A survey of some of the top evangelical leaders in the nation found that while there is overwhelming optimism on the growth of Christianity in the world, there is mostly pessimism when it comes to the future of the faith in America.
“Evangelical leaders are very bullish on the future growth of Christianity, except in America,” said Leith Anderson, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
In the latest Evangelical Leaders Survey, released Tuesday, respondents said they overwhelmingly (94 percent) believe the number of Christians worldwide will increase in the next ten years. A mere four percent of respondents said the number of Christians will stay the same, while two percent said they are unsure.
No one predicted the number of Christians will decrease.
The expectations for Christianity’s growth, however, focused on the global south where the religion is currently blossoming.
Gary Benedict, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., predicted an “increase in South America, Africa and Asia but continued decrease in North America and Europe,” the NAE reported.
When it came to the United States, most of the U.S. evangelical respondents said they believe the number of Christians will stay the same at best, but will more likely decline. However, they expressed hope for a national spiritual awakening spurred by the current economic difficulties and political uncertainties.
NAE's president further noted that while respondents are optimistic about the number of Christians in the next ten years, they held more reserved expectations on the influence of the religion. Anderson said many of the leaders believe that even though there will be more Christians, the group will have less influence because of secularization, Islam and persecution.
The influence of Christianity in America is already seen to be on the decline as Christians themselves are revealing confusion with their faith.
Last year, a major study on religion in America discovered that the majority of American Christians believe there is more than one way to eternal life. Even 57 of evangelical church attendees said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, according to the survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
American Christian leaders, in response to the report, called the survey results troubling and an indication of a theological crisis among the country’s Christian population as well as the growing pluralism in America.
"They (survey results) represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel," commented Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The NAE survey results are based off a monthly poll of 100 members of the group’s board of directors. They include heads of 60 denominations and executives of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches. The survey questions the leaders on current events and issues of interest to gage the evangelical response on a particular topic. Past surveys have include topics on Muslim Americans, megachurches, and politics.