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20 Quotes from "The Great Evangelical Recession" by John Dickerson

Below are twenty key statements and/or quotes from John Dickerson’s book, The Great Evangelical Recession. This work depicts the recession of American Evangelical Christianity and emphasizes that the solution is to refocus on the one thing that Jesus commissioned us to do: make and train disciples.


1. “Leaders who do not position themselves as part of the advance will be victims of the evangelical recession.” (14) “Wise leaders must be aware of what is changing, why it's changing, and how to prepare.” (17)

Part One - Six Trends of Decline

2. “The precise evangelical focus on the gospel has been lost in the muddy waters of politics, culture wars, and progressive theology.” (65) “With good intentions, many evangelicals have elevated political positions to the level of spiritual and theological orthodoxy.” (68) John MacArthur is quoted as stating, “Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel because the morality and righteousness that God seeks is the result of salvation and sanctification.” (70)

3. "The “professional” Christians who are best trained to do the works of evangelism and discipleship will be scrambling to make a living. At the same time, the “sending” class of American evangelicals remains largely untrained in serious evangelism and discipleship.” (87)

4. “Somewhere along the way, unofficially and probably with good intentions, our ministry leaders began counting dollars instead of disciples . . . whether intentional or not, dollar dependence in our host culture has led to an assumed dependence on the dollar to fulfill a commission that originally had nothing to do with material wealth.” (85)

5. “The vast majority of ministry leaders would never subscribe to a prosperity gospel ideology, but they are deeply infused with an American capitalist cultural understanding of the gospel—that God measures success by the numbers, that more money means more ministry, which means more success for God's Kingdom…American Christians are material creatures.” (86)

6. “Barna estimates that from every five young evangelicals, four will “disengage” from the church by age 29.” (99)

7. “Jesus did not call his church to build buildings or websites or worship services. He called his followers to ‘make disciples’ . . . The culprit likely varies across ministries, but the national trend is indisputable. We are failing to disciple our people into transformed thinking or living.” (106-107) “By Christ’s own words, this is the simplest gauge we use to measure success or failure. Are we making disciples? . . . A church that isn't making disciples is—at that moment—a declining, dying, or failing church. At the very least, its engine installed.” (110-111)

8. “The most important issue we will face today is the same the church has faced in every century: Will we reach our world for Christ? The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature, and our calling is to declare Christ's forgiveness and hope and transforming power to a world that does not know him or follow him. May we never forget this.” (Billy Graham quoted from page 119)

Part Two: Six Solutions for Recovery

9. “A. W. Tozer summarized well the second half of our journey. ‘It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run, and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.’” (132)

10. “Resurrecting God's mandate for good living among the pagans does not require a particular political position. But it requires that regardless of political conviction or doctrinal system, we re-elevate the goodness of our lives lived out “among” the pagans in our local communities—no matter what tribe those pagans belong to…We give the impression of insecurity, self-protectiveness, and hate on the outside, even as we secretly conduct good deeds in the safety and shade of the bushel.” (139) “God didn't wait for us to make our way to him. He saw us, in the person of Jesus Christ. If we love any tribe in the vicinity where God plants us, we will go to them, as Christ came to us.” (141)

11. “It was the balance of tenacious outer boundaries and gracious inner disagreements that made United States evangelicalism so globally powerful and unique.” (161)

12. “In short, the solution is disciples. Not dollars. This alternative energy source was the primary engine of the early church. It is, to this day, the engine of radically growing churches on other continents . . . Will we spend the next decade working harder and harder at fundraising—or working harder and harder at disciple making? Leaders with an eye on the long-term will, I believe, choose to depend less on dollars and more on disciples.” (173-74)

13. “If Jesus’ claim is true, then the heart of the typical American evangelical is not in Christ’s Kingdom. Our hearts are in our cars, credit cards, mortgages, and retirement savings . . . As we disciple our people into biblical stewardship, we're actually helping them place their hearts in Christ’s Kingdom. And once their hearts are in Christ’s Kingdom, their thoughts and actions, their marriages and families, will follow. As their hearts take root in Christ’s Kingdom, they will become more committed, more radical disciples . . . We have so few disciples because we have a shortage of disciple making leaders in our ministries.” (179)

14. “Disciples cannot be mass produced. Disciples are handmade, one relationship at a time . . . We are shouldering the business and programs of a late 20th century church model, wondering when we or anyone else will have time to do some discipleship or shepherding. It has not been our motive, but our outcome has been to neglect Christ’s primary and most practical command—to “make disciples.” (184-85)

15. “A new century insists that we shift our philosophy, out of 20th century mass-driven measurement models, into 21st century individual-focused models.” (186)

16. “We are running Christ’s mightiest weapon like a Walmart.” (187)

17. “Every spiritual leader of every century has but three callings: Love God, Love God's Word, and Love God's People…The Vine grows through the yielding cracks in our self-dependence, and he bears the fruit…A missing pastoral love for our individual people is the highest, most gaping wound of our bleeding body . . . More and more, the most successful of our leaders won't touch actual shepherding—won't get their hands in the mud, their fingers in the wounds, their hearts in the lives of the people. That priority trickles down through staff and lay leaders to parents and kids.” (192-94)

18. “We have settled for the majority of our people being silent supporters but not proclaimers, not witnesses in the sense that the New Testament used the word—ones who testify to what we have seen Christ do . . . As Charles Spurgeon once said, “every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” (210-11)

19. “A lifestyle of evangelism grows out of a mature understanding of life in Christ…it can't be taught in a classroom or sermon alone. It has to be seen, tasted, and experienced . . . Meaningful evangelism training is not a stand-alone program. It is just another part of holistic disciple making.” (212)

20. “More than anything else, 21st-Century Evangelicalism depends on making disciples—who then make disciples. It requires a values exchange that trades macro from micro, numbers for individuals, production for transformation—in our micro churches as well as our mega churches. This values exchange will—in time—make ministries much larger, as well as much deeper . . . When it comes to sustained numeric growth across generations, institutional stability, financial viability, and cultural influence, our best insurance is not deep pockets or corporate planning but individual disciple making.” (220)

Dickerson, John. The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church and How to Prepare Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013.


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