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Evangelicals see declining influence in U.S.
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
July 08, 2011
3 MIN READ TIME

Evangelicals see declining influence in U.S.

Evangelicals see declining influence in U.S.
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
July 08, 2011

Are U.S.

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

our hands.”

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

Christianity.

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

its leadership.

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.

U.S.

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.