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Johne

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

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Well, it's interesting that you say that because that was the question I kept rounding on my co-worker, not in an aggressive way or anything, but to help her hear what she was doing. She would say that "we have rejected God", and I would ask her, "by 'we' you mean the church or America?" She came round to saying that she felt our society's troubles were because Christians were carnal, which led to another discussion altogether that we both, wisely, ended before it became heated.

 

 

But we both realized that the "we" business used by the church in America is, indeed, inclusive of the country's government - as if it represented the church. If that were true, I would have speak out and say that though it's taken awhile, our government looks more Christian than it used to, when it condoned slavery, and the abuse of native peoples - when the KKK was rampant, and prostitution and gunslingers were the hallmarks of the Wild West. The evolution of civility has come a long way in this country - and the church has always been a part of this nation's progression/digression. But we aren't America - we are the church at the United States - most likely, we are the church at Missouri, the church at Washington, the church at every differing cultural context that is to be found in this massive country.

 

 

So if we are - as David Wilkerson and others project - about to experience the wrath of God, is it then because the rain falls on the just and the unjust? Or because God is angry specifically with the church? The more the evangelical movement associates itself with political factions, the more the whole message seems confused.

 

 

We come round to what someone said earlier - the disciples strategy of setting up a kingdom here on earth, rather than understanding Christ's kingdom is not of this world.

 

 

We are blessed to be in a place that allows us to worship without persecution - but it has never been a right we may demand of a nation that is, ultimately, foreign to us.

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I've been thinking that a little stiff breeze to blow away the chaff may not be such a bad thing. Yeah, things would get more difficult for those who continued to embrace Christ, but gone would be the posers and the strictly social Christians. Personally, I think the light shows brighter the darker it gets.

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Guest Thebigguy

Frankly I consider myself a Christian and leave it at that. Not so much here in SF Bay but back east everyone had to know what denomination you were so they could judge you and put you in a little box. I would tell them I was a Christian and watch them squirm. In Britain it's getting harder to become a Christian Christians and Catholics are coming together and everyone is just calling themselves Christians.I heard this from my British roommate. Your OK as long as you stay in your little government box but if you step outside that there you get penalized and can have your land confiscated. Not that different here. Especially among Episcopalians thoughs that aren't liberal or decide to leave have their buildings taken away by the Episcopal Diases even if they payed for the building. More and more Episcopal Churches who wont follow the Diases are closing their doors. But better a house church than to sell your soul for a building.

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Guest Xenia
evangelicalism in the US needs a little shake-up. Or a big one.

 

Yeppers....

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Frankly I consider myself a Christian and leave it at that. Not so much here in SF Bay but back east everyone had to know what denomination you were so they could judge you and put you in a little box. I would tell them I was a Christian and watch them squirm. In Britain it's getting harder to become a Christian Christians and Catholics are coming together and everyone is just calling themselves Christians.I heard this from my British roommate. Your OK as long as you stay in your little government box but if you step outside that there you get penalized and can have your land confiscated. Not that different here. Especially among Episcopalians thoughs that aren't liberal or decide to leave have their buildings taken away by the Episcopal Diases even if they payed for the building. More and more Episcopal Churches who wont follow the Diases are closing their doors. But better a house church than to sell your soul for a building.

 

What is the government box? And do you mean individual land? Or church land?

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Guest Wading4u

I have read both Michael Spencer's article and Mark Galli's rebuttal and find fault with both on one major point. Mark comes closest to it when he says,"evangelicals on the ground, in our better moments at least, care less about our "movement" and more about "the evangel," the Good News of Jesus Christ."

 

 

If I understand him correctly he is implying that those who claim to be evangelical are not spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, but are instead sitting on their blessed assurance bragging about how my faith is bigger than yours. However, I contest that the reason for the imminent collapse of evangelicalism is simply because Jesus Christ is no longer the focal point of faith in the 21st Century Church.

 

 

Forget about whether or not the message is being delivered. The message has been abandoned in favor of another. While the Well of Life remains full of Living Water, many people who call themselves evangelical or Christian have simply dug their own wells and are now pass out and drinking contaminated water.

