prominent evangelical denominations are quickly becoming ineffective like their mainline counterparts found out 30 years ago.
Although I had a Canadian context in mind, turns out I’m not alone with my doom and gloom sentiments.
Is the Party Almost Over in Canada?
In fact, there is an even doomier and gloomier piece written by internmonk called: The Coming Evangelical Collapse.
Apart from a dramatic decrease of numbers and adherents, coupled with an exhausted member based unwilling to fight culture any more, Monk boldly asserts the imminent collapse of evangelicalism within 15 years. Coming from an American perspective this is startling.
Considering I’ve suggested Canadians are different enough to warrant our own position on how to ‘do church’, to read about notable trends and predictions that could go down in the US within two generation is startling….
However, what about Canada? How will evangelicalism do? We can surmise that since America is the source for nearly everything in Canadian evangelicalism, that the decline will be swift and merciless. Or will it?
Reginald Bibby, sociologist from U of L in Canada, has noted that evangelicals have maintained around 8% adherents v. population for the last 100 years (that’s 8% of total churchgoers not of the population in Canada). Considering the increase in population that’s a big deal. Most of this resilience can be attributed to maintaining loyalty within the movement, and babies.
Will this trend continue?
Evangelicals are notoriously inept at a few things, 1) establishing community, 2) creating traditions, 3) making disciples. Although the small group model is of huge importance most evangelicals can’t duplicate theirs. Although they have expanding youth groups they loose the majority of young adults, partly due to the lack of identifying traditions. They can’t make disciples because, well, nobody is doing evangelism.
Not only evangelicals, but other traditions as well, have created a clergy laity difference. Technically evangelicals believe in the priesthood of all believers. Pragmatically there is a threefold distinction of congregant-clergy-missionary.
Because 95% are congregants there is little incentive to to become active in discipleship making–that is to grow. Couple this posture with the change in culture around the church to a post-Christendom world, and now you encounter a church even more inept of engaging the world outside their door.
Yet, in the realm of ‘church’ evangelicals tend to be the most current with topics, music, technology, etc. Hence the transfer phenomenon. Despite their shortcomings at doing everything a church is supposed to do, they still maintain their numbers. Partly due to the aspects listed above, but also because they are good at transferring between each other, and attracting other Protestant Christians.
Is it really a victory to claim an Anglican as an adherent in the evangelical church? Since most evangelicals are in the church growth model, which will undoubtedly contribute to its demise, counting numbers is important for gauging success and relevance.
So before, because evangelicals were so relevant with the times (or rather they were so ‘down with the times’ in comparison to some completely unchanged mainline traditions) they experienced some moderate growth. The actual growth through conversion however is still abysmally small accounting for less than 5% of all new adherents.
In the early 2000s Canada was still boasted a monopoly of Christians (45% being Roman Catholic by designation only). Nonetheless, Canadians still for the most part affiliate themselves with their traditional Christian groups.
However, what this also notes is that people don’t attend church anymore, but still affiliate with their old tradition. That’s not so important, however, it does lend to the thought that within a single generation much of this old affiliation will be lost.
Compound this fact with the general apathetic Canadian tendencies and you have a nearly exponential loss of Christians (active or not) within one generation. (Note, this does not suggest anything about perceived spiritual needs, only that Christian designation will fall.)
What are your thoughts? Read his article for the complete idea. I hope to read some of his prospective solutions to our sudden (but expected) demise.