October 24, 2020

My Debt to Evangelicalism

Just because I left evangelicalism as a church system and culture several years ago and was willing to hang around in the wilderness rather than go back doesn’t mean I’m an ingrate. People can move on without blowing up the bridge behind them and calling the whole sojourn in one’s former land a total waste. Though I might have chosen a different route from the beginning had I known what I know now, the plain fact is that I did not know it then. The learning only comes through the journey. Finding a good path often requires trying a number of paths that may lead one places he doesn’t want to go.

A lot of our clinicians in home health care use GPS systems to help them find their way around. Many swear by them. I think GPS’s are great too, especially for those who work at night. But I have never wanted one. We get written directions, and usually they suffice. I can read a map. I have a decent sense of direction. But even when all those things fail, I have this old-fashioned notion (some call it a “guy thing”) that I should try to figure it out. That way, even if I make mistakes (which I inevitably do), it is better for me to make them and try the wrong routes, because in the process I will become more familiar with my surroundings and when I do find the right way it will be more ingrained in my mind. I’ll find it much easier to remember the way next time. The journey itself teaches the way.

Most of my spiritual journey as an adult has been on roads paved by American evangelicalism, through the evangelical countryside, towns and cities. I finally decided it was not where I should settle down. That decision should not lead anyone to infer that I didn’t have a lot of great experiences there, meet a lot of wonderful people, and learn many important lessons. It was most definitely not a wasted trip. There is a lot I’m thankful for.

So today, I want to pause for a few moments to reflect on some of those things I’m grateful for in my journey through that land.

The Prodigal Son Returns, Watanabe

1. Evangelicalism is where I found a personal faith.
Evangelicalism is strong on personal conversion, and I am one of the fish its nets caught. As Scot McKnight writes, “The irreducible minimum of evangelicalism is the gospel and the need to respond to the gospel and the work of God in the new birth.” Now, I’ll admit that I have come to interpret my teenage experience of “conversion” differently than this, nevertheless the fact remains: at that point in my life I was headed away from God on a path to destruction, and it was an evangelical message that stopped me in my tracks and turned me around.

My life has never been the same. It was from that point that I began to study the Bible, sing Christ’s praises, serve in the church, and take steps toward vocational ministry. It became personal for me. I owe the people in those evangelical churches who loved me as an insecure and unsettled young man a great debt for befriending me and pointing me to Christ.

The sermon that finally got my attention was from Genesis 3:9, where God calls out, “Adam, where are you?” The preacher said we should think about this: Why did God ask that question? Didn’t he know where Adam was already? Of course he did, but Adam didn’t know he where he was! It was God’s question that made him realize he was lost and hiding from God. Hearing those words to Adam, I thought the preacher was speaking directly to me. Personally. That’s when the wonder returned, when the child who used to sit wide-eyed in the sanctuary was reawakened. That was the very moment the prodigal “came to his senses” and arose.

Years later I spoke to a man who had been in a traditional mainline church — the same church I had attended a couple of years before my spiritual turn-around experience. This man had a similar experience in that congregation. God met him, turned him around, and set him on a path toward a life of ministry. It was not a revivalistic evangelical church like the Baptist church where God got my attention, but nevertheless it happened.

Maybe something like that would have taken place for me had I not gone to that Baptist church. I cannot say what God might have done, though I’m convinced he would have helped me find my way home and make the promise of my baptism real in my life. What I can say is that a group of young people in an evangelical church cared enough about one of their struggling peers to invite him to church, the youth choir and Bible study welcomed and befriended him, and the services of the church pointed him to Jesus as the One who would give grace, forgiveness, and a new start.

For this I give thanks.

2. Evangelicalism is where I learned to love the Bible and studying it.
From the outset of my life in evangelicalism, I was blessed with teachers who conveyed a deep love for the Bible. My first youth pastor emphasized studying books of the Bible. We became connected with a minister in New England who had a tape ministry, and we spent hours listening to his studies. The pastor who became my first mentor in ministry was an outstanding Bible teacher and we sat under his instruction every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and on Wednesday nights. I attended a Bible college that gave me invaluable tools for understanding the Scriptures and was instrumental in preparing me to begin a life of study and teaching. When I got to seminary several years later, it was my privilege to sit under some of the greatest evangelical professors in the world — Walter Kaiser, John Sailhamer, Grant Osborne, Scot McKnight, Walter Liefeld, Doug Moo, and D.A. Carson among them. John Stott visited our school each winter to preach and teach, and in chapel we were exposed to many of the finest evangelical pastors and teachers from other churches and institutions.