 

 

I'm confident that I speak for many Christian authors when I say that we must gaurd the message of Jesus Christ in our writing with great care. We who claim the blood of Jesus and write about it are the on the front lines of the ongoing evangelical movement. We are the teachers and leaders of Christianity. We are the gaurdians of the gate. This is our watch and we will be held accountable for what we say. If evengelicalism does completely die, it will die with us.

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I think we've forgotten what an evangelist is...the orginal greek definition of evangelist is "one who preaches the gospel"... and that Great commission requires us all to do the work of the evangelist....

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Guest Wading4u

But keep in mind that we are not talling about evangelists. We are talking about Evangelicals. Major difference. An evangelist is person who has been called of God to herald a specific message. An Evangelical is a person, usually a Protestant, who is member of a conservative denomination and subscribes to Orthodoxy, or traditional conservative positions on docrtrines of faith.

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I think we've forgotten what an evangelist is...the orginal greek definition of evangelist is "one who preaches the gospel"... and that Great commission requires us all to do the work of the evangelist....

 

We are to bear witness in season and out, but that's not exactly the same as all being evangelists. Making disciples is marginally different than evangelism. There are different phases to that process. I tend to wind up more on the mentoring side of that equation rather than the earlier, bringing people to Christ side.

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Guest ProfessorAlan
An Evangelical is a person' date=' usually a Protestant' date=' who is member of a conservative denomination and subscribes to Orthodoxy, or traditional conservative positions on docrtrines of faith.[/quote'']

And evangelicalism is a particular US subculture. Using the word "christian" as an adjective, in front of words such as "radio," "TV," "bookstore," "business,"

 

 

"novel" .... and so forth all come from this evangelical subculture.

 

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Guest CWT
But keep in mind that we are not talling about evangelists. We are talking about Evangelicals. Major difference. An evangelist is person who has been called of God to herald a specific message. An Evangelical is a person' date=' usually a Protestant' date=' who is member of a conservative denomination and subscribes to Orthodoxy, or traditional conservative positions on docrtrines of faith.[/quote'']

Not sure about either of these definitions. Today lots of tech companies, like Adobe and Oracle, have "evangelists" who promote their products and teach people to use them. That title is on their business cards. But I'm not sure any are called of God.

 

 

Evangelicals have always been orthodox, but we do not subscribe to the teachings of Orthodoxy. Capital "O" Orthodoxy is very different than being orthodox.

 

 

Evangelicals are misunderstood when it comes to matters of conservatism. Up until 1918 we were the social progressives, founding hospitals, the YM/YWCAs, orphanages and so many other social institutions we take for granted today. Evangelicals only became politically conservative in the 1950's, and that could be the death of us.

 

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Guest Wading4u

The death of Evangelicalism began in 1989 when the Moral Majority under Jerry Falwell disbanded. It was the Moral Majority that gave Reagan the '80 and '84 elections - 60% of voters were members. They also helped Bush win over Dukakis in 88. Then they disbanded and the Clinton years were ushered in with all its infamy. Conservative backlash against Clinton Democrats gave rise to the election of W. in 2000 and with the War in Iraq at its heighth in '04, a second term was all but guaranteed.

 

 

Today there clearly is a new face on contemporary Evangelicalism as seen by both the Emergent Church movement, and the number of crossover Republicans who voted for Obama. Personally, I am not certain that Evangelicalism is dying as much as its interpretation of religous values is being replaced by a more missional type of Christian whose politics looks a lot more like LBJ's Great Society than Southern Baptist Fundamentalism.

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Guest CWT
The death of Evangelicalism began in 1989 when the Moral Majority under Jerry Falwell disbanded. It was the Moral Majority that gave Reagan the '80 and '84 elections - 60% of voters were members. They also helped Bush win over Dukakis in 88.... Personally' date=' I am not certain that Evangelicalism is dying as much as its interpretation of religous values is being replaced by a more missional type of Christian whose politics looks a lot more like LBJ's Great Society than Southern Baptist Fundamentalism.[/quote']

I would suggest Evangelicalism does not rise or fall based on American politics.

