The Coming Evangelical Collapse (2): What Will Be Left?

2. What will be left after the evangelical collapse?

a. An evangelicalism far from its historical and doctrinal core. Expect evangelicalism as a whole to look more and more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. The determination to follow in the methodological steps of numerically successful churches will be greater than ever. The result will be, in the main, a departure from doctrine to more and more emphasis on relevance, motivation and personal success….with the result being churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

For some time, we’ve been at a point that the decision to visit a particular evangelical church contained a fairly high risk of not hearing the Biblical Gospel. That experience will be multiplied and expanded in the years to come. Core beliefs will become less and less normative and necessary in evangelicalism.

b. An evangelicalized Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Two of the beneficiaries of the coming evangelical collapse will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been steadily entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more media and publishing efforts aimed at the “conversion” of evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox ways of being Christian.

A result of this trend will be the increasing “evangelicalization” of these churches. This should yield interesting results, particularly in the Orthodox church with its ethnic heritage and with the tensions and diversities in Catholicism that most converts never see during the conversion process. I expect the reviews of the influence of evangelicalism in these communions to be decidedly mixed.

c. A small portion of evangelicalism will continue down the path of theological re-construction and recovery. Whether they be post-evangelicals working for a reinvigoration of evangelicalism along the lines of historic “Mere Christianity,” or theologically assertive young reformed pastors looking toward a second reformation, a small, but active and vocal portion of evangelicalism will work hard to rescue the evangelical movement from its demise by way of 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. But I do believe many evangelical churches and schools will benefit from this segment of evangelicalism, and I believe it will contribute far beyond its size to the cause of world missions.

d. I believe the emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision. I expect to continue hearing emerging leaders, seeing emerging conferences and receiving emerging books. I don’t believe this movement, however, is going to have much influence at all within future evangelicalism. What we’ve seen this year with Tony Jones seems to me to be indicative of the direction of the emerging church.

e. Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear; they will exist only as a dying form of church. The Southern Baptist Convention will experience dramatic losses in the numbers of churches in the next 25 years. By 2050, the SBC will have half the number of churches it has today. (Who know how many members it will report.) The SBC will become “exhibit A” for the problems of evangelicalism, with fragmentation appearing everywhere and a loss of coherence on many fronts.

The fundamentalist ghetto has been breaking down in my own lifetime, and I expect this will continue. The “Jerry Falwell-Jerry Vines” type of fundamentalist Baptist will become a museum piece by the middle of the century.

f. Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Within that community, the battle for the future of evangelicalism will be fought by those who must decide whether their tradition will sink into the quicksand of heresy, relativism and confusion, or whether Charismatic-Pentecostalism can experience a reformation and renewal around Biblical authority, responsible leadership and a re-emergence of orthodoxy..

I see signs of life on all those fronts, but the key issue of leadership and the preparation of leaders leaves me with little hope that Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity can put its house in order. The dynamics of leadership within this tradition have conspired to bring the worst kinds of leaders to the forefront.

The stakes in Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity are very high. It has become a worldwide missions phenomenon, and it has become a community carrying the most virulent and destructive heresies and errors in evangelicalism. The next 15-25 years will be crucial for this community. I am hopeful, but not optimistic. I see and hear little from this community’s younger leadership that indicates there is anything close to a real recognition of the problems they face.

g. A hope for all of evangelicalism is a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. If all of evangelicalism could see the kind of renewal that has happened in conservative Anglicanism through the Anglican Mission in America and other mission efforts, much good would be done. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity? I do not know, but I hope and pray that such an effort happens and succeeds.

At present, most of evangelicalism is not prepared to accept pastors and leadership from outside our culture. Yet there can be little doubt that within our western culture there is very little evidence of an evangelicalism that can diagnose and repair itself.

h. A vast number of parachurch ministries are going to become far less influential, and many will vanish. The same will likely be true from everything from Christian media to publishing. This will throw what remains of evangelicalism back on the local church, and that moves us to my last post, a consideration of whether this collapse is a good or bad thing.

i. I believe that the missionary sending agencies of evangelicalism will survive the coming collapse, but will be greatly weakened by significant decreases in the giving base. It is time for mission strategies among evangelicals to change, and it is long past time for westerners to use their resources to strengthen work within a nation and not to just send Americans to the mission fields.

Next: Is all of this a good or a bad thing?

102 thoughts on “The Coming Evangelical Collapse (2): What Will Be Left?

  1. I think this collapse will be a good thing. Ive riased the possibility of our denomonation getting out of the NAE several years ago. Oringinally we were not accepted into the NAE because of 2 of our doctrinal beliefs. 1 being the sleep of the dead and the other being conditional immortaliy. I believe it was good for the NAE to keep those of us out whom they believed to be detrimental to thier mission. We were allowed into the NAE in the 1980s. We did not and have not changed these two distinctives. I am sure we were allowed in because our moral beliefs were in line, and by allowing us to join it raised the numbers to demonstrate that the NAE would be a force to be reckoned with politically.

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  2. My passed on a printed copy of this article. For 2 days I’ve been depressed by this information. I am questioning the the beliefs of of the Left Behind series, and with the possibility of persecution coming to the Western Church soon I we may stay and suffer with no “Bail out” by the Lord…oh brother…I’ll still stay close to the Lord.

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  3. Atheist -> Baptist (SBC) -> Roman Catholic here.

    I also found your blog posts through the Christian Science Monitor article. Very interesting set of posts–thanks for writing them!

    “g. A hope for all of evangelicalism is a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. If all of evangelicalism could see the kind of renewal that has happened in conservative Anglicanism through the Anglican Mission in America and other mission efforts, much good would be done. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity? I do not know, but I hope and pray that such an effort happens and succeeds.”

    Just a data point from the Catholic perspective: There are already consecrated religious sisters (“nuns”) and priests coming from Africa and Asia to minister here in the U.S. and fill the void caused by our own lack of priestly and consecrated vocations. Also, there are many priests from Mexico coming to the U.S. to minister.

    Faithful men and women from the West evangelized them over the past several hundred years, and now they are returning to re-evangelize us!

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  4. On the U.S. Episcopal church (my mother’s a member), several possible futures seem on offer:

    (a) liberals make no concessions, retain control of assets.

    (b) denomination splits along liberal-conservative lines, with conservatives keeping some church properties.

    (c) they work out some sort of deal.

    Much of their dispute promises to be about money and power, rather than theology per se. I don’t know enough to predict which will happen. If there is a divorce, then each half would find itself struggling to articulate what makes it different from the Unitarians on one hand, and the Baptists on the other.

    I admire John Spong very much. His books are an honest attempt to grapple with theological problems that are as fundamental as they are difficult. I see none of this coming from the evangelicals. As for Gene Robinson, well, he can’t REALLY be the first gay bishop…

    As an aside, again and again I see people referring to concepts of “orthodoxy” and “heresy” without explaining (let alone justifying) what they mean. The Nicene Creed, for example, was above all a factional political document. If you embrace it, then what about Chalcedon? (Catholics and Orthodox are required to cheer at this point, Armenians and Copts, to boo.)And if your answer involves the Bible, then how did you decide this–and how did you decide how to interpret it? When you get right down to it, all those crazy cults are really not so different from YOU…!

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  5. DOLCINO? DUH!

