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The Disenchantment of the West: Why Christianity is Waning in the United States and Europe

According to analysts, Christianity is rapidly advancing across the globe. Some are signifying that 3.2 out of 6.9 billion people currently identify with Jesus.[1]

Contrary to genuine concerns, Islam surpassing Christianity is improbable. For one thing, Protestant growth from 1960-2000 was three times global population changes and twice that of Islam.[2] Furthermore, Muslim fertility rates[3] are leveling out. Pew Research points out:

The gap in fertility between the Christian and Muslim-dominated nations fell from 67% in 1990 to 17% in 2010. If the trend continues, the Muslim and Christian fertility rates will converge in around 2050.[4]

Countering the inevitability of Islam’s dominance, Rodney Stark recently noted:

As recently as April 2015, the Pew Research Center declared that Muslims would soon overtake Christians by way of superior fertility. They will not … Islam generates very little growth through conversions, while Christianity enjoys a substantial conversion rate, especially in nations located in … the ‘global south’ – Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. And these conversions do not include the millions of converts being gained in China. Thus, current growth trends project an increasingly Christian world.[5]

In the darkest corners of the world, astonishing numbers of people are turning to Christ. Latin America, Africa, and Asia are experiencing extraordinary growth.

Latin America, Africa, and Asia are experiencing extraordinary growth. Astonishing numbers of people are turning to Christ.

In contrast to the concentration of Islam to the Middle East, Christians are represented in every region on earth. Stark observes that “Christianity is not only the largest religion in the world; it also is the least regionalized … There are only trivial numbers of Muslims in the Western Hemisphere and East Asia.”[6] The Church is globally expansive—currently surging in the war-torn Middle East[7] and other locales.[8]


Declension in the West

While God’s glory is on display around the world, not all nations are experiencing the same degree of impact. Christianity is undoubtedly outpacing population growth internationally. However, it is stagnant in the West.[9]

Christians are represented in every region on earth. The Church is globally expansive.

According to Lamin Sanneh, around 4,300 people per day are leaving the church in North America and Europe.[10] Expanding on those findings, Elizabeth Isichei places the number closer to 7,500.[11] With this same ethos in mind, Sarah Pulliam Bailey of The Washington Post reiterates:

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent.[12]

Some would question these findings. Yet, no matter how one interprets the data, problems are apparent. While Christianity is expanding around the world, it remains stagnant in North America.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2018

About the Author: J.D. King was a supporting leader in the Smithton Outpouring in the late 1990’s and has served as an itinerate speaker, author, and college instructor. In addition to contributing to Charisma Media and Pneuma Review, King wrote Regeneration: A Complete History of Healing in the Christian Church. He is not only pursuing the Kingdom of God but also has a burden to share its wonder with everyone that he meets.

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