Christian Broadcasting Network


David Darg


The Great Evangelical Recession


  • Author of The Great Evangelical Recession (2013)
  • Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church

  • Award winning journalist
  • Recipient of the Livingston Award for Young Journalist

  • Named “Journalist of the Year” by the Arizona Newspaper Association when he was 24

  • Publisher of op-ed columns in national newspapers
  • Live in Northern Arizona with wife and children


John S. Dickerson

By Ashley Andrews, 700 Club Interactive

CBN.comJohn Dickerson has written The Great Evangelical Recession because as he sees things, if America does not wake up and begin a church wide reformation then, it is very likely we will see the American Church "crash." He asks if you know ahead that something is on the way, would you do anything different? Will you prepare now or will you be swept along with it?

In the first half of his book John discusses the reasons he believes are responsible for the decline, and the second half offers hope through solutions. The common belief about the Evangelical Church is that it makes up for about 50% of church movement. According to four credited researchers he looked into, the percentage is much lower; it is only between 7 and 8.9% of the U.S. population. That makes the ratio less than 1 in 10 and is a decline worthy of notice. The truth of the idea that the Church is expanding is seemingly false as it based on the fact that the increase is due to lateral moves made by members. While this is going on, the population of people who are not attending church is growing.

Even though the news is not good, if Church leaders and people in ministry will heed the warning and begin to adjust now, they can be prepared and able to thrive in the midst of coming changes. As John states, this is a book based on facts and not supposition. As history has proven with past warnings to the church, there will be those who will ignore this, will scorn it, and even laugh. In a time where bad news surrounds us, many will not want to hear of more trouble and refuse to give this credence. There can either be an aggressive approach to plan a new direction and advance the Kingdom or, in frantic reaction wait until it is upon us. He quotes Gabe Lyons, an evangelical leader: "...If we fail to offer a different way forward, we risk losing entire generations to apathy and cynicism."

The six signs indicating the decline in motion are:

* Inflated
* Hated
* Dividing
* Bankrupt
* Bleeding
* Sputtering

John uses the analogy of "centuries-old-trees" that are dying to describe what is occurring within the Church. From the outside the tree appears to be fine but unseen are internal forces that are working against itself. No one from the outside can know that on the inside the tree is rotting away and losing its strength. However, when comes a storm which blows hard and much is required for the tree to withstand its harshness, it is knocked over. John likens the Church today to that scenario. New converts of having faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are not coming out of the church, and so the population growth is outnumbering the church as it cannot keep up. He writes that these storms are "planned and pained schemes of demonic manipulation...against the United States church for decades." John quotes as saying,"...I believe the storm clouds are darker than they have ever been. The world has changed dramatically." On the acceleration are the pro-homosexuality and strong anti-Christian feelings as the Church objects. In one interview John cited the recent uproar with Louie Giglio giving the benediction at President Obama's swearing-in ceremony because of a sermon he gave in the 1990's opposing homosexuality. The bottom line is that if you are not found standing with the LGBT then you are "seen as a hateful bigot." John predicts that over the next fifteen to twenty years the resistance to this issue will weaken as the values are dying and vanishing from sight.

While the present day American Church and its many organizations operate on large amounts of the dollar, the actual money coming in is decreasing. John states that seventy-eight percent of the mainline church donors are from two of the oldest generations and as they die off, the church will have less to work with which will only worsen the "crisis." In one study done at Indiana University-Purdue University found that baby boomers, in 2000, were giving ten percent less than their parents did. It is reported that the older generation of today has always been more giving than the younger generations of today and as they die off, the younger age will give less and less. If the church remains in the "dollar-centric ministry," Johns says it will be tied to the state of economy and depending upon the success of fundraising and stewardship of a generation who are "stingy, indebted, and unreliable."

We are 'bleeding" because according to several studies including the Barna Group, between sixty-nine and eighty percent of evangelicals in their twenties are leaving the faith. Unlike past generations, although some prodigals return, the amount that do not have increased to about sixty-five percent which is roughly two out of three who stay away. If the rapid rate of departure does not slow down then the church looses approximately ten percent of the Evangelical church in the United States, which will be the core between the years 2020 to 2040. The young are not the only ones in the departure, there are singles and men who feel overlooked and without the mature discipleship these numbers will be on the rise as well.

John challenges the reader with the question if we are going to follow God's plan or are we going to try and work it out ourselves. He says that the Holy Spirit is our only hope and while other resources may contribute to recovery, they don't provide power to provide or enforce the solutions. The solutions are listed as:

* Re-Valuing
* Good
* Uniting
* Solvent
* Healing
* Re-Igniting

By choosing to face the bad news, develop a proactive plan for strategic change, and then determine to follow it through, the Church can change. We must stop ripping and tearing each other apart and actually believe and stand on God's words when He prayed in John 17:23, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." Unity is not to be a choice but an offshoot of our relationship with Christ. It is important to get back on point, which is the truth of the atonement and that Scripture is the infallible Word of God. It will take boldness to "part company" when other doctrines are held. As Scriptural authority is maintained, the responsibility of the Church is to pray for local leaders and other churches and continue looking outward to the community. By taking away the heavy hand of false expectations placed on pastors, begin investing in the training of "under-shepherds" and those whose gifts are in counseling and "binding up wounds" the healing of the sheep will begin. The more that are trained, the more relational the church will become and with the power of the Holy Spirit, the bleeding of the church will be diminished.

Bottom line is when leaders set themselves as an example before the Church; confess to having fallen and repent, saying collectively and individually, the church has been out of order of God's Word, a shift in the right direction will occur. As we begin to align with His message we will know that He loves us and He will encourage and direct us in the way He desires. John writes it is not about perfection and we don't have to have all the solutions but we need to be faithful as in the days of the Reformers and never give up. We must be able to, in the face of opposition from even fellow Christians, lead with total devotion and resolute faith in God, "rediscover the discipleship of Christ and the sola of Scriptura." John closes the book with these words, "It will not be easy. But it will be worth it. This is our moment of decision."