    Eschatological enforcer Thomas Ice claims that someone named Dolcino taught a pretribulation rapture in 1304 A.D. What Ice doesn’t like to reveal is that Dolcino’s “proof” DOESN’T EVEN EXIST! So what does Ice’s claim rest on? Well, LONG AFTER Dolcino’s death an ANONYMOUS person wrote a SECONDHAND history of what Dolcino reportedly penned – a history that was CHANGED SEVERAL TIMES between the 1300s and the 1900s! If you’re wondering about Thomas Ice’s qualifications as a scholar, Google “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers)” and “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun).” Many are unaware that after the Communists took over Russia and China, there were Christians in those countries who became violent with pastors who had constantly assured them that they would be raptured before anything resembling end-time horrors. Can Ice and other pretrib rapture merchandisers rest assured that if such scenarios occur in America and some other “rapturized” countries, Christians won’t be just as violent towards them?

    (Something interesting, saw it while surfing. Sharee)

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  6. I love what Headless Unicorn Guy said (and the name.) — Sue

    The name comes from this picture I did for the AnthroCon 1999 conbook, “The Age of Reason has No Need of Unicorns”.

    If that is our theology, that we go to heaven and everything else burns, then there really IS no future. Perhaps our theology is reflected in the way we have allowed the earth to be mistreated. — Sue

    There’s an urban legend that Reagan’s first Secretary of the Interior said exactly that at his Senate confirmation hearing; since Christ Is Coming Soon and It’s All Gonna Burn, there is no need to conserve America’s resources.

    J Michael Jones, another frequent commenter in these threads, has described the same attitude in his blog Christian Monist.

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  7. After reading these two article and the ensuing disscuion … I think a re-read of Solomon in Ecclesiastes is in order: Meaningless, meaningless says the preacher …

    how do you guys avoid dispair? It haunts my steps everyday …

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  8. I am loving the discussion here, and the disparate views of disparate people, and how on the whole the discussion is going on with a measure of respect.

    Nice stuff.

    I love what Headless Unicorn Guy said (and the name 🙂 If that is our theology, that we go to heaven and everything else burns, then there really IS no future. Perhaps our theology is reflected in the way we have allowed the earth to be mistreated.

    I really can’t shake the sense I get that God is up to great and amazing things within the Body, even though there is so much decay around about. What blows my mind is how vast this Body is. The differences in viewpoint and doctrine and personality is astounding – and I suspect it all belongs. The fragmentation does not belong, but imagine a Body that is accepting of all of its different parts, even if some parts just cannot begin to understand how some of the other parts come to the conclusions they do.

    All the parts matter.

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  9. Patrick,

    If I can clear it up any, ask away.

    A city where revival breaks out, and large numbers of souls get saved is a move of God. When a church grows from 10 people to 100 with no “sheep stealing” its a move of God. When some bit of the faith gets brought to the fore ground and brings balance (think Promise Keepers, the current, growing trend of theology coming back, a church feeling led into prayer and fasting, etc) is a move of God. Or can be. Sometimes it’s not. While it could be applied to events in an individuals life, it usually refers to a group.

    The Great Awakening was a move of God.
    I believe the Reformation was a move of God.
    The Pentecostal Revival was a move of God.

    It’s where God acts in a direct way in shepherding His people.

    And just because we slap God’s name on it doesn’t really mean it is Him.

    DD

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  10. BRIAN: Yes. There are good and wise people, all over, who are compassionately working for the good. I see IMONK’s post as an overview of the current and future status of the organized churches in America. Within each congregation amidst all denominations…there surely exists real Christians who serve God….and do it well. Only God knows for sure.. who they are. Surfnetter said it in a similar way with, ” Nobody has it right churchwise, nor will anyone get it right. Some individuals get it right in themselves — we Catholics call them the Saints, and we claim to know who some of them are.”

    The more I read IMONK’S Post #1 and #2, the more inspired I am to work more sincerely and fervently…because the days are dark. God will not let the ‘light’ of the church go out, completely, in this world…until His return. The ‘light’ is the Holy Spirit of God that draws man to repentance. When the Age of Grace ends…..hope of salvation is over! Don’t be discouraged! Rejoice! Do the work of Love! We are children of the Day….not of darkness.

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  11. centorian,

    i agree about the local associations, and i think the whole associating/disassociating is really the only tool we have, that with the obvious effort at sound biblical preaching

    our local association has recently excluded a congregation over doctrinal differnces

    i guess it is the only alternative to some sort of heirarchal sp? system that infringes on the idividuals freedom

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  12. In dutch we have 2 words where you have the word liberal, one is ‘vrijzinnig’ which describes imho a faith that is ripped-off of everything that’s meaningless, like the catholic school where I went to as a child wich is something like “no miracles, no real ressurection, maybe god doesn’t even exist but anyway be nice to eacht other…” And then you have ‘liberaal’, which is usually used more in a political context, meaning something like allowing much personal freedom I guess… Like not having a problem with official gay marriages (which we have in belgium, and I don’t even feel called to have any opinion about them) I do think the EC may be leaning towards liberal christianity in the second sense, but I don’t feel like they’re going down to the dead christianity that I know from belgian nominal catholicism. And I sincerely hope I’m not wrong in that… The liberal catholicism here just bores you to hell, and there’s not much Christ, God, bible or anything left in it…

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  13. I’m following this series with interest. But I have to admit, it’s fueling my already well-developed sense of cynicism. 🙂

    But every now and then I get a glimmer of hope. As in in last night when I had the opportunity to hear Tim Keller speak. Gospel centric, missional minded, with an awareness that our church communities must be built on a foundation of knowing just how badly we all need Jesus. He actually applied the Gospel to living our lives in community, what that looks like, and how it should shape us. Sorry if I’m gushing but most people who claim to be Gospel centered don’t go much further than getting saved. Or maybe Jesus is a step on the path to being empowered – if we can manage to surrender ourselves enough.

    So is Keller an isolated case? I know he’s done good things in NYC but can what he is doing be found other places as well? Somebody please say “Yes”.

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  14. That’s a good question, austin. I’d lke to hear some more of your thoughts on this. Saying you adhere to the “The Baptist Faith and Message” doesn’t quite cut it, does it. The Conventions do have some teeth when they want to use it as do the local associations. I saw it done more than once. It takes people willing to make a stand.

    Calvary Chapel is an affiliation of independent churches. They [that is, we, I’m a former SBC, btw] require even a stricter adherance to common doctrine and straying from that can cause one to forfeit their affiliation. This system is far from perfect, but it is an attempt to maintain doctrinal consistency.

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  15. centorian,

    as a baptist i agree, but my only question is this, absent any authority, how do we as baptist keep heresy out of the flock and out of our larger fellowships?

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  16. imonk,
    “Short of a hierarchy, you’ll never see authority in Baptist life much beyond the local congregation. And amen to that.”

    I add my amen.

    Can authority be abused if it is confinded to the local level? Absolutely. I think the benefits and the adherance to a biblical model out-weigh the risks, praticular since a centrality of control can facilitate abuse of power on a larger scale.

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  17. A thought-provoking post.

    Some additional observations not only about what is left over, but what is the shape of the Christians that inherit what is left. What to call them? While you use the term “post-evangelical,” some people have already added some specific baggage to it that makes it problematic. “Remnant” is too sanctimonious and simply won’t do. So I’ve used the term “The Heirs of Evangelicalism.”

    Thanks very much for your writing.
    Peace.

