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The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of over 200,000 Churches Hardcover – Unabridged, February 24, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Dave Olson sheds invaluable insight on the condition, direction, and immediate needs of the American Church. Dave writes with a rare combination of pastoral experience and denominational leadership backed up by rich church research. Thankfully, his message is not the typical, fatalistic, doom-filled prophecy about the imminent demise of the American Church. Instead, this book is packed with valuable insight, priceless research, and years of wisdom, all pointing toward practical answers about how to renew Christ's church. -- Craig Groeschel - Pastor, LifeChurch.tv, Edmund, OK

David Olson has given the American Church the gift of truth and hope in one powerful package. This book is a wonderfully balanced presentation of "just the facts" woven skillfully together with colorful metaphors that lead the reader to a clear understanding of the dangers and the opportunities facing the Body of Christ in the United States. It is a "must read" for Christian leaders determined to develop strategic plans to reach the multitudes of fellow citizens who are currently disconnected from the Church that Jesus is building. -- Steve Pike - Director, Church Planting and Development, Assemblies of God

The American Church in Crisis is a reality check that provides an honest look at the state of the church in America. Employing thorough research that yield eye-opening statistics, Dave Olson gives us a realistic snapshot of the state of the American church. This book is a prophetic call to prepare ourselves for the next phase of the church in America - a dynamic phase that requires a ministry of church planting and church revitalization in an increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic landscape. Every pastor, church leader, denominational leader, or Christian concerned about the future of the church in the United States needs to read this book. -- Soong-Chan Rah - Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary

Review

“The way forward is etched by truth and deepened by hope. You'll find both here. Olson's book is a courageous gift to us all.” -- Sally Jean Morgenthaler|“Olson's research, conclusions, and action points will enhance strategic thinking for expanding the Kingdom of God via church planting.” -- Bill Malick|“David Olson has done a remarkable job of researching the church in America. In my opinion his research is the most helpful that I have received. He has many suggestions for dealing with some of the crises we face, but in my opinion, the strength of his work is sound research. I recommend his book highly.” -- Alan Andrews|“Dave Olson is this generation’s Lyle Schaller. Exhaustive, impeccable research combined with brilliant insights make this a must-read for every pastor and board.” -- Ray Johnston|“Armed with helpful statistical data, this volume offers a clear picture of the changing landscape of the North American ministry context and its implications, making it an invaluable tool for church planters and pastors.” -- Peter T. Cha|“There are many who believe that the church in America has been lulled asleep by it own press and endless activities to build itself up. Dave Olson, with his relentless pursuit of truth, offers a wake-up call to a church that has fallen asleep. The American Church in Crisis offers a clarion call to all followers of Jesus to reexamine our motives, methods, and mission. In my humble opinion, this will be the most quoted book in the next 5 years.” -- Gary Rohrmayer|“The American Church in Crisis is a reality check that provides an honest look at the state of the church in America. Employing thorough research that yield eye-opening statistics, Dave Olson gives us a realistic snapshot of the state of the American church. This book is a prophetic call to prepare ourselves for the next phase of the church in America---a dynamic phase that requires a ministry of church planting and church revitalization in an increasingly diverse, multi-ethnic landscape. Every pastor, church leader, denominational leader, or Christian concerned about the future of the church in the United States needs to read this book.” -- Dr. Soong-Chan Rah|“At long last we have data on church membership and attendance that is not based on telephone interviews! This book is packed with data on trends in churchgoing that spans the main traditions. It will be a constant reference as I meet with church leaders across North America.” -- Eddie Gibbs|“The statistics of The American Church in Crisis will rock you and it should. For me, I'll not soon forget Dave's observation of the affluence of American churches especially. He noted how the evangelical church in the early 20th century “gave up much of its wealth and social status so that it could be faithful to the gospel” (p.82). Dave then posits how the American church is growing the fastest in zip codes that are more affluent. . . Ouch! Get ready for some painful numbers . . . the American Church needs this type of wake up call.” -- Dave Gibbons|“The facts don't lie! With profound research and unusually wise analysis, Dave Olson has compiled a compelling portrait of the American church, and her future. As a new church planter, I am all ears and commend this voice that all might listen.” -- John Teter, , Author|“David Olson has given the American Church the gift of truth and hope in one powerful package. This book is a wonderfully balanced presentation of “just the facts,” woven skillfully together with colorful metaphors that lead the reader to a clear understanding of the dangers and the opportunities facing the Body of Christ in the United States. It is a must read for Christian leaders determined to develop strategic plans to reach the multitudes of fellow citizens who are currently disconnected from the Church that Jesus is building.” -- Steve Pike, , Director|'The American Church in Crisis is a monumental work, both in its accurate, near alarming analysis, and its brilliant clarion call to engage our society with the 'full-orbed' gospel of Jesus.' -- Lon Allison, , Director|“David Olson’s The American Church in Crisis is a wake-up call to the American institutional church. Olson’s research shows that, in spite of some appearances, all is not well with established churches. If the church is going to make a difference in contemporary culture, something must change. This book begins to stir the missional imagination of what the church must become. I am enthusiastic about this book.” -- Kurt Fredrickson, , Director|“Dave Olson’s book documenting the state of the church in America provides the most strategic and helpful information available today for church leaders. It is absolutely an essential read.” -- Dr. Jerry Sheveland, , President|“David Olson’s expert study of the state of the American church is eye-opening. Other more expressive words also come to mind---jolting, staggering, astounding! However, this wake-up-call book also provides answers on how to be proactive in turning the Church around. Read this book for the facts; then do something to change the state of the American Church.” -- Gary L. McIntosh, , Professor|“David has put together the data and the challenge that every leader of the Christian World must respond to. Now is the time!” -- Steve Andrews, , Lead Pastor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Second Printing edition (February 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310277132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310277132
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Carl H. Nelson on February 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book does an excellent job of bridging a well-researched assessment of the Church in America, with practical responses that the Church must make in order to fulfill the mission of the Kingdom of God.