If I had a glaring “fault” as an evangelical pastor it was that I placed too much emphasis on learning the Bible and not enough on other aspects of spiritual formation and Christian living. I reckon that I turned more than a few sanctuaries into lecture halls, and many Bible studies into academic sessions rather than letting people wrestle with how God wanted to speak to their lives through Scripture. But I did so out of a good heart. My own life has been so enriched by serious study of the Bible that I want everyone I know to become as enthralled with probing its depths as I am.

Over the years I have come to appreciate the role of tradition and the Church in new ways, and have embraced the historic pattern of worship in which the Word is balanced by the Table and is heard in a variety of ways, not primarily through an analytical, expository teaching message. And as readers of this site know, I am not afraid to point out the limitations of the evangelical approach to Scripture. But I will always be grateful that I was part of a church culture that placed high value on learning, loving, and living the Bible. It has enriched my life and ministry immensely.

For this I give thanks.

3. Evangelicalism is where I found the music.
Jesus and music have always gone hand in glove in my life. I can still remember my first public solo, from the balcony of the Methodist church with the elementary school-age choir. I have loved the hymn “This Is My Father’s World” as long as I can remember — I’m sure I heard it first as a preschooler, snuggled up to my mother in the sanctuary. My spiritual awakening as a senior in high school came partly as a result of singing in the youth choir at our church. Soon after I walked the aisle, I had the opening solo in the church Easter program, in which dozens of people of all ages led our church in praising the living Christ.

Those were days when I strummed a guitar. When Jesus revitalized my life, I started singing and writing songs about him. It was the early days of the Jesus Music movement, and we delighted in simple, Scripture-based choruses. We formed a folk trio that sang for various events, including a memorable outdoor Easter sunrise service in downtown Baltimore, at which we opened for Rez Band. I met the one who became my wife as we made music together in college choir and gospel teams. In all our churches, Gail and I have served as musicians as well as pastors, teachers, and leaders in various ministries. In my life, the only thing I’ve spent more money on than music is books.

As a pastor and music minister, I have always longed that the church appreciate its entire music heritage. We had “blended” worship before anyone ever thought of the term. I sang a solo from “Messiah” in our mountain church of 100 congregants, and Gail played classical piano pieces for preludes and offertories. Then we sang gospel hymns together. We’ve led choirs that have sung music from classics to hymns to traditional anthems to country gospel to black gospel to African chants to Gaither. I used to write and sing children’s songs for AWANA programs and Vacation Bible Schools, and sometimes we sang them with the whole congregation. When we came back from mission trips, we brought back choruses from God’s family in other parts of the world and taught them. I have always loved hymns, and have especially appreciated the evangelical tradition of hymnody from Luther to Watts to Wesley to Fanny Crosby to Margaret Clarkson to Timothy Dudley Smith. Though there is much to lament in CCM, there is still some wheat among the chaff — serious artists such as Bob Bennett, Michael Card, Graham Kendrick, Stuart Townend, and the Gettys, for example. Above all, I love to listen to serious choral music. Where would I be without Bach? Without Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil? Without the delightful Christmas music of John Rutter?

One of the reasons the Lutheran way is so attractive to me is their love for music — right up there next to theology, according to Luther himself. But this impulse in me was nourished in evangelicalism. Jesus set me singing, and my brothers and sisters in evangelicalism have been right there, singing with me. We mourn the degradation of music in evangelicalism a lot here at Internet Monk, but one of the reasons I write such passionate complaints is that I have seen the other side and have tried throughout my ministry to help our congregations sing edifying music with deeper understanding and true feeling. For the most part, it has been a joyful sound of grace and truth.

For this I give thanks.

4. Evangelicalism gave me a heart for service and mission.
The impulse to serve is strong in evangelicalism. So strong, we here at IM sometimes criticize it as out-of-balance activism. Nevertheless, there is an energy and concern for others that moves evangelicals to do a lot of good in the world.

The missionary force that grew out of the Student Volunteer Movement and the rise of faith missions in the late 1800’s was formidable. In the 20th century, leadership given by InterVarsity and the Lausanne Movement, the establishment of parachurch ministries like Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade, and Navigators, Bible translation ministries like Wycliffe, and mercy ministries like World Vision have flourished. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is synonymous with mass evangelism efforts. The “culture war” efforts of the Christian Right were not something new in America; in many ways, culture warriors have merely replicated the kind of moral concern and political activism practiced by 19th century social movements for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and prohibition.