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  18. Its really pretty simple when you look at it:

    MATTHEW 13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
    25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
    26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
    27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
    28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
    29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
    30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

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  19. There’s a growing movement in the evangelical community that pastors are becoming more like RCC priests. They are right, even when they are wrong. Check out Sovereign Grace churches and the other web sites that talk about “survivors” of this denomination and the other churches that have taken up their leadership methods. — Ky boy but not now

    This is another of the myriad forms of “Clericalism”, the heresy that Only Clergy Really Matter. In this form, The Clergy Is Always Right; you laity just Pray, PAY, and Obey. (I’m RCC, and this form of Clericalism has a long history in the RCC. It appeals to the despot and egotist in any sort of clergy — “I AM GOD’S ANOINTED!” holds for both Borgia Popes and Benny Hinn.)

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  20. But, where are the recent works of the “new” Evangelicals, or even of the rest of us? Could part of the reason for our supposed suffering be that we are seen as do-nothing windbags by most in the nation? — Fr Ernesto

    I chalk it up to John Nelson Darby and his Pre-Trib Rapture, which became the default End-of-the-World choreography among Evangelicals et al.

    When The World Ends Tomorrow (at the latest) and It’s All Gonna Burn, you’re NOT going to leave any sort of legacy into the future. Because you don’t have a future. Not even twenty minutes into the future.

    When your only purpose in life is to keep your nose squeaky-clean to pass God’s Litmus Test for The Rapture Fire Escape, you’re not going to achieve great things.

    So why are pre-tribbers so into The Culture War and Taking Back America? Their own eschatology says “It’s All Gonna Burn Anyway”, so why bother?

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  21. “Sadly, there are some people who would rather have a Todd Bentley than a true move of God.”

    The thing is, the Todd Bentley people think they’re EXACTLY where God is moving, and you’d be a fool to disagree with them. After all, they’re elderly.

    I confess, I have no understanding of the phrase “true move of God” as it pertains to ministry. I’m unable to see how the appellation “move of God” (and lots of common Christian phrases like it) means anything distinct.

    You answered my question, but I’m completely at a loss for how to make use of the answer you gave me.

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  22. “DaveD, I’ve got a stupid question for you – do you think God ALLOWS some people waste away or to chase theological butterflies in strange churches and really guides others out of them?”

    I’m not sure I’m entirely clear on the question. If you are asking if I believe God will leave some in error and rescue others? Yes. He leaves millions without His Son, doesn’t he? We can argue over whether they CHOOSE to stay in darkness or if God CHOOSES them for light but that’s for another thread. Sadly, there are some people who would rather have a Todd Bentley than a true move of God. There are people who would rather be a leader in a fallen church then be a servant in a faithful one. There are people who would rather have comfort in this world than in the one to come. It’s sad, but we see it all around us everyday. Does that answer the question you asked or did I misinterpret it?

    “I can’t recall a single one telling of their shepherds leaving the ninety-nine to go fetch them back.”

    For the most part, you’re right. I think part of that is because we put the “most qualified” into leadership positions usually instead of those who serve the most and are called to these positions. It takes time a prayer to do this and not everyone called to be a pastor is going to be a rockstar preacher…but he’ll love the flock and guide them.

    “Or the discipline committee shows up to “fix” you so you can come back.”

    You know of an evangelical church that HAS a discipline committee? I think that’s one of the big things lacking in evangelicalism….the willingness to discipline members when they stray from the faith. Of course, the few I do hear about seem more concerned over who you voted for or what style worship you prefer so….

    DD

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  23. Fr. Ernesto: “But, where are the recent works of the “new” Evangelicals, or even of the rest of us? Could part of the reason for our supposed suffering be that we are seen as do-nothing windbags by most in the nation?”

    I’ve been following the theology debates, learning a lot, and feel like I’m learning what the Gospel is not and how it’s been distorted in our church culture. But nagging at the back of my mind for a long time has been your point exactly. I often feel like a do-nothing windbag. “Americans are too busy” is often repeated in the circle’s I run in, and takes the blame for lack of devotion and shallow Christian lives in general.

    Imonk, what to do with “Americans are too busy” would be a great topic someday.

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  24. I believe that, generally speaking, the responses are overly pessimistic. Christ is Lord of all and he is victor. I believe Islam will fall to Christianity and it won’t be long. Iranians are converting to Jesus Christ in entire families. Amazing things are happening in China and Asia.

    The Southern Baptists and the independent Baptists aren’t going anywhere. There are millions of Christians out there in the various churches and that is proof that God still is working in us and through us.

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  25. Fr. Ernesto: Reading all the very real problems with the Church, spiritual establishments, whatever we call the work of Christianity……the ‘doing’ is absent and much ‘talk’ is present. Preaching is a verb. The first ‘preachers/apostles’ lived the sermons. Their lives were the sermons. Christ said, “Follow me.” “Follow” meaning ‘reproduce my actions.’ Think maybe that’s why we have two eye, two ears, two arms, two hands, two legs, two feet……and only one MOUTH? We who are called by His name have failed Him immensely. We are guilty of being ‘hearers’ of the Word rather than ‘doers’ of the Word. I’ve already repented and He is setting before me new paths. Repentance, of course, means new paths from those currently traveled.

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  26. Fr. Ernesto
    “I am troubled by only one thing that seems to be missing in this thread. All of us, myself included, believe in preaching the Gospel. But, there are no posts on doing the Gospel.
    But, where are the recent works of the “new” Evangelicals, or even of the rest of us?”

    Great insight. We, evangelicals, write checks, turn them over to our pastors to do works for us, then wonder why they think they are above us when we question them.

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  27. I am troubled by only one thing that seems to be missing in this thread. All of us, myself included, believe in preaching the Gospel. But, there are no posts on doing the Gospel.

    Across the South, there are “Baptist” hospitals. The nation has many “Methodist” universities (think Southern Methodist U.). Whenever there is a disaster, somehow the Salvation Army tends to be there before the official agencies arrive. Catholic hospitals and schools abound.

    But, where are the recent works of the “new” Evangelicals, or even of the rest of us? Could part of the reason for our supposed suffering be that we are seen as do-nothing windbags by most in the nation? I wonder if our spiritual ancestors, those who founded those hospitals, universities, orphanages, etc. are looking at us and shaking their heads.

    Several of those who have commented have spoken of a new something where the Gospel will be finally clearly preached. But, I think that if we do not match our own ancestors in doing the Gospel that our preaching will be just as ignored as it is today.

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  28. Joe B:>>>>>They live where “faith acts out in love”. They live like they believe their every word and action has the power to renew withered souls, and God’s creation with them. They bake the extra casserole, they babysit the crusty-nosed kid. They bring the ladder over and show the anxious yuppie how to use it without killing himself. They pause with him, and smile, and uncloak the Eternal. They pray and believe.

    Whoa. Good description of Christ likeness.

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  29. rampancy

    there is scriptural justification for church discipline, in fact if you are going to have a regenerate church membership (credo-baptist) then you have to have some sort of discipline or membership means little

    it should always be done

    a. in love with the goal at restoration
    b. in a biblical way Mathew 18 I believe
    c. in extreme circumstances

    it should never be about personalities

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  30. At the institutional level, your analysis is chillingly accurate. But on the “kingdom level” it is unseeing.

    The grassroots “movement” did not begin with Claiborn, it just got a face with cool glasses. The Grassroots dynamic exists in most every church and tradition. It is the odd person of people who do not spend their hours hammering church action plans. Or lecturing or chomping pipe stems. Or climbing trellises of leafy ambition. Or blog-crawling.

    They live where “faith acts out in love”. They live like they believe their every word and action has the power to renew withered souls, and God’s creation with them. They bake the extra casserole, they babysit the crusty-nosed kid. They bring the ladder over and show the anxious yuppie how to use it without killing himself. They pause with him, and smile, and uncloak the Eternal. They pray and believe.

