Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters

Worthy. Aug. 2022. 256p. ISBN 9781546001614. $27. REL
Award-winning religion reporter Smietana analyzes the state of American Christianity, looking particularly at reasons for churches’ shrinking populations. Beyond marking the decline of U.S. churches, Smietana also looks at trends that span denominations and faiths (including the rise of the “nones,” people who have abandoned organized religion altogether). Some of his insights barely require mention (e.g., political and social polarization), but more intriguing is Smietana’s contention that megachurches have, paradoxically, sped the decline of church congregations by making it easy for Christians to disengage and drop out. Besides the tendency of megachurches to rise or fall around a single leader, they hollow out middle-tier congregations, leaving churches that are too small to minister as they once had. While Smietana voices a certain amount of skepticism that megachurches can create the communities needed for a thriving society, he holds out hope for smaller congregations that are able to find creative ways to nourish their members.
VERDICT Telling rich stories about people and communities across a vast religious spectrum, Smietana delivers his insights on reimagining American Christianity and organized religion more broadly.
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