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Ten Years From Now, How Secularism and Church Diversity Intersect

Ten Years from Now, How Secularism and Church Diversity Intersect

Globally speaking, the church is at a significant crossroads right now. We’re watching the geographical epicenter of our faith shift from its centuries-old epicenter in the West to the Global South, where it continues to grow at encouraging rates.

In his book The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, professor Phillip Jenkins argues that 60 percent of the world’s population of Christians right now live in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

By 2050, we’ll see these numbers shift even further; estimates indicated that there will be approximately 3 billion Christians in the world, 75 percent of whom will live on the aforementioned continents otherwise known as the Global South.

Despite this newfound reality, many have long considered Christianity a western religion—it’s been associated with American culture, ideals and practices for many generations. Alexis de Tocqueville, upon his visit to the United States, observed in his famed work Democracy in America that “there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America.”

These words, originally written in the mid-19th century, might not ring quite so true to us as they once did over 100 years ago. Given Christianity’s dramatic shift from the West to the South, many worry about the future of the Christian faith in America.

Some find themselves asking:

In light of the changing life of the church, what exactly will the nation look like 10 years from now?

Let me briefly mention two trends that will grow more prominent in years to come: the rise of secularlism and the diversification of evangelicalism.

The rise of secularism

Few would doubt that America is becoming increasingly secular.

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, the Pew Research Center found that the number of adults who consider themselves religiously affiliated shrank 6 percent between 2007 and 2014.

Most notably, younger generations—the infamous ‘Millennials’—aren’t praying or attending church with the same frequency as older generations. Based on survey data, their acceptance of traditional Christian doctrine—belief in God, heaven, hell etc.—is also lower.

What does this say about what American society will look like down the road? I believe that this rise in secularism will likely make it harder for followers of Jesus to engage the culture. In short, the culture will continue to look more and more post-Christian as the years progress.

For this reason, apologetics will likely come in to play as believers and church leaders who choose to share their faith will likely have to address hard topics and questions. If anything, this will force individuals to think critically about their commitment to Christ which, in some ways, should produce a more grounded, less flip-floppy culture within the church.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.