    They know that the Kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. And all the institutions and theologians of Protestantism and Catholicism have ridden pompously on their backs from the beginning.

    Yes, the institutions will crumble, they are but clay. But I am not worried. The gospel just loves crumbling empires! Pneuma does not crack or crumble. And we ain’t skeerd.

    Thanks for the great piece, iMonk. I’m a fan!

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  31. rampancy
    ““Or the discipline committee shows up to “fix” you so you can come back.”
    Forgive my naivete, but…you’re joking, right? Even I can’t imagine an evangelical church doing such things.”

    There’s a growing movement in the evangelical community that pastors are becoming more like RCC priests. They are right, even when they are wrong. Check out Sovereign Grace churches and the other web sites that talk about “survivors” of this denomination and the other churches that have taken up their leadership methods.

    Did you read IM’s recent post about Mars Hill?

    Have you heard about the dust up over the large Baptist church in Jacksonville FL?

    And on a personal level a good friend of mine, a very dedicated Christian who walks a walk we would all want to emulate was a deacon in my church. He went to the pastors and elders at the request of someone who had basically been done wrong. He was looking for reconciliation and an apology. By the time it was over “he” was being disciplined and shunned for basically sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. This is the very simplified story and the rest will have to wait as it’s still unfolding six months later.

    These are not the stories of the SBC church I grew up in. But it is what’s happening at more and more places now.

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  32. I’d like to offer a little positive outlook.

    I definately agree that the SBC is going to shrink unless their is a great outpouring of the Spirit simply due to demographics.

    The co-op program and all of those things will be downsized somewhat but I think a great refocusing will come from it.

    My denom. does have a lot of problems. However, locally anyway where I live. Even the churches that have left the reservation with their worship styles still do a good job of proclaiming the gospel.

    The church I pastor is off on some Wed. nights due (it’s a long standing rural tradition) so I get to visit a lot and most preachers I hear, despite their ignorance of the greater Chrisian traditon (i.e. not knowing what the Apostle’s Creed is) do proclaim faithfully at least the gospel.

    I think that baptist churches will survive but in a more regionaly focused, less heirarcal fashion.

    We need to do three things.

    1. Get past the worship wars and re-discover sound Christian worhship

    a. I have added more scripture readings
    b. the Lord’s Prayer
    c. monthly communion

    It has taken a while but you can with patience do it

    2. Stop seeing the metodist down the road as a mission field

    a. if a people believe in salvation by faith alone then consider them brothers and work together despite peripheral differnces
    b. if they do not believe in salvation by faith alone or if they are ignorant of the Gospel then share it in love

    3. Stop making big issues out of small things that are extra-biblical or simply not a big deal

    a. for example the church where I am at lost a whole generation of people b/c the hardshell pastor 35 years ago wouldn’t stop preaching every Sunday about long hair on men, or men wearing necklaces, or women wearing pants

    b. for example, the old Church Covenant that prohibits alchohol consumption, drop it, you can’t prove it, history refutes it, and it is a vestige of the social gospel from the Progressive Era when much of Evangelicalism was feminised

    Do these things and I am confident that we can not only survive but thrive

    Baptists have much to offer

    that may sound Polly Anna but i just wanted to be positive for a minute

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  33. “Or the discipline committee shows up to “fix” you so you can come back.”

    Forgive my naivete, but…you’re joking, right? Even I can’t imagine an evangelical church doing such things.

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  34. “with all the stories I’ve read about the large numbers of people leaving evangelical churches, I can’t recall a single one telling of their shepherds leaving the ninety-nine to go fetch them back.”

    Many of us were told basically “HOPE the door hits you on the way out”. 😉

    Or the discipline committee shows up to “fix” you so you can come back.

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  35. “Unfortunately, the ECUSA has much deeper problems than Gene Robinson. Well before they ordained him, the denomination’s most famous author was another bishop, John Shelby Spong. Among other things Spong denies the resurrection, which means he is completely apostate.”

    I agree. I’m very very new to an AMiA church. Running from the SBC. My knowledge is very incomplete but as it was explained to us and from what I’ve read elsewhere, Robinson was the media event that made public what had been going on for decades. Basically things like the bible is a good book but not really the inspired word of God, churches being told to find a new priest that didn’t preach so much about Jesus, and so on.

    It’s been a long slide, only recently in the media. Of course a 90 second TV report can’t really do justice to the story or even begin to comprehend it so “gay bishop” is the only thing outsiders hear.

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  36. You know, Michael, with all the stories I’ve read about the large numbers of people leaving evangelical churches, I can’t recall a single one telling of their shepherds leaving the ninety-nine to go fetch them back.

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  37. I am a “convert” from Pentecostalism to Anglicanism. I think that a likely “new province” may in fact be there to aid these free-floating evangelicals. I am attending a charismatic Episcopal Church, one of the only “orthodox” in the whole diocese, and I am torn about ordination. So I guess we will have to see where it goes.

    But don’t underestimate the Anglicans, look at the Church of England and the powerful minds rising there. Archbishop Rowan Williams, N T Wright, Chris Wright, Anthony Thiselton, Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne and John Milbank among others.

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  38. Gotta agree with DaveD—the purpose of Pentecostalism was to counteract the slide towards cessationism in Protestantism and Catholicism, particularly in missions work. The Holy Spirit didn’t pour out power so that Christians could found denominations. He poured it out so that we would preach Jesus, according to the scriptures, with signs and wonders following.

    I like my denomination. I like what they have to say about pentecostalism. But my allegiance is to Jesus alone. And what I see His Holy Spirit doing is support the ministries that proclaim Jesus, and step away from the ministries that perpetuate themselves. That’s why those ministries in a mess. They’re desperately trying to remain relevant, and every once in a while the Spirit saves someone through them, in spite of them—and they think it means they have His approval, when really they’re like God using Ahab to smite Syria. (1Ki 20)

    While the organizations will fall apart, the evangelicals within those organizations will migrate, theologies largely intact, to other groups. And, because we’re Christians, they’ll be accepted, embraced, even moved into positions of leadership—sometimes with the intent of restarting their old ministries, sometimes with the understanding that God has new ministries for them to work on.

    The nondenom semi-charismatic pomo church in my brother’s town is full of people who used to go to the Assemblies, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical Free and Reformed churches. These people may be in a new building, with different leaders and a kickin’ rhythm section, but they largely brought their old theologies with them; they’re still Evangelical. Consequently, their newbies class, discipleship groups, and pulpit all teach Evangelicalism. And if that church dissolves, and they and other Christians regroup again, it’ll happen again. And again and again and again.

    Their kids, with a few stray heretics, might go off and form a Category #a church, but considering kids today, most of them would rather go nowhere than to a church that doesn’t challenge them.

    But yeah—the emergent churches will definitely fold into the mainline churches. Especially after their leaders step down and the novelty of challenging everything wears off. Then, the only people there will be the only people who have the stomach for such chasing after the wind… or the people too skeptical to believe anything, but too stubborn to stop meeting. They’ll fit together great.

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  39. @Pastor M: I understand that you had difficulties watching more than 2 minutes of Ted Haggard on Oprah (I managed to catch and stay with it to the end). What I took away from the interview – completely aside from the issue whether he was now 100% forthright or not – is that the current crisis of evangelicalism (exemplified here in the downfall of one of its former leaders) and its flashy past may actually be the first step to move away from hypocrisy and selfrighteous finger-pointing towards a more authentic and compassionate understanding of the gospel. I think this was and is still one of the major reasons a lot of people are put off by evangelicals apart from the unholy political alliances of the past.

