In his comments on the recent series of posts on denominationalism and the new Baptist coalition, Martian Mariner asked the following:

On a different point, you've mentioned the democratization of American Protestant denominations in the early 19th century and you've got an ongoing series about the decline of mainline denominations. I would add the ecumenical movement of the mid 20th century to the category, and then ask the question: What do you see as being the dominant bent of American Protestant Churches in the 21st century?

Making no predictions, here are my thoughts on 21st century American Protestant Churches. (below)

A few current trends that may portend something significant for the future. In no particular order.

*We are seeing the growth of large Protestant congregations built around multiple contemporary-style worship services, small-group activity, and preaching that focuses on maximizing satisfaction with life. There isn't much politics or theological doctrine. "Satisfaction with life" can mean better relationships, better finances, better self-esteem, better satisfaction and happiness, etc.

*We also seem to be seeing a revival of Calvinism (or calvinisms) among several groups of Protestants. If true to historical form, this will mean political and cultural involvement.

*Significant numbers of Latin American charismatic congregations are growing, as well as Protestant Churches among various current immigrant groups.

*We are seeing more people participate in more than one congregation simutaneously: worship at one, Christian yoga at another, children to an after-school program at still another, Jr. Hi's to a youth group at still another.

*A definite trend is professionalization of ministry. The size of paid church staff has grown significantly. Medium-sized churches that in the past had volunteer youth leadership are hiring youth ministers, volunteer Sunday School Superintendents are being replaced with Ed Ministers, the volunteer pianist is replaced with a paid Worship Leader, etc. This relates to the current trend that large churches are the ones most apt to grow.

What will be regarded as the dominant feature of 21st-century Protestantism? For the next few decades, at any rate, I think it will be Consumer Marketed Church. (I am now going to go walk my dogs along to creek to lift my spirits after this depressing conclusion.)