Monday, February 25, 2013

I am no longer an Evangelical and why that's okay.

I have been on the journey of what Church I should attend after having a bit of a crisis of faith (something I will explore at a later time). The only thing I can truly say, I am no longer an Evangelical and want nothing to do with the Evangelical Church. Christian, yes but not an Evangelical Christian in a popular sense. I still believe in justification by faith alone, by grace alone, though Christ alone and for God's Glory alone. The Bible is my inerrant source for faith, final authority for my Christian practice and the only sure place of the revealed Word of God so that the world may know and repent. If this is what someone means in the historic sense of the word, I could probably go along with that.This is after all what the original fundamentals of the Fundamentals believed against the Liberalism of the early 1900's.

However, the word does not mean that anymore. It has "evolved" to add more than what it was meant to signify. The word has changed to become the junk drawer for all Christians that aren't "crazy" fundamentalists or those "wacky" liberals. The middle of the road are the Evangelicals.The label now includes  these great doctrines of the faith but then adds many more items that aren't the Gospel. To be an Evangelical now means be a republican, enjoy contemporary Christian music, celebrate Christian celebrities, engage in "amazing" outreaches, dream big dreams (because God is "mad" at small dreams)  and do everything "short of sin" to reach people for Christ. It means a certain way of speaking and living in order to be the light of the world and salt of the earth.

The problem becomes the focus of the Evangelical institution shifts away from the evangelion (the Greek word where Evangelical comes from means gospel or good news) onto the ways/method/effects of the evangelion’s proclamation. It removes any meaning from word itself and actually moves these important doctrine, you know the ones that actually makes it good news, to the margin to be ignored. The Gospel becomes a footnote to the important things like life. It's something that is present but not looked at unless a person wants to dig a little deeper (you know to make sure someone isn't a heretic). It doesn't have to be looked once it is there but it has no influence on the practice of the institution.

Seriously, what is your favorite evangelical church most know for? Is it really for the message or is it the way it is delivered? Is it about the forgiveness of sin or about feeling free/happy/fulfilled/destined (which are results of forgiveness)? Is it for the ways they to rile up people to feel alive (aka revive them) or what is proclaim that gives new life (see Romans 10:17)? Is it known for emphasizing social issues in the Bible or emphasizing the Christ of the Bible (see Luke 24:27)? Is it for the leader of the Church or the Shepherd of the Flock (John 10)?

Also, can you remember talking to someone about his or her church and the fact that the real, unashamed Gospel was proclaimed as the real reason they attended? I can’t. When I was a Pastor of in a small town and here in a larger town, the answer to that question usually centers around, “I go here because we are making a difference.” “I go here because the music is great.” “This is where my family has always attended.” “I go here because they take a stand against those Abortion loving Liberals.” Or reasons why do people leave churches? “I wanted to see be around more younger folks.” “I wanted a better youth group.” “The pastor had an issue.” The closest you get to a answer that is based on “the gospel” is “I really feel God is moving  there (or stop moving there if they left)”.

But again, all of these things are not the Gospel. If they do not point to the Gospel so can they really be called Evangelical? If the good news is not the emphasis week in and week out, then what can it be called? All this new meaning of the word does is flatten out all of the distinctive Christian tenants so that only common methods and only actions are left to be proclaimed (more on this in a future post on why I'm anti-parachurch organizations). The Gospel though says I sinned in thought in addition to word and deed. Only an alien righteousness given to me from Jesus' life, death and Resurrection. That's good news. The current approach seems to only focus on external word and deed and not inter thoughts. It focuses on my (pathetic) attempts at righteousness. The Gospel provides a way (the only way) for all these things to change by the power of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of his Word.

All of this would be like going into a restaurant, having the waiter describe how great the food is, how much it will change your view of food, how affordable it is, how it is made with the finest ingredients, how it is prepared, how much the other customers love it but then never actually serving the food being talk about. It is no wonder people are left with doubt and constantly complaining about not being "fed". They aren't being fed with the Gospel but yet we label it Evangelical so people are left believing they are getting the very thing they aren't. If this is evangelicalism, I want nothing to do with it.