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  40. Geoff — “I think the statement that the Church is in the state God wants it to be in as proposed by Mr. Surf is as valid as saying that God desired the Nazis to invade Poland or establish Dachau or Buchenwald.”

    Yes — I agree, God’s will is not being “done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Nor will it be until the Lord returns. What internetelias posted about is the ancient doctrine of the Signified Will and the Will of God’s Good Pleasure. (Google it if you need to.) What God has indicated are His intentions for His Creation (Signified Will), and what He is actually pleased with now are two different things. Yes there is evil in the world and yes people go their own way with their free will (sin). What God has willed is that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions and also that good will come out of evil, not matter what it is, even the Holocaust. Absolutely nothing escapes the Will of God’s Good Pleasure.

    Nobody has it right churchwise, nor will anyone get it right. Some individuals get it right in themselves — we Catholics call them the Saints, and we claim to know who some of them are. The Creation will be all made right when the Lord returns in His Glory, and God is very pleased with it being that way (in my opinion.):-)

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  41. I think the best thing that can happen to the Church is being marginalized. The early church was out on the margins, and they turned the world upside down. It’s the power of the Gospel, not human power or influence.

    While the emerging church may disappear, I think many of the good things from this “movement” will influence those who remain to follow Jesus in the hostile-to-Christianity new world.

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  42. I’m a Piper guy on Baptism. I’m credo, but if paedo is your position of conscience you can join my church. Of course I don’t have a church 🙂

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  43. Fr. Ernesto,

    I enjoy your post. I’ll share a story. A college age son of a local SBC church music minister travelled to Greece to do “mission work.” He came back an Orthodox convert. 🙂

    I get the draw to Orthodoxy. I really do. It let’s folks get a tie to the ancient traditions and feel they are avoiding the things they see wrong with RC.

    I attended the Greek Fest at a local Greek Orthodox church in a metro area close by. I had never even been in an Orthodox church. Since then I have read up some. Not enough. Very impressive.

    Regards,
    Austin

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  44. Imonk,

    Agreed and I thank you for the reply. Your traceback a few post ago to some answers to “Where or what is the true church” helped me settle some things for myself.

    I think the person said that wherever the gospel is being proclaimed and the sacraments being kept faithfully the church is there. Something to that effect.

    the question then is what does “faithfully” mean, as a guy with landmark background I’m sure you know how exclusive that can be construed to be

    This is a strange question for one baptist to ask another baptist, but do you think we put too much emphasis on credo-baptism.

    I mean I am 100 percent convinced it is right and proper, but doesn’t that belief carried to its full logical end mean that all other fellowships that do not practice it are “para-church” and that their ordinations are then not valid, neither their sacaraments.

    I’m not saying that is how I feel, but isn’t landmarkism just baptist following their beliefs to the logical end?

    Couldn’t there be much fellowship between Presbyterians, Methodist, Baptist, etc. if we could all just agree to disagree on baptism but still recongize each other? Or is credo-baptism too important for any compromise?

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  45. Evangelicals began coming into Orthodoxy in large number in the late 1980’s. Just recently, my jurisdiction picked up several more churches. It has caused a lot of ferment, and argument, but now, 20 years later, it has been seen to be a positive thing.

    But, it has also had its negative side, with ethnics worried about the loss of their heritage, converts with Evangelical egos being convinced that they know better than the people who grew up in it, etc. In other words, there is no perfect system.

    On the other hand, I have seen exactly the same type of conflict on the mission field as the “natives” wanted to take over from the missionaries. It is not particularly a failing in Orthodoxy, but a rather well documented common reaction as an immigrant community begins to inculturate.

    And, you hit the nail on the head, many Orthodox have Evangelical overtones nowadays. My favorite is the neighboring Greek Orthodox priest who is the son of a priest born in Greece. He is currently leading a Wednesday study using one of Chuck Colson’s books.

    Might I argue that maybe, just maybe, God’s plan truly is to make Orthodoxy more Evangelical and to provide an Orthodox Church, that is true to Scripture and the Fathers, for Evangelicals to come into to find safe and reliable haven?

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  46. rr, yep – Before Spong, there was Bishop Pike. I don’t see Gene Robinson as a polarizing figure here (personally), let alone his appointment as bishop being *the* reason for the split in the Anglican communion. As you’ve said, it’s been coming for a long, long time.

    I do think the media has characterized the whole thing as being a battle over homosexuality, though – and I can see where it *might* appear that way to folks who are on the outside looking in.

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  47. Unfortunately, the ECUSA has much deeper problems than Gene Robinson. Well before they ordained him, the denomination’s most famous author was another bishop, John Shelby Spong. Among other things Spong denies the resurrection, which means he is completely apostate.

    I know from personal experience that there are some good Christians still left in the ECUSA. But much of their leadership and some of their laity are little more than Unitarians with a nice liturgy. That coupled with the fact that they are in a demographic free fall means that they are indeed headed for the trash heap of history. My guess is the PCUSA is next. The ECLA and especially the UMC may yet avoid this fate.

    Michael’s right about one thing. If the mainlines weren’t so wobbly on basic orthodox Christianity, they could really clean up on all the disaffected Evangelicals who are sick and tired of the circus in Evangelicalism. As it stands now, the Catholic and Orthodox will almost certainly continue to gain converts from Evangelicalism.

    rr

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  48. I keep going back to the words of Jesus when he says he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

    I agree with the thought that future orthodox Evangelical leadership will probably come from that area of the world that used to be called “3rd world” nations. I also see and sense in Western culture the increasing antagonism(sp) and out right hostility against Evangelicalism specificaly, and Christianity in general.

    Some how, and some way, Jesus will continue building his church. “…this I know, for the Bible tells me so..”

    Peace…

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  49. We can’t fix our problem on that level. We live with a smaller, far less comprehensive authority structure. And if we obsess on authority, I suggest medication.

    To be Protestant is to solve the authority issue on a much smaller scale, with more potential for chaos.

    Short of a hierarchy, you’ll never see authority in Baptist life much beyond the local congregation. And amen to that.

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  50. Imonk,

    Iknow wrong post but I went back and read your 10 things to an improved evangelical church. Very good read.

    I have a question that is killing me. It’s in my head like a hamster on a wheel.

    How do we (baptist) particular fix our authority problem without conceding it to Roman Catholic Magesterium sp? argumemnts?

    That has always seemed to be the problem with baptist with me. If i don’t like somethign I start my own church, i can do anythign I want and as long as I baptize believers little else matters and I can use the label baptist.

    Help?

    Is the BF&M the answer?

    How do we reconcile Soul Competency with authority?

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  51. @internetelias: I have to admit, I too was wondering if you were alluding to something akin to Kirk Cameron’s – uh, I mean Rayford Steele’s Tribulation Force from Left Behind.

    I’ve also remembered that I can’t say the name “Rayford Steele” without breaking into giggles.

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  52. I know there are many good and godly people in the ECUSA and the mainlines. But in the ECUSA they are going to hunted down and run out. They arr adrift and their bishops are their enemies, for the most part. Same in the PCUSA, ELCA, UMC. Many, many good people and churches, but the die is cast because of leadership. Those groups will be miniscule by 2050.

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  53. I think the statement that the Church is in the state God wants it to be in as proposed by Mr. Surf is as valid as saying that God desired the Nazis to invade Poland or establish Dachau or Buchenwald. Thing in the world and the Church are not in the state they are because God desires them that way but because of the sinfulness of men. God does not will or desire a fragmented screwed up Church whether it’s evangelical, catholic or whatever.

