Two new books push back on Chick­en-Lit­tle nar­ra­tives of evan­gel­i­cal decline.

When Chris­tians write about the sta­tus and rep­u­ta­tion of Chris­tian­i­ty in Amer­i­can soci­ety, they usu­al­ly focus on two ques­tions: What is hap­pen­ing? What should be done?

Two recent books have tak­en up these ques­tions in a marked­ly opti­mistic spir­it: Glenn Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church: How Chris­tian­i­ty is Actu­al­ly Thriv­ing in Amer­i­ca and the World and Rick Richardson’s You Found Me: New Research on How Unchurched Nones, Mil­len­ni­als, and Irre­li­gious are Sur­pris­ing­ly Open to Chris­t­ian Faith.

The books share many sim­i­lar­i­ties. Both make exten­sive use of sur­vey find­ings and oth­er types of data. Both are writ­ten by lead­ers at promi­nent evan­gel­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions (Focus on the Fam­i­ly and The Bil­ly Gra­ham Cen­ter respec­tive­ly). Both take a myth-bust­ing approach to mis­con­cep­tions about Amer­i­can Chris­tian­i­ty. And both even use the sto­ry of Chick­en Lit­tle to describe how Chris­tians react to bad news about the faith.

Nonethe­less, they are dif­fer­ent books. With some excep­tions, they address dif­fer­ent aspects of Chris­tian­i­ty in soci­ety. They also make dif­fer­ent rec­om­men­da­tions for how best to fur­ther its prospects.

Portrait of Resilience

In describ­ing what is hap­pen­ing with the faith in Amer­i­ca, Stan­ton focus­es on the size and vital­i­ty of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­i­ty, espe­cial­ly as com­pared to main­line Protes­tantism.

Stan­ton mar­shals an impres­sive array of evi­dence. He empha­sizes Chris­t­ian affil­i­a­tion rates, giv­ing spe­cial atten­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing with young peo­ple. He also exam­ines a wide range of oth­er top­ics, includ­ing char­i­ta­ble giv­ing, church con­struc­tion, mis­sion­ary efforts, youth min­istries, Chris­t­ian col­leges, and Chris­t­ian pub­lish­ing.

The sto­ry that emerges from Stanton’s overview is that evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­i­ty …

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