Many evangelicals go by the slogan that Christians are “saved to serve.” We once attended a church where every person who joined the church was introduced as someone who had stepped forward to “roll up his/her sleeves to help us win our community for Christ.” Another church I pastored was instrumental in founding and supporting a Crisis Pregnancy Center. I know a church that, at least at one point, was giving 60% of her income to missions.

We have friends all over the world because of their obedience to the Great Commission, and because of them I’ve had opportunities to serve in places I never dreamed of seeing. I have had opportunities to preach Christ in suburban churches, on inner city front porches and downtown missions, in the hills of Applachia, and to crowds of youth at camps in Brazil and at schools in India. I once sat in a small house in a central Indian village and talked about preparing for baptism to the first group of Christians that ancient village had ever known. Even in my youngest days as a minister, I was blessed to give words of encouragement to pastors in Haiti, some of whom had walked for three days to get to the conference, and who slept on hard wooden benches or on the ground when they got there just to hear the Word of God.

Some of our closest friends have made choices through the years that made my jaw drop. Damaris and her family went to Kyrgyzstan, of all places, and reached out to their neighbors with both spiritual and practical concern. Another friend received a degree in international business, and then was challenged by a missionary to consider what God might have in store for him. A few months later, he and his wife and four young children got off a plane and moved into a home in Shanghai. While his company paid the bill for a few years, they helped start a Christian school. This is the same couple who once served their neighbors in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing development in inner city Chicago. I once played music for morning devotions while a friend preached to a group of carnies in south Florida. This was made possible because a group of loving Christian folks in RV’s follows the carnival workers for months to all the county fairs and sets up ministry stations where they can come for a hot meal, medical and dental care, haircuts, and a clothing tent — and a word of Gospel encouragement. I met a lady once who started a ministry to unfortunate folks who are deaf, blind, and mute.

On a mission trip to Brazil once, I found myself weeping as I stood and surveyed the sanctuary of a small village church. This congregation lived in the poorest village in that part of Brazil. The members brought their offerings and put them in a big basket in the front of the sanctuary each Sunday, and little of it was money. It was usually food from their gardens or clothes their children had outgrown, all to be distributed to “the poor.” On the side wall, there was a bulletin board with at least a half a dozen pictures on it. These were the missionaries this church supported!

Some of the people I admire most are friends who are workers for India Youth for Christ. These lovely people, in the midst of growing economic opportunity and prosperity in that land, have signed up to live on about $100 a month to reach young people with the Gospel. Traveling to India over the years changed our lives. Few things have meant more to my formation as a human being and follower of Christ than developing friendships with fellow ministers in India and serving alongside them as we preached, sang, did medical work, and reached out in various ways to give Christ to others. One of those friends brought a tear to my eye when I met him a few years ago. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a small square of cloth that had been cut from a terrycloth towel. I had given it to him and a group of ministers many years before, after I had preached on John 13 and then we knelt and washed the feet of our Indian brothers. We wanted to let them know that we had come to serve them. I challenged them to carry that scrap of towel with them always, to remind them of Christ washing our feet and calling us to do the same for one another. Years later, my friend still carried it. He still remembered. I was humbled. I knew he had been faithful. Had I?

I am grateful for my evangelical heritage that stresses service in the name of Christ for a lost and hurting world. Frankly, on the congregational level at least, I don’t think there is another tradition that comes close to evangelicalism in encouraging people to serve, especially with regard to sharing the Gospel, planting churches, and pursuing distinctively Christian vocations. Of course, there are a myriad of problems associated with all this activity, and we here at IM are not shy about pointing those problems out. But don’t let that disguise the fact that I am forever grateful for those who have taught and exemplified for me the way of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.

For this I give thanks.


  1. In the midst of all the lunacy of the fundagelical (great, now Eagle’s got ME doing it!) circus, it’s too easy to forget that there are many good things, things I likely never would have discovered if I’d stayed in the low-church, liberal, “machine” Episcopalianism of my youth. It was a good place to be born again into, and a solid school for learning my spiritual ABCs and multiplication tables. If there was more provided for people who’d learned the basics and wanted to move on (besides getting a ministerial license), I might still be there today …

  2. I feel a similar debt to the evangelical community that I grew up in and thus emerged from. In fact, even though some would not welcome me I still consider myself an “Evangelical”. I love the “Good News” and I think Evangelical is a very wide stream and covers a lot of ground.