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  54. Patrick Lynch:>>>>>>>internetelias, got it. Just as long as we’re not talking about some kind of Left Behind scenario.

    No. Definitely no Left Behind ‘tribulation forces.’ I never read any of the series. And I constantly warned those who did read, e.g. my daughter, to remember its fiction….not scripture. In used book stores, I find books of the series with Christian books. I take it upon myself to move them over to the fiction book areas. I do this rather discreetly…of course.

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  55. Surfnetter: I totally agreee with your first comment. God controls EVERYTHING….even wickedness. Satan had to get premission to persecute Job. When God determines mercy on a nation, He holds back the forces of evil. When He determines judgement on a nation, He frees the forces of evil to do their work. Satan is not a free will. He is under the authority of God. He can perform only what God allows. In this time, we are seeing things not seen by other generations…things allowed by God. 2 Thes. 2:3-7 explains the ‘controls’ God exhibits on final end-time events. 6 “….and now ye know what WITHHOLDETH that he might be revealed in his time (speaking of the end-time rule of Anti-Christ).’ Also, ‘……only he who now LETTETH will LET, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall tht Wicked be revealed….’ We are mere mortals. We have no power over Satan…and certainly none over God. “Greater is he that is within you, than he that is in the world.” Only the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us puts Satan to flight. Without God, we are totally at the mercy of Satan…..and Satan has no mercy!

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  56. “I’ve been lucky, God has kept me away from most of the wackiness I hear and read about. It is my dream to one day have a Pentecostal church where there is deep study of theology and church history. If God’s willing…”

    DaveD, I’ve got a stupid question for you – do you think God ALLOWS some people waste away or to chase theological butterflies in strange churches and really guides others out of them?

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  57. I suppose I should have left this on the Part I post, but I’m troubled by a few things.

    – It seems like you (Michael) are lumping the culture war and the conservative movement (National Review, etc.) in the same pot.

    – While I agree that evangelicals (Dobson, Falwell, etc.) made a critical mistake of getting in bed with the culture war and supplanting the Gospel, what about abortion and bioethical issues? Surely you don’t mean to suggest we should have remained silent? In fact, I know you don’t, because you praised Russ Moore’s sermon on single-issue voting wherein Dr. Moore compared Christians who vote for pro-choice candidates to those who voted for pro-lynching, pro-KKK candidates in the 1950s and 1960s. But you should clarify that point further.

    Lastly, about ECUSA. I totally agree with your point re: Gene Robinson. There is still much good in the group, however, with men like Paul Zahl, Fitzsimons Allison and the Mockingbird ministry in New York City. The problem, though, is that there many in ECUSA who are theologically orthodox (thanks be to God!) but are right at home with Jim Wallis and Tony Jones on politics, which means, of course, that they are as much in bed with Barack Obama as Jim Dobson was with George W. Bush. And the whole time they prattle on about common ground and understanding and so much noise and clutter. Sad and frustrating for those of us in ECUSA who aren’t interested in the AMiA.

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  58. @ internetelias

    what you say makes sense to me as far as getting back to what’s important. It does appear that strife/tribulation occurs before deeper connection with God. There’s a longing for Him and not for His gifts. Obviously, noone knows the time frame but, eventually, that Second Coming is going to happen.

    Surfnetter also said it well a few comments back.

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  59. Patrick Lynch: >>>>internetelias, are you talking about some kind of tribulation force?..

    No. I’m talking about a return to basics by regular Christians who hunger, thirst, and seek after God. ‘These signs will follow them that believe’…heal the sick..cast out devils….and so forth….as did the first Christians. I truly see a return to an impowered Body of Christ…fully equipped to do ‘greater things’ because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians who will not hesitate to die for the sake of Christ or the brethren……like those of the early church. I am fully convinced concerning the post-tribulation Second Coming. And I believe God is raising up a strong people who will ‘stand’ and ‘endure’ to the end. People like Daniel, the Hebrew children, Joseph, and so forth. Just people…who have total trust in God.

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  60. As a Charismatic-Pentecostal, I have to echo some of the concerns voiced above. Especially in the Charismatic sector there seems to be a greater emphasis on experience then on the Bible. The old Pentecostal movement was pretty well grounded in Scripture (please, Cessasionists, don’t) and had a strong heritage back into the Methodist Holiness tradition. I’ve been in these circles for 18 years and didn’t know about the Methodist connection until the last year.

    I’ve been lucky, God has kept me away from most of the wackiness I hear and read about. It is my dream to one day have a Pentecostal church where there is deep study of theology and church history. If God’s willing…

    I believe though, that God has/ is relegating Pentecostalism , along with envagelicalism, behind. As much as I believe Pentecostalism was a renewing of the dead dry denominations who held sway before it, it is now leaving the faith. It will be replaced with something else. I’ve seen what I think it is. There are folks out there who are sincerely seeking and serving God who did NOT believe in the miraculous gifts. Yet, when these folks find themselves out doing what God has called them to do, they find themselves moving in those very gifts. The Gifts have always been tied to serving Jesus and others.

    The Prosperity folks have and will continue to wreak their damage on the faith and on people. The Signs and Wonders Hunters will still take any claim of supernatural activity, no matter how obviously demonic, as God’s hand. The Prosperity message might make it into Africa and China and North Korea, but I doubt it. I really doubt the Hunters will get much of a foothold in places where they have experienced genuine moves of God.

    DD

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  61. Like the first commenter, I was once involved in a church that blew shofars, waved swords, ‘took the city’, and flirted with heresy for the sake of God doing a ‘new thing’. Now I’m searching for a nice liturgical church with some sense of Orthodoxy and epistemology rooted in church history – not some pastors pizza induced ‘spiritual’ dream.

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  62. graceshaker — “im with kierkegaard.”

    At this point I’d rather go fishing with St. Peter.

    Katie — I absolutely do believe that. Some of the biggest messes the world has ever gotten into was when men of seeming good will attempted to shape popular movements to where they thought God wanted the world to go. It is my personal belief, shared by many others, that the only movement of change that I am responsible for monitoring and altering is the state of my own being. My entire focus of my forwarding the cause of the Kingdom of God is within the boundaries of my own heart and soul. The only aspect of God’s will that I have jurisdiction over is His will for me. Everything else — and that means EVERYTHING — I simply must accept as in His exclusive Domain. Even my own children are His, and I am to lead them by example, not by formula.

    I am a commercial fisherman and I work alone quite a lot. But I did serve as an elected public sector union official for a number of years sitting on the BOD of an employee organization responsible for nearly 8,000 employees and their livelihoods, and I practiced this there as well. Saved my sanity and quite a few jobs.

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  63. Michael, can you elaborate on what the “reinvigoration of evangelicalism along the lines of historic ‘Mere Christianity,’” would look like in your opinion?

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  64. I pray not only that people like Shane Claiborne et al remain marginalized … I pray we are all marginalized.

    Then we will see what the Church is really about, it’s power in its weakness.

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  65. Surfnetter,

    Do you really believe that “Everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be”? I think God is grieved at the state of the church and didn’t intend it to be divided and misdirected as so much of it is. I know your ideas about Divine Providence play into how you view things like this, but I have to question what you’re actually saying, which is that things are going how God wants them to go. It reminds me of the saying “All is as God wills it”, which sounds very muslim.
    (I’m not trying to be accusatory.. I’m just curious as to your thought process on this.)

