evangelicals losing their influence on America?
A poll released June 22 from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life seems
to say just that, with the vast majority — 82 percent — of U.S.
evangelical leaders saying their influence on the country is declining.
At the same time, their counterparts in Africa, Asia
and Latin America are far more optimistic.
“There’s both a huge optimism gap and a huge influence gap in terms of the way
these folks perceive things,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum.
Researchers surveyed more than 2,000 leaders invited to attend the Lausanne
Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South
Africa, last year.
S. Douglas Birdsall, executive chair of the Lausanne Movement, which worked
with Pew on the survey, said the U.S.
pessimism is rooted in a changed culture where Billy
Graham has retreated from public life and government-sponsored prayer has been
banned from public
schools for more than a generation.
“There was a time when there was a Ten Commandments in every classroom, there
were prayers in public places,” he said. “So having gone from that position of
considerable influence, even though we might actually have more influence than
churches in … other parts of the world, the sense is that it’s slipping from
The perception of declining influence comes as the nation has become both more
pluralistic and more secular. The vast majority of U.S.
leaders surveyed — 92 percent — called secularism a major threat to evangelical
Some evangelical denominations are starting to acknowledge pluralism in hopes
of increasing their numbers. The Southern Baptist Convention, which drew the
smallest attendance since World War II at a recent meeting in Phoenix,
and is grappling with declining baptism rates, has launched a plan to diversify
Researchers also found that evangelicals are far more pessimistic than their
Global South counterparts about the current and future state of evangelicalism.
About half (53 percent ) of U.S. leaders said the state of evangelicalism is
worse than it was five years ago, and nearly as many (48 percent) said they
expect it to grow worse in the next five years.
Researchers found that just 18 percent of U.S. Lausanne representatives
surveyed said religious leaders should stay out of political issues, compared
to 78 percent who said they should express their political views.
evangelical leaders’ sense of influence and optimism contrasted sharply with
leaders of the Global South in a number of ways:
- Evangelicals in your country losing influence: U.S.
82 percent; Global South 39 percent.
- State of evangelicalism worse today than five years ago: U.S.
53 percent, Global South 27 percent.
- State of evangelicalism in your country will be worse in five years: U.S 48
percent; Global South 12 percent.