If this is evangelical, then I am not

September 14, 2006

The other day I got spam from Teen Mania Ministries, telling me about their “Battle Cry” leadership summit. The web site features a video with the introduction, “The Enemy Has Launched An Attack — And An Army Is Rising To Respond”. …Let’s overlook the inappropriateness of using war language during wartime, shall we?

Enemy Army

The next few clips show pyrotechnics. Yes, stage fireworks, and an arena of kids jumping in sync. …Let’s overlook the fact that if you use large, expensive productions (with pyrotechnics!) to get kids excited, there is no way the local church can match that, so the excitement inevitably becomes a let-down.


Scrolling down the page, it says, “This generation of teens is the largest in history — and current trends show that only 4% will be evangelical believers by the time they become adults. Compare this with 34% of adults today who are evangelicals. We are on the verge of a catastrophe.” Let’s overlook the implication that “evangelicals” are the only Christ-followers worth counting. Whatever it is, this projected shift is large. It is worthy of our attention.

So, what is this catastrophe we are on the verge of?
“Imagine an America at 4%:

  • Church attendance dwindles
  • Tithes and offerings are at an all-time low
  • New church buildings sit empty
  • Live-giving sermons go unheard
  • The role of a church leader becomes irrelevant”

I am not making this stuff up.

If this is what evangelicals are about, then you can include me in the statistics of adults who used to consider themselves evangelical but now want to distance themselves from that term. Every point you listed is about how your church programs will be affected. You didn’t even mention the teens themselves, or the world into which they are growing up.

Shame on you. You deserve to dwindle and fade away.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

11 responses to If this is evangelical, then I am not

  1. Sadly, this kind of confrontational war battle language is everywhere in evangelical circles. The words we use says a lot about our thinking and the lens through which we view life.

  2. Hey, don’t look at me — I had no part in this! 😉

  3. there’s some fuzzy math going on with the 34% vs. 4%. i don’t even know how you could prove that kids today won’t be “committed evangelicals” when current numbers are so high. what analysis are they using to come up with those numbers?

  4. Dunno, Nathan. Is it a reliable figure from Barna’s stats, or something someone heard somewhere? In either case, America is clearly continuing its course to post-Christendom, and followers of Christ will have to learn to operate from the fringe of society rather than the center. Hey, that’s a good idea for a book!

  5. I am curious what you mean about post-Christendom. Most Americans still identify with some flavor of Christianity (76.5% according to this survey). I don’t think Christianity in America is going anywhere any time soon.

  6. fuzzy math and unsourced stats just irritate me, and i see it appear a lot in evangelical propaganda. for instance: that article reports 86% of americans claimed christianity in 1990 and 77% in 2001. following that trend, there will be no christians left by 2090! and in 2091 there will be negative christians, which clearly indicates the coming of the anti-christ!!!
    anywho, i find it ironic that christians (for lack of a better term) often accuse the emergent church of “conforming to culture” when they/we have been shaping western culture from within for the past…oh…1500 years.

  7. As far as I can tell, you guys are pretty safe. Gallup polls indicate:
    Seventy-two percent of Americans are certain there is a God and have no doubts, while another 14% think that God probably exists and have only a few doubts. Only 3% are certain that God does not exist. There are no significant differences in belief in God by age. Men, those living in the East and West, those who are college graduates, and those with high incomes are less likely to believe in God than others.
    Fundamentalists will be the downfall though – no one wants it pushed on them, they want to find it themselves. Just my random outsider opinion.

  8. Yeah, the site was annoying and on some levels a bit innappropriate. However, it only magnifies for me how bitter I am. Which then makes me question whether I am not on some level in the wrong when I chose to be “in judgement” on another faction of christian ministry. I know that the bible does talk about this in some facet, but I also feel that with the state of my own christianity that I am not one to look at the speck in one’s eye when I can’t even get rid of the plank in my own eye. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with this sites approach to viewing the status of today’s teens, I cannot either find it right to sit in judgement on their methods as it doesn’t in my opinion violate any ethical or moral laws. Basically, how do I know if God is not using them in fact to help Pastor’s reach teens. Even though it appeared that there focus was only on church attendance, tithing, etc. they were speaking to Pastors and referencing the church. Again, is church defined as a building or a person? If this conference can fire up a Pastor and renew his passion to reach the coming generation, maybe the coming generation may not turn out to be so bitter towards the church as my generation is. Even if it only does this with one Pastor, then I think it is worth it.
    Again, I am not promoting them, but I don’t think it is right to judge them when we don’t actually know the “truth” that results from this ministry. Who are we to judge?

  9. I got the same e-mail a little over a month ago. And it isn’t just Teen Mania / Aquire the Fire, it is Dare 2 Share and all the others. I used to really look up to people like Billy Graham… but the passion has become a chaotic mess bent on a movement that dies when the kids get back in the church van… It kind of reminds me of a tee shirt that says, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large crowds.” Those kids are impressionable… it is kind of a mob mentality…

  10. Sad to think that the evangelical church continues to “circle the wagons” to protect its interests. It seems to me that Jesus was more concerned about creating an entrance of inclusion by serving those who “know not what they do.”

  11. Jon, do you object when the Bible says to put on the full armor of God, to take the sword of the spirit? I think the Bible does use military metaphors so I am not offended when Christians use them, and I am not sure why you are.
    I agree with Lani, perhaps you may be crossing the line into judging. I concede that some of these things can irritate me, not be the way I would do it, but I don’t think I’d decide not to be an Evangelical because of it.
    I agree with Aimee that young people are impressionable, they are forming their view of the way life works. As a Christian I want them to know and find the love of God that is in Jesus Christ. My life was changed when I was a teen, and I know of many others. I am very grateful that people were sharing the good news in my high school because my life has been full of healing and blessing year after year. It just gets better.