 

 

The sin is connecting a religious movement, like Evangelicalism, with a particular political party, like Republicanism. Someone like Falwell was not a good Evangelical (he was a Fundamentalist, which is different to historians and theologians, but not to news commentators) nor was he a good Republican. Falwell only emphasized domestic social issues, not other important facets of Republicanism like fiscal policy and foreign affairs.

 

 

For a larger understanding of the issues, see The Great Reversal: Evangelism and Social Concern by David O. Moberg. It was written before the Falwell era and explains so much.

 

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I've long predicted that a couple of things are in the wind:

 

 

Megachurches will continue to grow and expand. Mid-sized congregations will either become megachurches, or downsize into house-size churches. Nevertheless, much of the growth of the megachurch will be through transfer growth, not conversion (as it is already). Within a generation or two, the megachurches will begin to collapse as well, due to the inability of their members to express or defend their faith convincingly.

 

 

House churches (and small churches) will evolve into a new form of Protestant monasticism, and the most evangelistic church will be the Roman Catholic.

 

 

As far as the influence on politics... the Christian voice has been and will continue to be marginalized. I'm not particularly worried, though, because the two-party system itself will break into multiple smaller units all fighting with each other and relatively unable to communicate. There'll be a lot of shouting, but not much listening.

 

 

The new center of Protestant Christianity will be in Africa and Asia, where it has been under persecution for a few generations, and the believers there understand the cost.

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Guest Wading4u

Michael, I think you are spot on in many of your observations. I have heard it said, as I am sure you have as well, that the greatest church growth from conversions, and is - perhaps anecdotally - where the gifts of the spirts are being manifested in abundant measure.

 

 

With regard to the evolution of the Church, I too have drawn similar conclusions. I have often felt that small churches would give way to the mega churches, which as you point at will grow throw lateral transfer and not conversions. I am witness to that very thing. My family I recently left a small church where I was seving as the college pastor. Burned out from years of service we left the dying little church in the wildwoods to become part of someone else's furniture. It was either that or die with them.

 

 

With regard to the Catholic Church, I would have to disagree with you there. For two thousand years Rome has used money and fear as a tool keep its people in line. Today that is beginning to change, but only among those younger generations who either do not care about the consequences of rejecting the Church, or have found the truth of God's word for themselves by discovering the priesthood of the believer. I dare not say more lest I offend.

 

 

It is my opinion that out of these changes the face of Evangelicalism will continue ot change. As it does, less and less people will call themselves evangelical. I would even go so far as to say that faith is going to give way to politics which will then give rise to a national social consciousness that will ultimately be the down fall of the mega church, but not the end. Mega churches will one day all look like that big mega church in Texas where sin is never preached and everyone is taught to overcome their problems by subscribing to a positive mental attitude.

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Guest CWT
I've long predicted that a couple of things are in the wind:

Megachurches will continue to grow and expand. Mid-sized congregations will either become megachurches, or downsize into house-size churches....

 

 

House churches (and small churches) will evolve into a new form of Protestant monasticism, and the most evangelistic church will be the Roman Catholic.

 

 

As far as the influence on politics... the Christian voice has been and will continue to be marginalized....

 

 

The new center of Protestant Christianity will be in Africa and Asia....

 

You have made some interesting observations and you are right on target.

 

 

The mega-churches will be around for a while, but am not so sure about the fate of smaller Churches. If they don't become "mini-mega-churches," their day is done. All those pre-1970s churches with a sanctuary, an educational building and parking for 100 cars are already dinosaurs and are soon to become 7-11s.

 

 

The great down-sizing to come is going to have a huge impact on theological education. There will be more need for bi-vocational pastors since house-churches won't be able to support full-time pastoral leadership.

 

 

I am not so concerned that we are being marginalized politically. That has been a long time coming. We lost that battle when we gave up being elected to School Boards in favor of homeschooling, quit running Christian candidates for city councils and that sort of thing. Christian influence has historically been at the grassroots, not at the pinnacle of power.

