No, American Christianity is not dead

Ed Stetzer is executive director of LifeWay Research, an
evangelical research organization. The views expressed in this column belong to Stetzer.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay research, an evangelical research company.

(CNN)The headlines were deafening this week -- if current trends continue, the last Christian at Boston's historic Park Street Church will leave the faith in a few decades, join a Wiccan coven on Harvard Square, tell her live-in atheist boyfriend that Christianity is dead, and we'll all just move on from this failed Christian experiment.

The headlines were reporting on a study from the Pew Research Center. This trove of religion data has some Americans acting as if the sky is falling on Christianity. But are the headlines accurate? Or did the numbers say something else?
    A better reading of the stats is found when you move beyond the headlines and see a long, slow (but accelerating) decline of (mostly) nominal Christianity. However, the percentage of convictional Christians has remained relatively steady, with some decline. The decline of nominal Christianity is not the only thing happening, but it's a big part of the real story.
    'Christian' means different things to different people
    It's helpful to statistically clarify Christianity in the United States into three categories—cultural, congregational, and convictional. The first two categories are nominal Christians—they identify, but do not shape their lives around the Christian faith.
    Cultural Christians are the least connected -- the