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  66. “Wow! Is that the Good News of God in Christ I hear being preached in your words?”

    What, would you prefer it sugar coated? When Christ by the Gospel, he stilled warned of the darkness and Hell that waited afterward for the sinner. The Good News was redemption and salvation.

    What was the Good News in his words? Our ability to screw up our respective denominations can’t cancel out God’s purpose in this world. But it doesn’t change the fact that we screw up and that it has consequences. So, unless you want to plug your ears and bury your head in the sand, listen to the prognosis and then either agree or disagree, but don’t disregard.

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  67. Sorry Eric. If you want me to look at A and call it B or C or Z, I can’t do it. The betrayal of evangelicalism and Protestant Catholicism by the ECUSA’s approval of Gene Robinson- a move that has split the church worldwide- is a serious error.

    This bit of provoking division and then insisting on being embraced as brothers is a game the leadership of denoms like the ECUSA have pressed to the point of absurdity.

    It’s the job of a bishop to be faithful or die trying.

    You can pray for me, a sinner, too. The ordination of Gene Robinson and the defence of that ordination has caused a world of hurt. A huge, massive breach in a worldwide communion. The betrayal of faithful African bishops and Christians all for the cause of Robinson’s arrogant claim that God is doing a “new thing” through him and his ordination. God help us that this man remains a bishop after tearing the church apart.

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  68. Your quote: “But the ECUSA is headed for the trash can of history. Only the intervention of God in the replacement of apostate leaders can save it.”

    Wow! Is that the Good News of God in Christ I hear being preached in your words? Can you speak up just a bit … I can’t seem to hear any “Good News!”

    Please pray for me, a sinner.

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  69. The problem, Brambonius, is that we called to be “in and not of.” Yes, we are resident aliens, but we are called to be members of the community, to engage the culture, and to be active. I agree that a more issues-centric politics, less concerned with political parties and candidates, is probably a good idea, but rejecting politics entirely and being unconcerned with the conduct of our rulers is a un-Christian. It’s a sort of political gnosticism.

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  70. @austin: “Now I don’t tell this to make me sound smart. I’m not, most of you that post here know a thousand times more than me, but two things.

    1. How can you be a minister of the gospel for 40 years and not have heard or read the Apostle’s Creed?”

    I’ve encountered this myself, in several forms, but one of the most egregious of these was one instance where I was at a Pentacostal church – it was a nice place, with a nice pastor. However, that one time, he was teaching about a wonderfully refreshing new way to pray: The Lord’s Prayer. As someone who took it for granted as a staple of worship services, I was astounded that they treated it like it was some new, radical thing that they’d never heard of before.

    “2. What does that say about your level of “inter-denominational” work?”

    Er, it was my impression that “interdenominational” work consisted of evangelizing to other denominations in the belief that they’d see the light and join your side…

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  71. I was thinking about Mark Van steenwyk (jesusmanifesto.com, but the site is probably down til february 1st) and the whole ‘jesus for president’-side of new monasticism, and all those more anarchist-like radicals who are not that interested in any president of this world, and in no worldly system. Even Greg Boyd is leaning towards that… (I was also thinking about the anabaptist network, and people like stuart murray, but that’s UK) that’s what I meant with the grass-roots Kingdom movement, and if they can stay true to their vision they will stay small and vital and on the margins…

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  72. What I have seen of the “neo-anabaptist” part of the emerging church indicates that insofar as it is true to its principles, it will continue to be marginal. This, I think, leaves two possibilities. First, given the general anti-Bush sentiment prevailing in these circles, it is possible that some will go in the direction of what Imonk called “Obama statism” and simply become part of liberal Protestantism. But the other possibility, which I hope is more likely, is that they will continue to remain on the political and religious margins, rejecting power and coercion. The second would be good, but in neither case will it be very influential in evangelicalism.

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  73. OMG!!

    God is so much BIGGER in every way than anyone and everyone’s ability to effect real change in the world. It is all going to go the way He wants it to go no matter what anyone thinks, decides or does.

    Relax. It’s all a Gift. Just accept and give. Everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be, despite how anyone tries to mess it up and — what’s undoubtedly worse — how much we try to help God out ….

    Just my opinion, of course 🙂

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  74. Again – as I said in the response to the previous post, if you want to see what comes next look at the rest of the First World (I include Australia and New Zealand in this).

    Generally, even Europe is still quite spiritual in the generic sense even as it has abandoned Christianity.

    What you end up with is a small amount of the population in church at all, about a third of these go to liberal mainline denominations. A third or less go to middle of the road evangelical churches who have tended to lose their distinctives – with the odd church which still retains it’s denominational differences. The remaining third will go to a variety of charismatic churches with a range of theology from the sober to the wacky.

    As you move into Eastern Europe the percentages change slightly, though it’s fair to say that most of the new Christian movements in these countries represent Alexei Ledyaev more than any sort of sober evangelicalism.

    Like you, I don’t think that Charismatic-Pentecostalism is anywhere near realizing it’s own problems. These stem from the closely related issues of leadership and epistemology.

    Problems with the Charismatic movement cannot be solved from above because of the leadership issue, and can’t be solved from below because of the epistemology issue.

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  75. I’ll repeat from and earlier post and to echo IMonk.

    I’m very impressed with the AMiA churhces. I think Anglicanism has in it a world wide framework that others do not possess to be a vein for good in evangelicalism.

    As one inside the SBC, it will not disappear but it will beocome even more regional in its adhearance.

    You can’t understand the level of ignorance in the SBC until you have experienced it.

    Example

    Today I conducted a funeral with a well respected, genuinely nice fellow SBC pastor. He is in his sixties. He is successful in the fact that he has pastored many churches and has seen growth at them and he is genuinely concerened with seeing souls brought to Christ.

    However, we were chatting before and he mentioned he had preached for a few weeks at a local Methodist church, very small, that had pulled out of the UMC and went to the Southern Methodist over social cultural issues. He said he preached there a few weeks and “noticed they kept reading something every week,” so he said, “i took one home and read it and it said the believed in the catholic church,” Well he said he told his wife that they couldn’t go back if that church believed in the catholic church.

    I tried to explain to him that it was the Apostles creed and that they meant catholic as in small “c” and not Roman Catholic. I might as well been speaking Greek.

    Now I don’t tell this to make me sound smart. I’m not, most of you that post here know a thousand times more than me, but two things.

    1. How can you be a minister of the gospel for 40 years and not have heard or read the Apostle’s Creed?

    2. What does that say about your level of “inter-denominational” work?

    I mean I know there are mostly baptist all around down here but I just dont’ get it.

    AS SBC, we will be like the Amish, theologically pure (up for debate I know) but socially irrevelant.

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  76. Imonk….I sincerely believe in all the changes you’ve described for churches…now and future…are pretty on-target. But there is one change that may have been left out. In the next 10 to 20 years…we will hear more and more Kingdom gospel….the one Christ preached. Along with its hearing…will be the quiet, stedfast, and empowered Body of Christ healing the sick, doing good, casting out demons….and bearing much tribulation for their beliefs. They will be a closely knit group of people who are fearless but meek, gentle, and kind. They are the ‘city set on the hill’ for dark days. The light of the gospel in the world today is very..very…low….too low to penetrate the thick darkness. But, in thick darkness…a little ‘flicker’ casts a warm glow.

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  77. Just a quick comment regarding d): I think you’re underestimating the cultural force and adaptability of the emergent movement. As much as it has resisted institutionalization (because of its DNA and goals) and being more narrowly defined, it still finds enormous resonance amongst the very group that you see leaving our current church structures in large numbers, particularly the younger segment. It may be a church structure that will look very different from anything we’ve seen and will definitely emphasize relationships over doctrine but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as the compass of Scripture remains a focal point.