    Thanks for the Post

  3. Also I like your 4 reasons to be thankful for your evangelical setting and I would add a fifth.

    Evangelicalism is where I learned to question. Admittedly it was not because I was encouraged to a whole lot (in fact sometimes honest questions are met with harsh replies) but it still forced me to question why the things I was hearing and the things I was seeing didn’t add up. If it weren’t for the disagreements there would not have been the growth

  4. Interesting post CM…but I really have to disagree. Now there are a couple of people that I am talking to about faith who are evangelicals. I do love and think highly of them. If I am going to be in faith again it will probably be more of a liberal one. But this is what evangelicalism taught me.

    1. In evangelicalism I was introduced to the rapture and drank from that well. It wasn’t long after I was baptized that people were introducing me to the “Left Behind” series and I watched the movies.
    2. In evangelicalism I was taught that Catholics are in error and in heresy. At the Evangelical Free church duirng my testimony for baptism I was instructed not to call Catholcism a cult, even though they believed it becuase they wanted me to evangelize Catholics in person.
    3. In evangelicalism a bubble was created that gave birth to distrust of the world and those outside the bubble whether they be Lutheran, Catholics, mainline Protestant, etc..
    4. It was in evangelicalism that I was taught how to use and twist the Bible in a subjective manner. Why? That’s how faith is created. In the process you basically run the Bible through a shredder to get what you originally wanted to get out of it.
    5. In evangelicalism I got a 1,000,000 new friends who taught me that love is condtional to being in the system. When the blow back began and doubts started to crush me how many of those people would step up and express love and help me through a trying time. Very few… you know what is truly sad is that I can go through my cell phone and half the numbers in there are of people that I fell out of touch with.
    6. In evangelicalism I was introduced to John Piper and reformed theology which was a poison.
    7. In evangelicalism I was introduced to a system that created and taught me how to fell guilty about everytihng that was not hyper -evangelical or not connnected to God in some perverse way. It always had to be Christian music, books, etc.. Here I am 37 and I am discovering classical music, theater, building friendships with secular co-workers, gays, people all over the spectrum. While losing faith was painful I feel like my own personal Berlin Wall came crashing down.
    8. In evangelicalsim I was taught that other’s people eternity hung in the balance unless I introduced them to Christ. So I became a fundy on steroids evangelizing constantly whereever I did. That included an airplane flight, job, and the Miller Brewery Tour. Fundagelicalism introduced me to spiritual stress.
    9. In evangeliclaism I hurt my parents and my family deeply. It could be giving my Mom who was a pancreatic cancer survivor John Piper’s teaching on why cancer is a gift. To the arguments that I had with them. Due to my dogma and brainwashing (hey in this forum I have to take responsibility for drinking the kool-aide) I launched World War III in my family because they were Catholic. i had to remind my Mom that her father was in hell becuase she was Catholic. My 1,000,000 new freinds were happy to provide me the pamphlets to use or educate myself on “the cult of Roman Catholicism” (Eagle barfs…)
    10. In fundagelicalism I became a trophy. Evangelized, converted, and held high and asked to give a few testimonies and that led for me to be the shining star for a while. I began to realize in my later years that I was played and used due to my Catholic past. When I moved cross country and then people who were close lost interest and I was drowning in the mega chruch scene I bega to realize that for a lot of fundgelicals poeple are disposable. This may be pushing it but given their short attention span and their interest in you if you can contribute to the mega church or para-chruch ministries you are almost celebrated. If not you can almost be treated like a used condom….just thrown away.
    11. In evangelicalism I was taught to be judgemental and harsh toward so many. I regret this deeply and wish the culture was not like that…. It also led me to condemn and discipline an old freind who was in a crisis due to an unplanned pregnancy.
    12. In evangelicalism I found an intellectually shallow culture that was a mile wide and an inch think. It does little for difficult theological issues such as the problem of evil, or problems with the gospel.
    13. In evangelicalism I found a culture that was suspicious of science and academia. At least when i was Catholic I could still believe in evolution.
    14. And in evangelicalism to close this out…I have probably about $3,000-$4,000. of Christian music CD’s sitting in my living room. I can’t bear to throw it out because I feel like that will be a waste.

    So maybe the contribution that I can think of is a music collection that I can listen to when I go to the gym…even though I wonder why do I listen to this?

    • Eagle, I think the more important question may be why DID you listen to this claptrap back then?

      We both know the Church has problems, but at least it isn’t anti-science.

