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

November 18, 2022

Many of us see and feel what the statistics bear out: church is changing. From new denominations to reimagined worship styles, from shifting demographics to political polarization, American churches are experiencing extraordinary spiritual and social transformation in the twenty-first century. In fact, observers see current trends as worrying, especially as many Americans are leaving the church altogether. Yet a counter-narrative also exists: in every period of change there is also opportunity for renewal.

Upper House hosted a conversation with award-winning religion reporter Bob Smietana, whose new book, Reorganized Religion:The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters (2022, Worthy Publishing), captures these very significant shifts. Upper House’s director of university engagement, Dr. Dan Hummel, a historian of American religion, will interview Smietana on the major findings of his book, including why churches are changing and why so many are leaving. We will also be joined for a response by Rev. Dr. Christopher James, associate professor of evangelism and Christian ministry at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. James will draw on insights derived from his multi-year survey of Dane County churches and his experience co-leading the Awaken Dane Initiative (also co-led by Upper House). 

Together we will consider the implications of this catalyzing moment in our society—especially how we in the church might address these far-reaching trends and bear bold witness to the living gospel. 


Bob Smietana is an award-winning religion reporter and editor who has spent two decades producing breaking news, data journalism, investigative reporting, profiles, and features for magazines, newspapers, trade publications, and websites. He is currently a national reporter for Religion News Service. His new book is Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters (Worthy Publishing, 2022)

Daniel G. Hummel is Director of University Engagement at Upper House. Dan received his PhD in history from UW-Madison, and his writings on American religion and politics have appeared in the Washington Post, Christianity Today, and Religion News Service. His forthcoming book is The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism: How the Evangelical Battle Over the End Times Shaped a Nation (Eerdmans Press, 2023).

Rev. Dr. Christopher B. James is Associate Professor of Evangelism and Missional Christianity at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He is author of Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2017). His research has been featured by several media outlets including NPR and The Daily Beast. Chris is Director of the Dane Churches Project as well as Missio Madison, an innovative cohort-based initiative that equips missional leaders to thrive in the Greater Madison area.



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