In a recent article for Patheos.com, Ed Stetzer recently pointed out that “Despite the flood of opinion pieces proclaiming the death of the church in America, not one single reputable researcher or sociologist believes Christianity or Evangelicalism in America is dying.
“Recently, I interviewed Rodney Stark, one of the nation's leading sociologists, and asked him about the state of Evangelicalism today. He was perfectly blunt. ‘I think the notion that they're shrinking is stupid. And it's fiddling with the data in quite malicious ways. I see no such evidence.’
“The General Social Survey, the best-known ongoing survey tracking societal trends, finds the share of Americans who regularly attends a Protestant church has only declined three points—from 23 to 20 percent—in the past 30 years. According to Gallup, current church attendance rates are essentially the same as they were in the 1940s. Church attendance rates (overly reported, yes, but consistently overly reported so we can see trends) peaked in the '50s.
“That's Protestants. What about Evangelicals?
“Even the most recent Pew data, which many (oddly and contrary to the actual data) took to spell doom for American Evangelicalism, showed a slight increase in numbers of evangelicals (with a small decline in terms of population percentage). In addition, the General Social Survey actually has the percent of Americans who regularly attend an evangelical church to be up during the past few decades and the past few years (though it peaked in the late '80s).
“Yet,” says Stetzer, “secularism is growing, and the ground is shifting. Clearly, things are changing. Society is more secular. Nominal Christians are less connected and more culturally progressive…
“Today, about one-half of Americans are nominal Christians. Yet, in the next generation college students, about one-third are nominal Christians. The nominal Christians (including nominal Evangelicals) percent has declined, and the secular percent has grown—substantially.
“The ground is shifting as nominalism is fading away and the Nominals are becoming more progressive and more secular.” (Patheos.com)