      Still praying for you to find you place in the sun….and Son.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If he was raised moderately-practicing, Evangelicalism may have promised a more direct line to God, more direct and Personal (TM) Relationship with Christ, and more assurance. Compared to the usual moderately-practicing Catholics, they would have seemed Really On Fire for God, More Christian (TM) than he was used to. It’s a similar appeal to the young made by most offbeat faiths (“cults” in Christianese) and X-Treme versions of mainstream faiths (thinking both Christianity and Islam). There would also be the lure of the novel and unfamiliar — you don’t see the flaws in any system until you’ve been in it a while, and a NEW group will look very good — like I said above, Really On Fire for God, Really Spiritual, appealing to the energy of the young.

    • Eagle, you know that we have been unflinchingly critical of evangelicalism here, and I am glad we are able to give you forum in which to express your pain and disappointment about your own experiences. All I can say is that there is much good mixed in with the bad, and I felt it would be disingenuous to be only critical when i have received so many blessings from my years in evangelical circles. Evangelicals remain a part of my extended family, and though I cannot live with them anymore, I refuse to turn my back on them completely. To do so would be just as unloving, ungracious, and unfair as you are accusing them of being.

      We are grateful to have you here, Eagle. And I do hope that we are helping you come to terms with some of these bitter feelings that grew out of such hurtful experiences. It’s not a matter of “agreeing” or “disagreeing” with me about evangelicalism, it’s about getting past the pain and anger and learning to see the good with the bad.

      • CM: I would possibly argue that, unless you equate so-called Evangelicalism with so-called Fundamentalism, then you are still “Evangelical.” 🙂 IIRC, that’s one of Hart’s points (I can’t find my copy of his book to confirm this) – i.e., “Evangelicalism” was and is in many ways an attempt to rebrand “Fundamentalism” and distance its adherents from the negative connotations of that term, but in doing so, the definition could and would now include many non-Fundamentalist churches – hence, the term “Evangelicalism” is not a very useful term.

      • Eagle ~ I feel like you are in a terrible prison just going around and around in pain and anger. Jesus Christ wants us free. He died to make us free. He has given us the key to our own freedom -forgiveness. Please, please be careful that your anger and pain does not become so comfortable that you know no other way to live. Ultimately you are doing what we all do when we cherish our grief, anger, and pain too long. You are worshiping yourself instead of God. You will never move forward into the life that you could have if you choose to stay where you are. The choice is yours. As our Jewish friends say, “Choose Life”!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Easy on the Christianese technical language, Adrienne. It’s very easy to overdo with someone in Eagle’s position. The ones who burned him probably did it in Fluent Christianese, and overuse of Christianese “in-jargon” will activate his defenses; he will associate you with those who burned him in the first place.

      • CM….consider this a big hug from Washington, D.C.!!

        This is one of those issues that would be better discussed over a beer in a Happy Hour as it can be a long discussion. That’s one of the limitations with blogs.

        For each person CM their story will be different. If you take 10 people and put them together you will get 10 different stories across the spectrum. I think part of the issue is divorcing evangelicalism from an evangelical. I’ve been having discussions with a couple of evangelicals about faith, and am reading JI Packer’s book “Knowing God”. Just last week in a coffee ship in Arlington, VA I discussed the first chapter with someone who I respect. He’s an evangelical but not at all like some of the others I have met.

        I certainly don’t want you or others to think that I cherish a grudge or being in pain. My difficulty is trying to find a way forward. I’m wondering if it may be possible in the future to be in a place where I could just attend a chruch and then wrestle out these issues with someone. I’ve tried going to a church a couple of times in the past year, and for me it gathored a lot of courage and strength to wlak in the door and sit in the back.

        But my expereinces have been defining. What was also hard is that some of the effects of evangeliclasim was that it affected my future as well, which I feel was stolen. But the other one major difference maybe (and this is why a discussion over a beer would be ideal….) is that you had a number of close relatives who you respected and loved you through the process. If that’s what you are referring to, due to your in-laws family, brothers family, etc.. than I can understand. In my case I was the odd one out. I came from an exclusively Catholic family who converted and maybe in my case I saw how much harm it did in the long run.

        If you or others are still unclear then I would be happy to clear them up.

        • So Eagle – why do you keep going back or flirting with those who would pull you back in? You are free of it (though not the effects)…. so…. go sit down in a Lutheran/Anglican/Methodist service. Do it more than once. You will find that these folks are not the fundy crowd you once knew. I have spent some time with these traditions from an ecenumical perspective and find them very approachable, loving etc. I have experienced first hand the irritating traits of fundementalism from new converts and your points above resonate from a Catholic on the receiving end.

          SO again, just begin again….

