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Evangelicalism near death?

03/10/2009

An article was forwarded to me espousing the eventual collapse of evangelical Christianity in America. I must note that the article does not predict the end of Christianity, rather, the evangelical movement as we know it. This movement has always been fickle at best in my opinion. As a political group it hasn’t seemed terribly consistent. If the perfect candidate wasn’t on the ballot, many would not come out to vote. Many in the movement have very different views on many topics. Let’s say that the movement has rarely wielded political power up to its potential. As a religious movement there is much debate on issues. There are even some who would rather not be included in the label due to the differing beliefs and the redefining of “evangelical” due to politics.

The article, The coming evangelical collapse, talks of an anti-Christian Western culture that will spell the downfall of mainline Protestantism. It speaks of “a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.” One need not look very hard to sense the winds of change on the horizon. The current government has changed many things in its first 50 days that are far from conservative in nature. Changes such as making funding available for abortions overseas and the overall abortion stance of this administration. And the recent announcement of embryonic stem cell research government funding is in the face of many religious people. The battle about the fairness doctrine, or whatever form it takes such as localism, will go a long way to quieting down the proclamation of the Gospel in the public arena. The advent of “hate speech” legislation will further alter broadcasts as it has in Canada.

The author, Michael Spencer, goes on to say, “Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end.” The span he speaks of is over the next ten years. It is not hard to see this prediction coming to pass. As the culture makes it more uncomfortable for Christians, those who were merely professing faith without possessing faith will fall by the wayside. As the popularity of the movement wanes, the ranks will thin. I agree with the author that the movement was more concerned about social causes than spreading the Gospel, and that will be its undoing.

Mega-churches with feel good messages have failed in the prime objective of building firm foundations of faith in the youth and the converts. Without deep roots, the shallow faiths will whither and fall away. Evangelicals that have turned inward will likewise struggle to withstand the pressures from a hardening society. Labeling things from business to entertainment to self-help as Christian does not make it so. Those who have not engaged in the real world in an effort to impact our culture, but dealt only within the Christian confines, will likewise not know how to respond to the testing of their faith that will surely come. Faith these days seems to be more about feelings and personal interpretation than about orthodox theology and sound teaching. These houses built on sand will not withstand a clash with culture. Moral behavior is no different inside the church than it is outside according to surveys.

We already see churches changing to “minister” to the perceived needs of their communities rather than remaining true to Scripture no matter the cost. Attendees church shop for a congregation that can minister to their needs rather than seeking a church that has solid teaching and genuine worship. Satisfying our needs in church is an infiltration of a world view that is common today. Our society is becoming more self-centered and the church is not immune. We have gone away from attending church to offer worship and praise to God while serving one another and tending to the needs of others. The current evaluation is what can the church offer my kids, or me and do I approve of the style of service. We are looking to be served rather than to serve. This is quite the opposite of the example set for us by Jesus Christ.

The article offers up ideas of what will happen over the next decade and what will be left. It is an interesting read and provokes thought and discussion. Some of the questions asked are, “Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant?” “Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart?” “Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development?”

I believe that the liberal churches will grow more liberal still and the conservative churches will struggle to maintain solvency in the cultural upheaval. It will grow increasingly difficult to find a church that remains firmly convicted to Bible teaching as many will seek a friendlier, less demanding message that does not call for service and sacrifice. Gospel messages from prosperity to universalism will be popular as people who like to consider themselves spiritual attend an occasional service to feel good about themselves without having anything required of them. This drive through Christianity will be the deception that damns many in the end.

I also believe that those who truly love Christ and eagerly await His return will be burdened with a sense of urgency to evangelize neighbors and loved ones. I don’t see many fence sitters as time moves forward. I see those who believe, those who don’t, and those who fool themselves in thinking they are Christians without ever really following Christ. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ came with the good news of salvation to a sinful world. Sometime soon He will come with judgment for those who choose not to acknowledge His Lordship.

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