Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise.
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 …