During the twentieth century, Christians on the conservative side of the theological spectrum began militantly defending the faith against the encroachment of liberalism. Five fundamentals of the faith were held up and defended while attempting to dismantle counter ideas.
However, it became a militant ideology and defenders of the fundamentals of the faith separated themselves from the main ecclesiastical bodies and formed their own churches. The idea of separating from a mainline church is not a new concept, but in the twenty-first century the conservative side of the aisle is horribly fragmented and the American church has no practical unifying identity. This fragmentation continues as new denominations and non-denominations split and build.
As this happens, the secular culture becomes more unified and established and the church becomes weakened. The state-run churches of secular Europe suffer from a lack of vitality and a lack of attendance and the secular spirituality that is held as Christianity in those churches holds nothing of substance for people to genuinely cling to. Similar doctrines are held in American mainline churches today.
The entertainment and pop-theology economy that is the evangelical church offers little substance as an alternative save the emotions and subjectivity found in young, post-modernist congregations. At the same time evangelical seminaries only serve as factories, producing evangelical pastors to plant like-minded churches. An arms race of churches has been set off for the plethora of evangelical churches while the liberals hold the old mainline churches.
A better solution would be for conservative Christians to view the mainline denominations that have fallen into liberal hands as mission fields. For centuries these old churches were pillars of Protestant faith, doctrine and tradition. To let them crumble and decay for the sake of a nameless and aimless evangelical movement that is constantly redefining itself seems like a great act of retreat and surrender. Given that unity is strength, the current state of disunity is handing the hearts and minds of American Christians over to a secular state.
The old church names like Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian have been around for centuries and were once pillars for millions of Christians in the United States. Filled as they are by liberal theology, mainline churches are moving from being preservers of the Christian faith to being mausoleums of the Christian religion. Christians are called to be salt and light in a tasteless and dark world and that bland darkness appears to be finding a home in churches that once shined brightly.
It might be argued that the mainline churches are dead and beyond hope. Perhaps they are. However, what is being offered as an alternative and presented as the future tastes too much like a fad and does not seem to have any staying power. For sure, the church has lost historic ground that is in dire need of recovery.