This book’s subtitle is, 6 Factors That Will Crash The American Church…and How to Prepare. The author is a brother named John S. Dickerson who serves as senior pastor of Cornerstone (Evangelical Free Church) in Prescott, Arizona.
I discovered this particular book as I was reading content on the internet regarding another topic. The title of the book grabbed my attention, so I clicked on over to Amazon.com and read portions of the book and some of the posted reviews. It was intriguing enough for me to make the investment of both money to procure the work and time to read it.
His premise for the book (I am paraphrasing the paragraph off of the back cover) is that the American church is on the precipice of a spiritual recession. Evangelical church’s membership is shrinking. Young Christians are fleeing. Donations are drying up. Political fervor is causing further divisiveness. Even as the crises eat at the church internally, the once friendly host culture of the United States is quickly turning hostile and antagonistic. How can we avoid a devastating collapse?
Dickerson initiates his treatise by likening the economic/housing collapse a few years ago that threw the nation’s economy into recession to what is transpiring in the church today. He references a few economic specialists who “saw it coming” and, though they tried to give warning, were eventually ignored by the governing powers. He then petitions those who are reading the book to strongly consider its contents and puts out the call for “strategic thinkers” within the evangelical church to heed the warning and, hopefully, lead the way out of the upcoming church recession.
I found Dickerson’s work to be extremely thorough journalistically. You can definitely tell the brother has done his homework and can trust the facts that he is presenting. He quotes several different sources for data and research, both “christian” and “secular” sources are cited to support his point.
For instance, George Barna of the Barna Research Group, perhaps the premiere christian researcher, is quoted:
“The church landscape will continue to evolve into something that would have been unrecognizable a quarter century ago…The mainline churches and even some of the evangelical and fundamentalist groups that were solid at the end of the last millennium and the beginning of this one will lose altitude unless they substantially reinvent themselves.” (page 16)
The 6 Factors he lists and expands in the first half of the book are as follows:
1. Inflated – The evangelical church’s numbers, therefore their influence, has been misrepresented. Out of the 316 million U.S. residents, it has been reported that evangelical christians number as many 128 million. In reality, the real number is somewhere between 22 and 28 million.
2. Hated – The external climate is quickly turning against evangelical christians. The fastest growing subcultures in the U.S. express a militant antagonism against christians who have any literal interpretations of the Bible.
3. Dividing – The evangelical church is splintering and splitting over national politics and differing views of God and the Bible. What once stood as a strong influence in the nation just 20+ years ago, the Religious Right has now splintered tremendously and is trending to further and wider divisions, both politically and religiously.
4. Bankrupt – The fuel of American evangelicalism – $$$$ – is disappearing and will dwindle over the next three decades.
5. Bleeding – 2.6 million people leave evangelical churches every decade. Barna estimates that from every 5 young evangelicals, 4 will “disengage” from the church by age 29.
6. Sputtering – The evangelical church is not winning new converts fast enough to keep pace with the rapid U.S. population growth. Research indicates that even the states with the largest, seemingly healthiest, and nationally modeled church movements – California, Texas and Florida – are among the many states where evangelicalism saw no net growth, but rather a net decline in recent years.
This concludes the first half of the book where Dickerson presents the 6 trends of decline he sees in the evangelical church. Obviously, the picture painted is somewhat bleak and grim. However, it is realistic.
In my next post, I will share the 6 Solutions to Recovery he suggests. And, then finally, on a third post, I will offer a perspective regarding the premise of the book and the condition of the church as a whole.