Walter Russell Mead on the evolution of the church in the 21st century:
It’s not clear yet what the next wave of American Christianity will look like—though it will probably be less denominational than the last—and both theologically and culturally it will be more diverse. But as the millennials begin to start families, reflect on the meaning of life from an adult perspective and look for community, entrepreneurial religious leaders will be offering a wide range of choices.
The genius of American religion is that without government influence or control, people are free to find their own path, and religious leaders are free to compete for believers in the market place of ideas. When existing religious hierarchies are out of touch or have wandered into cultural or doctrinal dead ends, start up churches and denominations can fill the void.
My feelings about stuff like this are kind of pessimistically progressive. By which I mean, I like that people are coming up with new ideas; however, the fact remains that most new ideas are pretty stupid. Innovation: Great in theory, usually terrible in execution.
But on the bright side, in America the entrepreneurial work ethic mixes with religious fervor like chocolate and peanut butter. Combine that with our guaranteed right to freedom of religion (pause while I check recently passed laws… hmm… yep, still a right), and we’re going to have enough innovations that some of them are bound to be winners just as a matter of probability.
Change and innovation are in the DNA of the American church, and it will continue to be. When you read reports that the church is withering, those reports are usually referring to the last iteration of the church and ignoring the next generation even as it’s coming to fruition.