American Church in Crisis: Where are the People?

In “The American Church in Crisis”, author David T. Olson makes a compelling case that the population of the American church is not keeping pace with the growth of the American nation. Rather, the church is losing both numbers vis-à-vis the general population, and therefore influence among it. One of his conclusions is that: “The critical factor for the health of any denomination is the successful birthing of new churches. Without new birth, the species has no other option but to decline and eventually become extinct.” Before presenting recommendations for corrective actions, however, Olson shows that the influence of external factors (demographics, etc.) was not a statistically significant difference between the declining and growing churches, with the exception of general population change. In other words, churches grow or decline for internal, not external reasons. If internal health is a crucial factor in growing established churches, what are symptoms of church sickness? Olson suggests three:

  1. Inability to adapt to cultural change,” such as changes in worship music styles;
  2. Inability to fight off disease, especially “destructive communication patterns and the improper use of power; and
  3. Inability to delay decay and diminishment through proper spiritual diet and exercise, healthy relational connections, mental stimulation, and spiritual vitality.

Olsen’s American Church Research Project has produced a 35 minute DVD – “Where are the People?” – that presents the challenges facing the American church and the solutions necessary for a brighter future. Click the Play button below to watch the 6 minute trailer of the DVD. For more information see:

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