Ed Stetzer is executive director of Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. He previously served as executive director of LifeWay Research and vice president of the LifeWay Insights division. He has written dozens of articles and books, and is a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Southeastern Seminary. He holds two master’s degrees and two doctorates, a D.Min. from Samford University and a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Recent concern has been raised about the decline of evangelicalism in the face of the rise of the Nones — those who report “none” or “none of the above” when asked their religion. The headlines have proclaimed that Christianity is dying, and some evangelical Christians are joining in the “sky is falling” chants. Yet, when it comes to evangelicalism, no serious researcher believes it is collapsing. Facts are our friends and we need a few here.
But, there is decline — in self-identified Protestants, primarily in mainline churches. Many who once identified themselves as nominal mainline Protestants now identify as nothing. The nominals have become the nones.
As such, we see that Christianity isn’t dying — cultural Christianity is. Actually, I see vibrant churches across the country (and so many more around the world).
Look in the center of many communities and we see churches buying back former cathedrals and filling them with young committed congregations. Four thousand churches are being planted each year — more than are closing. Non-Anglo churches are spreading wherever new people find themselves. Many churches are seeking to move from being passive spectators to active disciples joining God on his mission. Young adults that are committed are living out their faith with more passion than ever before, and authentic churches are successfully reaching them.
The sky isn’t falling. The Spirit is always at work in the hearts of people, and the mission remains.
This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.