People who write about the current religious scene in the USA are quick to comment on the rise of the “Nones” (people with no religious affiliation), the decline of the mainline church (steep), and the decline of Christianity in America in general (not as steep but noticeable.) I think the rise of the “nones” is not much of a story — people no longer go to church because its the thing to do — we’ve known this for a long time. These people are not necessarily — or even likely to be — atheists or secularists. They are that demographic that used to attend church — or identify with a church while rarely attending — who now don’t.
It’s not a crisis when people don’t come to church. It’s a crisis when the church stops spreading the Gospel of Christ. The Great Commission was never: “let people come to you.” It was: “go into all the world and make disciples.”
The more evangelical (its hard thing to measure precisely) segment of the church seems to be holding its own — maybe. (I personally wonder how much evangelical and conservative decline might be related to the resurgence of hard line Calvinism — but, again, that would be hard to measure.)
An interesting admission from a man who was a strong defender of the penal substitution theory of the atonement:
The demand that the Atonement shall be exhibited in vital relation to a new life in which sin is overcome… is entirely legitimate, and it touches a weak point in the traditional Protestant doctrine. Dr. [Thomas] Chalmers tells us that he was brought up — such was the effect of the current orthodoxy upon him — in a certain distrust of good works. Some were certainly wanted, but not as being themselves salvation, only, as he puts it, as tokens of justification. It was a distinct stage in his religious progress when he realized that true justification sanctifies, and that the soul can and ought to abandon itself spontaneously and joyfully to do the good that it delights in… An atonement that does not regenerate… is not an atonement in which men can be asked to believe.