I had to update this because iMonk’s post (the articles referred to in this post) was combined and placed on some of the most popular websites online (including the Drudge Report). You can find the summation of his articles here, and of course the Canadian version I wrote at another web site here. Back to the original article.
— For most evangelicals the return of Christ could happen at any moment. We don’t know exactly when (well some think it’s tied to the state of Israel, I don’t,) but what we do know is that it’s imminent. There is a growing sentiment that what’s even more imminent is the collapse of the evangelical church (and related denominations in Calgary including Christian & Missionary Alliance, Associated Gospel Churches, non-denominations like Center Street, various Baptist churches, etc.)
I wrote an article at MissionalChurch.ca commenting on how certain perspectives within the walls of some churches severely limit them from accomplishing what they’re trying to do–evangelise the city. I went on to write that a paradigm shift is in order to prevent evangelicals from going the way their mainline denomination brothers went, that is downward, starting in the 70’s.
In my opinion, Canada is at risk of going through these hard changes before the US since we live further along the spectrum of existing in a ‘non-Christian’ culture. However, I stumbled across this recent post in the blogsphere contemplating the imminent collapse of the evangelical church in America.
Read the article for yourself and have your say on the opinion piece; I wanted to highlight some of the key components and note their validity. The writer, InternetMonk, begins with:
I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”
The collapse begins in 10 and ends in two generations. That’s certainly troublesome for those churches with new buildings :P. I’m not convinced it will happen this fast in the Bible-belt west which includes Calgary, but I’ve been wrong before.
We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.
I would agree with this, major Canadian cities are beyond this number I would think. Although many people have a tendency to embrace some form of spiritualism, it is generally not connected to religiosity. Reginald Bibby, noted Canadian sociologist on religion from the U of L will hopefully release some new data on this topic. However, if Monk is correct, then why wouldn’t we embrace or at least test/risk some new ways of thinking and change in our current denominations?
This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion.
I don’t think it has to. It will if the existing Christian ‘churches’ ramp up their resistance to their surrounding culture, but I think it merely opens the door to a different language of church than what we currently have around us.
The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.
In a sense this is true, and although some leaders are noting something needs to change with the way things are done, there is still an air of hesitancy to abandon ‘the way we’ve always done it’. What’s interesting though is how this change will occur: it hits the bottom line. Big churches = big middle to upper class adherents contributing to the capital campaigns. When these folks realise there is a way to express the gospel message that isn’t reactionary or resistant to the culture, but rather leads it towards the reigns of God, you’ll see the exodus.
I’m curious to know what event triggers this exodus though….
Monk asks the question: why is this going to happen? He then offers even answers.
1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes….The investment of evangelicals in the culture war will prove out to be one of the most costly mistakes in our history.
I think this is a point where Canadians and even Calgarians will differ. We do not have the same political system nor the same types of lobby groups (and the ones we have aren’t nearly as effective). So here’s one aspect we may not have to deal with.
2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.
This is certain, but what can you expect when you have one youth leader per 75 students? Kids are in a way like adults, they need close relationships to thrive and learn. In fact, they probably need even more investment than their adult-selves would need. This would highlight another concern of evangelicalism and that’s the ineffectiveness of our discipleship–one of the core components of vibrant Christianity.
The whole purpose/vision of Calgary Church is to affirm others to journey with their friends along this discipleship road. It takes a long time, longer than many people want to invest in, but it’s crucial.
5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement…. Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.
The detriment to how churches approach mission/compassionate work is not-missional. Since evangelicals (and others) have operated within a sit-and-consume model, compassionate work has become a ‘ministry’. That means when the $$$ needs to be used for the church mortgage and salaries, the first things to go may be the missionaries in far away lands and the compassion fund……
7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before. The passing of the denominationally loyal, very generous “greatest generation” and the arrival of the Boomers as the backbone of evangelicalism will signal a major shift in evangelical finances, and that shift will continue into a steep drop and the inevitable results for schools, churches, missions, ministries and salaries.
Again, the money problem.
So what do you think? Accurate assessment or smoke screen?
The church community emerging, tentatively called Calgary Church, doesn’t seek to provide an alternative to the evangelical Protestants, in fact, we are evangelical in some ways. What we’re interested in is creating a community people totally engaged in the mission of God: that is joining God in his redemption plan for Calgary and the world in a language that is understood by those we know, all experienced within the life journey we take with each other towards the reign of God.
It’s a start at least.