Article Review: “The coming evangelical collapse”
This post is in response to this article. (Meaning it will make way more sense if you read the other article first.) I tried to do a trackback but am too tech illiterate to make it happen.
Overall, I think this was a really good article. One of the things I’ve been considering lately is what it looks like to have a prophetic voice in a culture of political correctness and ultra-tolerance. (Though really it’s not tolerance because that requires disagreeing with someone and being okay with it. Our culture just demands that you don’t judge anything and if you do you are no longer tolerated.) I think in some ways this article does a good job of being honest without getting personal. The prophetic voice is needed, especially when people don’t like hearing it.
Here are some of the things I found very helpful or insightful:
- He’s right to point out that our culture is becoming and will continue to become more agnostic and secular. The study I posted on a couple back that found the number of people claiming no religion doubled in the past 15 years is something that points in that direction. I think this is more a matter of people owning their real beliefs than a radical shift.
- “Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end.” Okay. That is sad on one hand, but it sounds like purification of the Church to me too. The Church has always been strongest in places where it doesn’t share the power of the empire. The end of that in our country will clear away those who exist to share power rather than be about God’s kingdom.
- The focus of the emerging church on reimagined theology and worship will fade in importance under the weight of the changing culture. The movement of this “movement” can really only flourish in a Christian culture thirsty for something intellectually fresh. That time has almost passed.
- We are a country in need of missionaries as he says. I hope they do come from all over the world, but many have chosen to remain in their homeland to be missionaries as well.
- “If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.” Amen!!
- I love his comments near the end about the hope of Christianity given these conditions. I couldn’t agree more. This is not a comfortable time for faith, but it is an exciting time.
Here are some things I disagree with or would clarify:
- I’m not sure he’s right about the coming wave of intolerance toward Christianity. In fact, it seems the pockets of radical discipleship in the U.S. are more respected, by non-believers maybe even more than believers, than hated. It reminds me of the comments about the early church that no one dared to be around them (because they seemed weird, i.e. living their faith) but their numbers grew daily and they enjoyed the favor of all the people. In Aurora, where we live, the Church is working in step with the local government to effect change in the city. I think as the Church realizes life isn’t a power game those types of partnerships will continue to be forged–where the Church doesn’t compromise its faith for the sake of political power and the political powers welcome the partnership of the Church without requiring them to tone down their faith.
- “We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive. ” I think it will go the other direction. Ministries will either shed their Christian identity all together or become more passionate about an authentic faith and connectedness to Christ as their foundation. Being lukewarm will fade as an option. Praise the Lord!
- “Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions.” I will be extremely surprised if this is the case. Those branches of the Church are declining more quickly than their Evangelical counterparts. While some Evangelicals will move to these branches (that’s been the case for years) the overall trend is much more toward people slowly leaving church completely. The Catholic and Orthodox branches will survive because of the role they play in cultural identity, but the changes in faith will more likely lead to them becoming cultural artifacts than vibrant communities.
- “A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.” Thankfully this movement rests on the power of God, so in the words of Gamaliel, “if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop it.”
- “Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.” Again, the desertion of marginal believers can certainly be good, but the focus should not be on the development of culturally appropriate churches. It should be on returning to the incarnational approach to life and faith of Jesus and on discipleship. The Church (the people of God, not a building) will result.