          As for it taking away part of your life, well we can all say something in our past did that. For me it was bad decisions, and a period of time partying too hard with little or no focus. And yet, after 48 years I look back at that time of doubt when I wondered if I had wasted my life and I smile, because the pain made me who I am today ; )

          So I am sending you to fundy ‘s anonymous. You are not to enter another fundy church unless accompanied by a Catholic, an agnostic, and a mainliner to keep you grounded… just kidding, but you get my meaning I hope.

      • CM-

        To offset what I said above I do think one of the cute parts about the evangelical culture is Veggietales. Seriously….I mean who can dislike Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber? 😀

        • They are funny, but I’ll tell you Eagle, when our kids used to watch them over and over and over and over…

          Can you spell irritating?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Seriously….I mean who can dislike Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber?

          The Spiritual Warfare Expert of a preacher a writing contact in Louisville told me about once. According to his recollection, said Spiritual Warfare Expert was reading Satanic Influence into it. Kind of like they did to D&D and He-Man during the Satanic Panic of the Eighties (thank you, Mike Warnke). His exact quote was:


          • When Veggie Tales were first released I worked in a Christian Bookstore. We had a parent come in and angrily return a video saying she was shocked that we would sell such a thing and she wanted her money back. The offense was that they used the term “boogey man”. Probably related to the guy with the suspenders who would yell at the top of his lungs about DaySpring cards only using NIV for their Scripture verses. (By the way DaySpring now offers a line of KJV greeting cards.) You want to lose your faith real quick ~ or become stronger ~ work in a Christian Bookstore. Never again.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Little quick comment on Eagle’s points

      Points 2 & 9 are different aspects of the same thing. Especially kicky when you realize that it was the bishops of “Romish Popery Cult (TM)” who preserved and handed down the Bible Fundagelicals worship word for word as their Party Line.

      As are Points 3, 4, 7, 12, & 13. Point 3 is the basis and the other four descend from it. And it’s all due to FEAR. Fear that Maybe God isn’t so Big After All and is so fragile that Anything or Anyone can destroy him — like the application of a little Dust? It’s the Gospel according to Philip Pullman.

      Point 8 has been covered in the classic IMonk essay “Wretched Urgency”. Nuff said.

      Point 10 is classic Christian Celebrity Syndrome resulting in Christian Celebrity Burnout. Though Eagle seems like an odd choice for a Celebrity Convert. (Now imagine what happens to a Big Name Celebrity who converts…)

      • HUG in regards to point 10 that’s because the more dramatic the conversion the higher the prize and the greater the celebrity status. There are some things that many fundys desire to be a part of such as converting a Mormon, JW, Catholic, mainline Protestant, agnostic, practicing homosexual in the lifetyle, etc.. But I think more of it has to do with pride than love. Because then you can walk around and put that feather in your cap and say “look what I did!!!”. This is a huge part of the reason why I am very selective as to who I epxlore faith with in the Washington, D.C. area. I also think this is what would be the biggest obstacle for someone like Richard Dawkins, etc. from becoming a Christian if they wanted to. They don’t want to be a door prize in the fundagelical system, and the attitude and approach by many could keep someone like him in his position.

        In my case it was part of being Catholic, and looking into Mormonism. Some people “oohed and aaahhhed”. I could care less..as I just wanted to live life. I remember the testimonies in Crusade and I felt like I was being used at times. Once, me and another Crusade leader went to see a Christian concert in northern Illinois. We drove down from Milwaukee and saw Greg Long. On the way back the other Crusade leader started to tell me how jealous she was of my “testimoney”. She wanted to be able to tell people that her conversion was more drammatic. For me it was irratating becuase I just wanted to enjoy life. Of course today when you are in a faith system that lacks substance you have to make up for that in some way. Many evangelcials do this through drama. The more drammatic the testimoney, the more tears wept during a story, the more of a prize you are. Its basically idolatary, and nothing more.

        • I went to all the Crusade events in college, christian athlete stuff in HS, and evangelical youth groups etc. and I always HATED testimonials. The part of me kept saying what’s the point of this? I’m not learning anything, and I know these people, they haven’t changed at all after their “conversions.”

          People need to see something here on earth to put their faith in. For evangelicals its “conversion.” Pentacostals its tongues. Catholics, its the ancient corporate entity headed by the Pope. Some reformed look to earthly success as a sign of God’s blessing.

          I’m happy to look to my baptism, the body and blood on the altar, and the Word I hear preached.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          But I think more of it has to do with pride than love. Because then you can walk around and put that feather in your cap and say “look what I did!!!”.

          Christianese One-Upmanship: “Can You Top This?”

