Way back in March, the Christian Science Monitor published an article entitled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” by Michael Spencer. This article was a bit of a summation of a number of blog post written at Internet Monk. This article caused quite the storm in the Evangelical world. It was picked up by the Drudge Report, which no doubt helped spread its popularity. I highly recommend that you read the article if you have not already.
I think Spencer has a number of valid things to say about the future of Evangelicalism. I think he’s spot on about the rise of the Post-Christian West and the antagonism that Christianity will experience from secularism (and perhaps vice-versa). I think his article also is full of a number of personal gripes he has with Evangelicalsim’s political posturing, the prosperity gospel and Pentacostalism. He admits in this podcast that he wrote the article while angry and his anger produces his best writing (a great listen to get more of his thoughts).
I personally am looking forward to the Evangelical collapse as he describes. it. I do not live in the Bible Belt. I would most likely hate living there and would probably be as cynical and jaded as Spencer is if I lived where he does. The reason I like living in a place (somewhat) antagonistic to my faith is that I get to define Evangelicalism to those around me. People don’t typically align themselves with Christianity unless they actually are commited to being discipled by Jesus. My non-Christian neighbor, if he were living in Texas, would most likely be attending an Evangelical church out of cultural and family pressures. His life would look exactly the same as it does here in California except for how he spends his Sunday mornings. He would self-identify as an Evangelical (and probably vote like one).
There is a “safe” form of Evangelicalism. I want it to collapse. There is nothing safe about following Jesus. We do a disservice to the message of Jesus to allow people to think that they aren’t called to something radically different than the culture at large. If this form of Christianity collapses we Evangelicals will lose a significant portion of our cultural and political strength. That’s great. What we are supposed to be about is so much larger than what movies do well at the box office and what measures get passed on election day.
I think if Evangelicalism collapses the quality of individual Christians will increase. We will begin to actually see something different in the lives of Chrisitans. Our divorce, bankruptcy and abuse stats will no longer reflect the same numbers as the rest of the country. There will be far fewer Evangelicals. Our book, CD and teddy bear sales will drop. Our non-profit organizations and churches will lose a lot of money. But maybe, just maybe Jesus will shine brighter (and we’ll undoubtably pay the price for it).