 

 

Perhaps the greatest challenge to churches is the homosexual movement, which will be the biggest church splitter since the Liberal/Fundamentalists Controversy of the 1920s. We are already seeing it in the Episcopal Church, and it will spread. Redemption without repentance turns the church into just another social club.

 

 

Yes, I agree that the Lord is handing the torch to our brothers and sisters in Africa and Asia. It appears we Americans have not been the stewards we should have been.

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Guest sharbuck

I have been researching this subject, the decline of the church, for my book for some time as well as drawing from personal experiences. Please do not consider what I have to say as the rantings of a disgruntled christian.. but folks there is a problem in our churches that is leading to the decline of evangelism as we know it.

 

 

My husband and I consider ourselves committed Christians, God is number one in our lives and marriage. In the past, we had been involved in many ministries including teaching, preaching and being supports to others in our church. We have not been to church in the past two and a half years. At present, our rural setting does not allow us the choice to attend without traveling a distance of over 200 miles rt to find another church home.

 

 

We have talked about when we leave here about finding a new church and quite frankly, it is something we dread. Even though we are positive, on fire christians, the experiences we have had makes us wonder why in the world we would want to go through all that again. We have been told that it is better to go to a church than not go at all. We have heard, "there is no such thing as a perfect church." or, "that we need to get involved instead of complaining, dont sit in the pew waiting to be served."

 

 

Therein lies the problem with the decline of evangelism today. The church has problems. but it is easier to look at and be judgmental of those of us that have left, than to look at how the members are treating one another. Why doesn't the church as a whole ask those 30 million of us why we felt that we had no other option other than to leave ? We are heartbroken and long to serve. We do not want to be a part of the emergent church or the "flavor of the day." We don't want to reinvent church such as the seeker friendlies have.

 

 

George Barna states that over 30 million of "mature christans," have left the church in the past 10 yrs. Could there be that many malcontents, or is there a problem that is being ignored ? Those of us who have been in these churches have tried to serve. Going against the pastor's vision has resulted in our ministries taken away from us, marginalizing us until we can no longer serve as God would have us to. If we have this much difficulty, how do we think that the unsaved, or the new christian would survive in such a climate ?

 

 

We need to remember why we are in church. We need to recognize that God knows who and where He desires to use us. When people act in self interest, not allowing God to do the work that He desires through us, our churches will, and are failing.

 

 

Please listen to what those of us who have left are trying to tell you instead of labeling us.

 

 

We long to serve but cannot when the church is so dysfunctinal that we cannot have the ministry that God has for us.

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Guest CWT

I'm on your wavelength, sharbuck!

 

 

One small thing before I go on... you use the word evangelism... We are speaking about Evangelicalism, a Bible-rooted, socially concerned, outreach-oriented religious movement that grew out of Protestantism. Evangelism is something else... sharing the Good news. Both have the same Greek root, but have different meanings.

 

 

But I digress... :D your main theme is sound. 30 million is a lot of people to ignore. The problem is, I suppose, that they dribble out of churches one or two at a time, and no one seems to notice.

 

 

I think the problem is with formal theological education (and I have one), where pastors are taught to rightly divide the Word of God, but end up wrongly dividing the congregation. I believe the congregation should follow the vision of the pastor, but the pastor must have a vision worth following.

 

 

Evangelicals will soon be so marginalized that we'll be social outcasts. It will be interesting to see how we deal with that. For example, many companies allow special interests groups to meet during lunch, but not Bible studies. Are we standing up to these things, or are we hiding in the underbrush?

 

 

In my view, Christians are not speaking out on social and moral issues with one voice, and we're like Samson with a haircut. That is the main reason I am so interested in Christian writing. The Spirit-guided pen gives us the power. But unfortunately we are squandering that power by focusing on Amish romance novels. It's going to get worse before it gets better.

 

 

In NT Greek, "Church" is "ekklesia", "the called-out assembly." We are still that whether we attend the church down the road or not.

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Guest ProfessorAlan
The death of Evangelicalism began in 1989 when the Moral Majority under Jerry Falwell disbanded.

 

I would argue it started dying when the Moral Majority was founded.