          I remember the testimonies in Crusade and I felt like I was being used at times. Once, me and another Crusade leader went to see a Christian concert in northern Illinois. We drove down from Milwaukee and saw Greg Long. On the way back the other Crusade leader started to tell me how jealous she was of my “testimoney”. She wanted to be able to tell people that her conversion was more dramatic.

          Again, “Can You Top This?” Because Souls (TM) and Juicy Testimonies (TM) are the measure of wealth and who’s on top in that community. Outside it’s $$$$$, inside it’s souls saved. With little or no difference in the behavior used to get more for yourself.

    • I can relate to Eagle.

      When I left my fundamentalist background (in 1988) there was a point if someone would have asked me ‘tell me one good thing about them’ I would have been unable to see anything.

      I had bought into much of what Eagle writes of. Young Earth Creationism, the pre-trib rapture, the deep distrust of anything that did not fit my ‘lifeboat mentality’. I had inbred into me this marvelous mechanism that if anything threatened my religious views the system would shut down in response. Its as if the computer had an operating system that responded to abnormal input by shutting the machine off.

      I went to university and started studies in science. Unlike many of the people in my church setting, I had this stubborn belief that all truth is God’s truth. In that lay a glimmer of hope. I studied geology and was a good student. I came with all my arguments that I had spent years studying before University. The best creation science guys of the era (1980s). One by one the arguments I had dissolved. And my professor was not an anticreationist and had no agenda. The sheer weight of the evidence was simply overwhelming. There were two of us in the class who were young fundamentalists. We probably were academically 1st and 2nd place out of a class of over 100 people (no bragging here, just saying we were serious students). And we discovered we had been sold a bill of goods. We saw that the creation science guys just practiced poor science.

      That set off an earthquake that brought me to agnosticism. I metaphorically emptied the appartment and threw the furniture out on the front lawn. I wrote an essay about my experience at university in an attempt to process it all. If there had of been a chapter of fundamentalists anonymous in our city I would have joined.
      As the years went on as I walked into the appartment once in a while I would see a piece of furniture on the lawn and bring it back in. Only this time I put it where it should have been. Some of it went off to the dump, some of it I burned. I had to rediscover God.
      Part of that process was recognizing that I had no need to be mad at God because I had built an image of Him that was highly flawed. After about 8 years I started going to a church when I came to Canada. I sat in the back so I could escape easily. And there I met God. There were times I simply sat and cried, as in my heart there was this struggle going on, the deep wounds that had festered were lanced and started to be cleaned up. I had been mighty pi**ed off about the bill of goods and all the crap.
      It took me a further 10 years to recognize that the little corner of Christianity where I lived was simply not the best place for me. I needed somewhere that I did not need to put away the mind, but at the same time could embrace the heart. I had learned that cold, scholastic theology was the flip side of emotional revivalism.
      I needed to embrace the mind, but descend into the heart.
      I have found some of that in an Anglican expression. Others, like CM have found it amongst the Lutherans. In the end, the tent is big enough for all of us.
      There is a corner for you Eagle. Don’t give up.

    • FWIW, points 6 & 8 are contradictory. Piper would at least make that distinction: Truly reformed theologians would never say people are going to hell because YOU don’t tell them.

      The more I hear of your story, the worse it gets! Honestly, I’m more with CM on this one. I can look back and see much good despite the circus and beauty pageant that it was. Honestly, if I went through what you did, I’m not really confident that I would be a believer either. I suppose it really is true that in too many cases, evangelicalism does do more harm than good. In retrospect, I can say that my experience weighed in with more good than bad, and for that, I could be a bit more thankful.

      But just keep considering: Jesus is the baby, and evangelicalism is the bathwater. You really can have one without the other.

      • Miguel-

        Life is hard and people are difficult. I’ve seen stuff in the business world that was a shocker. Give me time and I’ll probably see additional stuff that will equally be as difficult.

        People are difficult, that’s just how life is. In regards to evangelicalism as a movement it did contain some surprises for me. I was a believer in evolution and didn’t realize how much of an issue creation was until someone made it an issue. I was happy and fine with how things were but it raised its ugly head while I was wrestling with the problem of evil. Same holds true for pre-trib rapture. I never thought that would become an issue until it was stressed in the mega church that I went to that you must believe in the pre-trib rapture to be an orthodox Christian. Some of these issues can become wedges and crate discord and strife.

