Wednesday, December 11, 2013
COME! - This Way!
I want to say something in praise of evangelicalism today. Evangelicalism has played an important role in my spiritual formation, and I know from experience that it has done the same in the lives of many others.There it is, a point I have been trying to make here for a long time. Evangelicalism IS NOT church - it is simply evangelism. It is a function of the church, but it is not the church in its entirety.
The graph of my spiritual history is simple: from mainline Christianity to adolescent rebellion to spiritual awakening through evangelicalism to gradual dissatisfaction with the world of evangelicalism and back home to mainline Christianity.
I have met others who have followed a similar path. Just the other day my pastor told me about a young man who had grown up in the Lutheran church, left the church as a teenager, was “converted” in an evangelical church, then became “burned out” in that church environment, and one day stumbled back into a Lutheran congregation, where he is now settling in as an adult.
Evangelicalism is at its best when it gets the attention of prodigals, gets them moving, and points them toward home. Evangelicalism provides a way station where people weary of the world can stop in, find rest and refreshment, get some guidance, and then find their way home. Evangelicalism has a missional mentality and focus. It is good at attracting people, waking them up, and getting them back in touch with God. It is spiritual CPR. It’s a voice in the wilderness that gets people into the waters of Jordan to repent and believe.
If that is true then one of two things has to happen. Either Evangelical "churches" have to grow into full churches, or they have to be relegated tot he bin of parachurch from which they sprang. The problem is, that's not what people want. They want sorta kinda church. Church that offers salvation but does not radically affect their lives. As long as that is what people want, there are going to be people more than willing to give it.
So, how do we change the desire of people - how do we make them want more? I have two hints. The first is the AA concept of hitting bottom. Alcoholics don't improve until they come square face with the fact that they have a problem. We talk so little about sin anymore that people do not understand they have a problem. Yeah, I know they stay away from sin messages. That's how all this started. But sin messages will be heard if the other hint is in play.
They have to see that we have something better to offer. We have to live life in such a radically Christian fashion that sin is transparent. People, when confronted with sin must know that there is a path out of it, not a mere guilt-ridden wallowing in it. That's the real challenge.
evangelicalism parachurch radical