Lately, people have been lamenting the transformation on “evangelicals” in the United States. In a viral piece this week in the Atlantic, Pete Wehner says “The Evangelical Church is Falling Apart.” But is that true? While mainstream outlets love to amplify the idea that the church is dying and Christians are wedded to Trump, they often omit the full story.
Here, I offer 5 reasons why the evangelical church is growing, not crumbling:
- The Evangelical church is way more than what’s in the United States. The U.S. is one place, but in Africa and Asia, evangelical Chrisitanity is thriving and growing like crazy. Given that our population continually grows with immigrants and other cultures, this will ultimately spill back over to us too.
- Forty percent of self-described “evangelicals” don’t even go to church.
A new poll shows that the number of white evangelicals is shrinking after many years of growth. However, this is merely a reflection of those who “identify” as evangelical, not those who live out their faith in practice. Huge difference that no one ever seems to point out. One poll showed that 40% of self-identified “evangelicals” in 2020 don’t even attend church. Could many of these individuals be who pessimists react to?
- The Evangelical church is increasing among Latinos and Asian-Americans in the U.S.
As this recent Atlantic piece reports, Latinos are the fastest growing group of evangelicals — turning from Catholicism at rates that will transform the religious landscape. Additionally, Asian-Americans are becoming increasingly evangelical. And while white Americans are the most likely to let their faith practices wane, those with rich, ethnic histories are just as likely to do the opposite. Lastly, many black Christians are evangelical and that piece of the conversation is often left unsaid.
- Most people do not know their pastor’s political beliefs. Despite all the chatter about Republican nationalism and the mixture of politics in the church house, the vast majority of churchgoers say they do not know their pastor’s political leanings. Plenty of churches are doing it well — focusing on Scripture and looking to Jesus — not urging one another to vote GOP.
- Megachurch scandals don’t define evangelicals as a whole. Often, celebrity pastor scandals and institutional failures make the news. Those things should be called out, but they don’t represent every other church in the nation. There are more solid churches out there doing their best to provide community, love and spiritual formation for their members and the community, than any other kind. The vast majority of the 300,000 churches in this country are under 300 and aren’t like those you see in the news.
Does the Church have issues? Certainly. Is it “breaking apart?” Do Christians need to “reclaim Jesus from His church?” as Wehner writes in this Atlantic piece. No and no. You can’t break the Church:
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” — Matthew 16:18
And we can’t “reclaim Jesus” from His Church — He doesn’t separate from it.
So let’s be aware and take appropriate action to remedy issues. But don’t let the people who aren’t even going to church define who we are. Don’t neglect uplifting the beautiful, incredible churches that do exist. Don’t disrespect the Church. It’s God’s love.
As someone who has gone to church most of my life, I can tell you I’ve never been a part of a “nationalistic” church and my current church never gets political. We read the Bible and follow Jesus. And that’s what a whole lot of other churches are doing too. Find one of them and go!