His book is loaded with charts, graphs and sidebars, and his research is based(as are his conclusions) on his study of a national database of some 200,000 churches.
And the upshot of his research – there is cause for concern.
For instance, despite some optimistic polls that otherwise suggest the American church is thriving, Olson writes,
“On any given Sunday,cthe vast majority of Americans are absent from church and if trends ccontinue, by 2050, the percentage of Americans attending church will be
half (of what it was in 1990).”
I know that in Metro Atlanta in the heart of the “Bible Belt” there are over 70 Mega-churches (defined by 2,000+) and one would think that almost “everyone goes to church”. And yet in our county, only 15.7% of the population actually go to church. We are not as “churched” as we are often led to believe.
According to Olsen, to avoid this dismal future, “the American church must engage with…three critical transitions …which have altered the relationship between American culture and the church.” Namely, Olsen defines these critical transitions as:
1. The transition from a Christian to a post-Christian society;
2. The transition from a modern to a post-modern society;
3. The transition from a mono-ethnic to a multi-ethnic society.
Of course, transitions 1. and 2. have long been foreseen and understood. It’s transition 3. – the new kid on the block – that’s getting increased attention from researchers, writers, theologians and practitioners, etc., alike.
According to Olson, it’s not only what’s needed; it’s the future.
“In the mono-ethnic world, Christians, pastors and churches only had to understand their own culture. Ministering in a homogeneous cultures is easier, but mono-ethnic Christianity can gradually become culture-bound….In the multi-ethnic world, pastors, churches and Christians need to operate under the rules of the early church’s mission to the Gentiles.”
But this is the “money” quote:
“As the power center of (global) Christianity moves south and east, the multi-ethnic church is becoming the normal and natural picture of the new face of Christianity.”
The NEW FACE of CHRISTIANITY in AMERICA. If you are threatened by the idea of a church that is going to be less Anglo and more diverse, then this won’t perceived as good news. But if you believe and know that the heart of Christ and the gospel is a church for the nations, then it becomes exciting to see the church transformed from ethnic and cultural parochialism to seeing it transformed into a multi-ethnic mosaic.
What do you think, is this a crisis or a new and exciting opportunity?