Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Coming Evangelical Collapse

I'm not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I think that there is a lot of merit to this person's column: The coming evangelical collapse

A few snippets are in order...

"We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West...Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants...Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close. "

Why is this going to happen?
* Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism.

* We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught.

* Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism.

These are scary thoughts indeed. One historian has published his thoughts at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Another has published his at here. I've got a few of my own.

First, don't think that the solution is a new program. My parachurch background soured me on new plans, strategies and programs to win the world to Christ. In the end lots of money gets spent, a certain amount of results are achieved (mostly to justify the program in the first place), but there is little lasting effect. Once the program ends life continues on as if nothing happened.

Second, I don't think that the solution is to follow the crowd and gather at the latest, greatest, happening place, even if the pastor embraces reformed soteriology. A ten-point statement of faith is inadequate. Nor do I mean that you find any old mainline church that says it believes some sort of historic confession. You must find a confessional church, whose pastors and officers actually believe the confessions, and join it.

By definition, confessional churches hold to historic creeds and confessions which set boundaries for belief and practice. What do I mean? Here are some examples:

* Confessional Lutherans hold to the Book of Concord;
* Confessional Anglicans (or Episcopal in the U.S.) adhere to the 39 Articles;
* Confessional Baptists hold to the London Baptist Confession (1689) or the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833);
* Confessional Reformed Churches hold to the Three Forms of Unity - The Heidelberg Catechism, The Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort;
* Confessional Presbyterians subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms.

Churches without creeds and confessions are a-historical, and by nature, are more subject to the shifting winds of our culture, than confessional churches. While there are marked differences between the confessional church traditions there is safety too. Confessional churches, like those who are in step with Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc affirm the 5 Solas of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. When church-shopping ask about the creeds and confessions that they may profess. Dig a bit deeper too and ask if those are the personal views of the pastor or if all the officers in the church hold those views. Find such a church and join it, even if it means you have to drive a fair distance to attend.

Third, pray. God has always preserved a remnant regardless of outward circumstances. In Genesis 6 we read about the rampant wickedness on earth yet God preserved Noah and his family. In Genesis 18 & 19 we read about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah yet God preserved Lot and his daughters. In Elijah's day (II Kings 19) we learn that in spite of the widespread apostasy of the Israelites, God had preserved 7,000 who had not bent the knee to Baal. Jesus assured us that he would build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

It has been noted that all of redemptive history can be understood as the serpent's (see Genesis 3:15) attempt to prevent the Messiah's birth, or destroy him before he went to the cross, or to sidetrack the church. While the evangelical tent might be collapsing rest assured that God is still on His throne. Nothing will thwart his plans and nothing will exterminate his church.

1 comment:

ScottH said...

I didn't read the whole article. I'm wondering if the so called "health and wealth" AKA the "word of faith" churches will collapse as well? Kenneth Copeland is now the "godfather" of this group. Their doctrine is very shaky not to mention being very man centered and increasingly mystical. In my view I'd like to see the "WoF" just go into the dust bin of history.