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Guest ProfessorAlan
House churches (and small churches) will evolve into a new form of Protestant monasticism' date=' and the most evangelistic church will be the Roman Catholic.[/quote']

I agree with the trends in the ancient-future movement, urban monasticism, monk rock, finding value in the old traditions, that whole movement. And the more conservative Catholic congregations around the would have been quite successful in garnering conversions and reversions.

 

The new center of Protestant Christianity will be in Africa and Asia' date=' where it has been under persecution for a few generations' date=' and the believers there understand the cost.[/quote''] If you are not familiar with the work of sociologist Philip Jenkins on this topic, you need to be.

 

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Guest sharbuck

I wonder what Jesus would have to say about all the modern trends. How we contort our religion, change it to appear more friendly, more attractive in order to include all.

 

 

The terms urban monasticism, ancient-future movement, seeker friendly all take us away from the basics and seems silly and unbiblical. Our God and His message is simple, everlasting and true, why do we think we need to repackage that which is perfect?

 

 

One of the CW'ers stated that in Africa that churches are competing against each other for believers. Perhaps this means that they are focusing on attracting and keeping people rather than the American model. There have been more than a few churches I have started going to that I have felt like I have been transported back into high school, cliches, judgement, exclusion, unwritten rules and all. There have been times that having a ministry has not been possible because of these behaviors. It is not until this is changed that our churches here in America will flourish.

 

 

Jesus-Others-Yourself = JOY

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I agree with the trends in the ancient-future movement, urban monasticism, monk rock, finding value in the old traditions, that whole movement. And the more conservative Catholic congregations around the would have been quite successful in garnering conversions and reversions.

If you are not familiar with the work of sociologist Philip Jenkins on this topic, you need to be.

 

Okay, I'll bite: who is Philip Jenkins? Most of my information about Africa and Asia is relatively anecdotal, I confess.

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With regard to the Catholic Church, I would have to disagree with you there. For two thousand years Rome has used money and fear as a tool keep its people in line. Today that is beginning to change, but only among those younger generations who either do not care about the consequences of rejecting the Church, or have found the truth of God's word for themselves by discovering the priesthood of the believer. I dare not say more lest I offend.

 

Hi Wading4u,

 

 

When I used the term "evangelistic" with regard to the Catholic church, I was referring more to the act of proselytizing than sharing the Gospel. I expect Catholics will use their theological interpretation of the Gospel in a way that is consistent with Catholic faith, which is not something Protestants (like me!) would recognize as "the Doctrine of Grace."

 

 

My point is that the Catholic Church will grow less through biological growth (due to the fact that nominal Catholics, who have grown up in the church, are either leaving it for Protestant churches, or dropping out altogether, except for those who maintain membership, but only show up for weddings and funerals), and more through conversion and reversion. And therefore, it will grow more successfully than Protestant churches.

 

 

The Catholic Church never fell into the false dichotomy of Protestantism: vis à vis social action versus evangelism, therefore they are better positioned to handle the Pomo generations. True, they never really emphasized evangelism, but they didn't downplay it either by abandoning the Bible or their traditions the way the mainstream liberal churches have. That, and the fact the Catholic Church has continued to speak with a prophetic voice to our culture without being co-opted by the political process to the degree that Evangelicals have gives them a leg up on addressing the culture.

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Guest ProfessorAlan
Okay' date=' I'll bite: who is Philip Jenkins? Most of my information about Africa and Asia is relatively anecdotal' date=' I confess.[/quote'']

ooop, sorry. His two works that focus most on the Southern-ing of the church are:

 

 

2002 -- The next Christendom: the coming of global Christianity

 

 

2006 -- The new faces of Christianity: believing the Bible in the global south

 

 

Other, somewhat related books of his include:

 

 

2007 -- God's continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's religious crisis

 

 

2008 -- The lost history of Christianity: the thousand-year golden age of the church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia

 

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I'm posting mostly so I'll be able to track the discussion. Fascinating. I've been reading a lot about the "emergent" or "emerging" church. I'm pretty much a wild-eyed fanatic and believe that in this country we're not far from persecution, but I hope I'm wrong, and I'm interested in what you all are saying.

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