Olson approaches the reality of an American Church in decline with love and respect for the Body of Christ; while he gives church leaders a loud wake up call, he also offers hope by prescribing that the Church focus on the message and mission of Jesus. As a church-planting leader and pastor, he is committed to growing churches and transforming lives. He holds true to that goal while shaking up the comfortable status quo that much of the American church has settled into.

Pastors & denominational leaders of both mainline and Evangelical churches, particularly those in urban and 1st and 2nd ring suburban churches, should read this book. It will also be helpful for any established church that wishes to remain alive and healthy for at least one more generation.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. McDaniel on July 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It was refeshing reading research beyond Barna. Though Olson said the same stuff Barna would have...the American institutional church is in serious trouble. Olson seemed to be a little more broad and deep. Instead of relying solely on his own data, as Barna would, he brought in other sources and gave a comprehensive look at the church.

I loved the pro church planting perspective. American churches need to plant 2,900 churches a year just to keep pace with the growth in population (p 181).
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andy Rowell on November 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There is a troubling lack of clarity on methodological issues in Olson's book. Olson's conclusion that the church in the United States is in crisis and that this can be shown with quantitative data differs from what other sociologists of religion are saying (See below). Olson writes, "In reality the church in America is not booming. It is in crisis. On any given Sunday, the vast majority of Americans are absent from church. Even more troublesome, as the American population continues to grow, the church falls further and further behind. If trends continue, by 2050 the percentage of Americans attending church will be half the 1990 figure" (page 16).

Olson's data seems rather to lead to a more modest claim: Based on the data that Olson has assembled from various denominational offices, there are some worrisome trends while there are also some encouraging trends about church attendance in the US; the limitations of Olson's data precludes sweeping generalizations about Christianity in the US. He is correct though that some churches and denominations are facing declines in attendance. His ideas for stemming that decline are welcome.

Stanley Presser and Mark Chaves sum up in the following quote what a number of sociologists of religion have concluded about the American church. "Yet, existing evidence does not definitively establish whether attendance at religious services declined in American society from the 1950s to the present. We examine the trend in religious service attendance between 1990 and 2006. Evidence from several sources converges on the same answer: weekly attendance at religious services has been stable since 1990. However one reads the evidence about trends between World War II and 1990, the recent past has been a time of stability.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James V. Dougans on July 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The American Church is in crisis. This may not be evident. Some polls report that 40 percent of the population attends church each Sunday. In fact, only 20 percent of the population attends church each Sunday. In addition, church attendance is not keeping up with a growing population.

The American Church in Crisis offers a comprehensive overview of the situation. Author David T. Olson presents a statistical picture of American religious life. He describes how church attendance is stagnant. In 1990 52 million people attended church on any given Sunday. In 2006 this number remains unchanged. Yet during the last 16 years the population of the United States has increased by 52 million people.

Olson wonders if we will experience another Millennium Effect. The years 1000 to 1033 were remarkable for their spiritual fervor. People expected many miracles to occur 1,000 years after Christ's death. As the second millennium begins Catholic churches face a shortage of priests and mainline churches are not starting enough new churches.

The American Church in Crisis offers a look at where churches are growing. The American church is growing fastest in zip codes that are more affluent and also more educated. Younger churches grow fastest. After 40 years most churches start to decline in membership. Churches with younger members also grow faster because more members are in the child bearing years. Surprisingly churches in urban locations showed the most growth, even more than those churches in suburban locations.

Olson asks the question will the church become extinct like the dodo bird or will it rebound from the brink of extinction like the eagle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark on December 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This work by David Olson is the best overview of the current state of the 21st century church that I have read. He has done a great job of setting forth his thoughts logically and supporting them well with statistics. Yet, despite the dry nature of statistical analysis, Olson's pastors heart shines through in his practical ability to transform hard statistical science into the soft science of cultural anthropology. Olson also forms his conclusions by citing examples of Old Testament, Messianic and Pauline theology and actions that are consistent with his research. All in all, this is a great read that every staff and lay leader should have on their shelf.
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