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  78. Will this be left?

    In my newspaper today:

    An full page, color ad with photographs, for a church.

    In big print taking up the top haf of the page: “What if… church was different? Relevant? Life changing? FUN? Pictures of people raising their hands high, holding guitars and smiling.

    Below, some testimonials, with photos of smiling faces to accompany them. Here are a few of them:

    “Journey is just such a fun place. We never knew that church could be so much fun and full of information at the same time. -Darrell & Marta

    “It’s nice to be somewhere you’re comfortable and can be yourself. You leave your mask and all your other junk at the door and everyone just embraces you for who you are.” – Megan

    “We love the casual environment and the people. It’s a place where we can be ourselves. We love the music, and the teaching is relevant to our daily lives.” – Dave & Sonya

    See for yourself at JOURNEY! One church – Two locations. “Don’t just attend church – TAKE A JOURNEY.”

    In a crest at the bottom corner of the page:

    100% BOREDOM FREE GUARANTEE
    IF YOU HATE IT, WE’LL BUY YOU LUNCH.
    NO, SERIOUSLY!

    For Times and Directions please visit our website at http://www.takeajourney.org

    Is this going to survive?

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  79. You may find it interesting to know a train coming down the tracks of church history is a resurgence of Biblical literacy within the Catholic Church. The cardinal of the archdiocese of houston-galveston in Texas recently issued a statement calling upon all priests in his diocese and neighboring ones to get all of their congregants engaging the New Testament to facilitate worldwide transformation of lives. It’s in conjunction with the “You’ve Got the Time” campaign of Faith Comes by Hearing (www.fcbh.org). What will it do to the global church landscape if Catholic parishes are infused with common-man Biblical encounters in wholesale fashion?

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  80. I don’t follow the emerging scene all that much, so what’s up with Tony Jones?

    I probably fall into the category (c): an orthodox (post-)evangelical with an appreciation for both my historic Reformed tradition and the larger catholic liturgical and theological tradition. Politically, I’m left of center, but politics isn’t all the important to me.

    I’m aware of various church plants (mostly Presbyterian and continuing Anglican) that would fit this mold, especially in urban centers and university towns, that seem healthy and growing. Where do you see these folks down the road?

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  81. And theological differences aside, as an American Evangelical, I’m thankful for the RCC’s steadiness and strength.

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  82. “A small portion of evangelicalism will continue down the path of theological re-construction and recovery.”

    If Charismatics come to dominate Evangelism, then it might be beneficial to see the “reconstructions” (for lack of a better word) blend) converge with them. The best of the heart and the head.

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  83. You have my attention. I look forward to part 3. I keep wondering why many people continue to lack any semblance of the gift of discernment and are seemingly willing to swallow about anything. I see the surface appeal of Orthodoxy more than RC–in fact I’m listening to Ancient Faith Radio as I type. My wife has both Greek & Russian Orthodox in her background, and what you say about ethnic heritage and culture rings true. As for the Charismatic-Pentecostal wing, the show at “worship” is peppy & exciting, but surely folks can see beyond some of the egregious errors & misguided leaders–I just watched about 2 minutes of Ted Haggard on Oprah, which was about all I could take. Reformed, SBC, & mainlines all have a myriad of problems.

    I wonder how God will work in all of this, as I continue to trust that he will–what other hope do we really have than that?

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  84. I love people like Shane Claiborne (I was blown away by Jesus for President), but I really think that people like that are going to stay marginalized.

    It seems to me like a lot of the church is being controlled more and more by fear – whether it’s of a Zeus-like God hurling thunderbolts out of the sky at you over not going to Sunday Evening Church, or the Liberal Homosexual Bogeyman underneath your bed – than out of love and grace. I suppose that emotionally, it’s easier to have an irrational fear of what you don’t know than to have a rational understanding of love and grace tied into what you do know.

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  85. That Grassroots movement is mostly going to embrace Obama progressive Statism, abortion and gay marriage, and that will put the whole thing back with the emerging church, with the mainline liberals and off the evangelical map. See my comments about Tony Jones. Some good will come, but I am quite pessimistic about the emerging church at this point. Many of its most vocal leaders seem to be headed directly down the predictable road of twentieth century liberalism, except some are going well beyond that into esoteric forms of Christianity (ex John Crowder) that are apostate.

    Anabaptists aren’t on my map here. Mennonites in Ky are just mountain Baptists. Same issues, etc. Help me understand what I don’t see or hear.

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  86. If conservative Anglicans can get on the map, they will benefit. But the ECUSA is headed for the trash can of history. Only the intervention of God in the replacement of apostate leaders can save it.

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  87. and what about the neo-anabaptist side of the missional emerging church, and the new monastics like shane Claiborne… I think there’s a grassroots Kingdom movement growing there that’ll never be mainstream or become a majority, but I don’t see it really go ‘liberal’ or just dissapear soon…

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  88. “…The SBC will become “exhibit A” for the problems of evangelicalism, with fragmentation appearing everywhere and a loss of coherence on many fronts…”

    From what I’ve seen, not just through your blog but also through the interactions I’ve had with many Baptists, it already has.

    “An evangelicalized Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Two of the beneficiaries of the coming evangelical collapse will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been steadily entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more media and publishing efforts aimed at the “conversion” of evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox ways of being Christian.”

    I understand that your experience with your wife has you thinking a lot about the RCC (where I’m from!) but, what about the effects this may have on some of the mainline liturgical denominations like the Anglicans?

    “Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism.”

    I have to confess, this possibility concerns me. Most of the experiences I’ve has with Charismatic-Pentecostal Churches entails an experience that’s highly experiential, and isn’t this part of the problem in the first place? That we have a whole generation (or two) of Christian youth who could tell you what they believe in but not how or why?

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  89. Well they are the majority of evangelicals that will stick with it. Their ascendency in the last 100 years is a fact, good and bad as you’ve described.

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  90. Hmm…. I just skimmed over this and will need to go back and re-read, but 2 thoughts:

    1. What you’re saying about Catholics and evangelicalism has been true since the late 1960s, with the start of the Charismatic Renewal here in the US.

    2. I tremble to think of a future dominated by charismatic/Pentecostal churches, if only because I’ve attended them for most of my life as a Christian and there are SO many screwball phony “doctrines” out there, it’s not funny. After escaping from a church that got stuck on (and in) “spiritual mapping,” “strategic level spiritual warfare” and so-called Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation/”Moral Government” theology/”Christian magic” (that last is my term), all I can say is that there is a lot wrong in many of those circles. (Being practiced by the nicest of people, too – meant sincerely, BTW.) I know a lot of this stuff sounds like nonsensical ranting and/or some sort of weird RPG, but it’s dangerous – once you start trying to apply this stuff, you end up

    – attributing all evil to the devil and hierarchies of demons

    – assuming a dualistic view that’s not related to the Gospel (while cloaking it in “Christian” jargon)

    – forgetting about free will, sin, etc.

    – believing that you can manipulate God through prayer

    – literally trying to “take territory” for God, which has dire consequences for social and political welfare of this and other countries

    – extremely legalistic and OT-focused (I personally was told that some of the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy had fallen on me)

    – people following after every contrary “wind” out there

    – prayer and Christian symbolism used in the same way as is true of Wicca and many related/similar animist beliefs

    … I could go on, but you get the point.

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