One Third of Americans Affiliate with Evangelical Churches

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Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. In the most recent First Things, he writes The Good News About Evangelicalism, and gives some of the results of The Baylor Religious Survey.

The results contradict recent claims that evangelicalism is shrinking and the younger generation is becoming more secular. I suspect the main value of empirical research like this is to keep other researchers honest. If you get discouraged by the latest report that things are going badly, take heart. Here is a better report.

Leading religious observers claim that evangelicalism is shrinking and the next generation of evangelicals is becoming less religious and more secular, but (as we social scientists like to say) these are empirical questions, and the evidence shows that neither of these claims is true.

Those who argue that a new American landscape is emerging—one in which the conservative evangelicalism of the past few decades is losing numbers and influence—are simply ignoring the data.

Membership in the mainline denominations declined 49 percent from 1960 to 2000; membership in evangelical denominations increased 156 percent in the same period.

Fully one-third of Americans (approximately 100 million) affiliate with an evangelical Protestant congregation. Indeed, evangelicals remain the numerically dominant religious tradition in the United States.

When we are done being encouraged (or snide), let's all return to Jesus and listen: "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).