        The biggest issue for me is to figure out what to do and where to go. It’s a rocky process. Likewise I still am living with the repercussions of the issue of “God’s will” and I am trying to deal with that now. But this did wise me up. I guess as much as I was burned it could be worse. I knew someone who that it was God’s will to be a missionary in Africa. Off this person went and then she went through a crisis with this stuff in a country just outside Rwanda. Her emails and communication was dark, before she quit and came back to the United States. I guess in my case my crisis happened in the Washington, D.C. area, which is better than the middle of Africa.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I knew someone who that it was God’s will to be a missionary in Africa. Off this person went and then she went through a crisis with this stuff in a country just outside Rwanda. Her emails and communication was dark, before she quit and came back to the United States.

          Something similar happened to JMJ/Christian Monist as a Navigators Missionary in Egypt, and it took him years to work through it and get back to his Post-Evangelical Wilderness.

          This would really be bad because “Darkest Africa (TM)” has long been THE prestige posting for a lot of church’s missionaries, and would ramp everythig up a couple levels in Importance.

    • Eagle,

      I can identify with a lot of what you and Ken are saying. I, too, bought into a lot of the things you regret and I regret them myself. When I became a Christian, there weren’t the Left Behind books, but there was Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth. Believe me, my life was in hold for the longest time because of it, I thought the ‘rapture’ was coming and I dared not have a life until then. Then when his prediction didn’t come true, it caused a crisis in my faith. (For those unfamiliar with his prophecy in that book, through a convoluted process, the end was to happen by May 1988, which was 40 years after Israel became a state. Subtract 7 years from that for the ‘tribulation’ and you come to 1981,) The book is still in print with the false prophecy in black and white. *sigh* But that crisis caused me to throw out a lot of furniture from my house, using Ken’s analogy, and rebuild my faith from bottom up.

      I still have had to toss a lot out, like young earth creationism, and a whole lot more. A lot of people I once trusted failed me like they did you, and in the end, I ended up with nobody but Jesus, and that was enough. I am reformed, with the caveat that there are many mysteries of the faith that I cannot comprehend, but I have found some people I am safe with, with which I can say “I don’t know,” and not fear being burnt at the evangelical stake. And yes, I cringe whenever John Piper (or Pat Robertson) shoots off their mouth, and I can see God rolling His eyes and saying “there they go again!” a la Ronald Reagan.

      I, too, have departed from the culture wars and the way people identify Christianity with the Republican Party platform.

      But I’m glad you have found some safe friends who you can discuss your faith and doubts without them coming down on you like a ton of bricks. I hope you do find a way forward.

      It really warmed my heart when you mentioned point 7. I, too have decried the fundagelical disdain for the arts, unless it is for propaganda purposes or is by Thomas Kinkade. I can say you are closer to the Kingdom than many who profess faith. It is something I respect people like Francis Schaeffer for, (despite the things he said at the end of his life, where he was influenced by his son.) He would agree with everything you said, especially in Point 7. It is true like you said that the evangelical mind is a mile wide and an inch thick. I still have problems with those who disdain science, the arts, and anything else that doesn’t toe the party line.

      You are not alone, Eagle. As Ken says, there is a corner for you. Don’t give up.

      Oh, a question. Did you ever think of returning to the Catholic Church? If you do, please avoid going on that show “The Journey Home.” I think you’ve had enough of being a “Christian Celebrity,” and I have had enough with those as well.

      • The Journey Home is kind of a flip-side to the celebrity convert thing in evangelicalism. Too often its simply people who were often part of another Christian group becoming Catholic. If it were more about testimonies about people who converted from rank atheism/agnosticism (like Bernard Nathanson, NARAL founder) that would be one thing. But too often its just people swapping one Christian communion for another, and acting like its some sort of major paradigm shift.

        • I see your point….but it IS a major shift for many from other traditions.

          I am about to base a statement completely and ONLY on my life expereince…..The Catholic Church is almost “too much” a jump for many who are agnostic or atheist. I have often seen (and we are talking what I have seen, not data) people move from non-faith to the “unmoved Mover” school of thought, then to Unity or similar semi-Christian groups, to a Protestant manistream faith…..and much later, to RC or Orthodox. It is a journey FAR more often than being thrown off one’s horse on the way to Damascus.

          And as you may know, the “Come Home for Christmas” adverts are geared to Catholics who are not NOW practicing Catholics, although they were Baptized and Confirmed. The Church has this funny idea that once a Catholic, always……..

          • I see what you are saying, but in most of the RC convert testimonies I hear of, its almost always someone converting from active evangelicalism or a mainline Protestant denomination. With rare exceptions do they have a convert from atheism/agnosticism/nominal religious belief. Its almost as though a foundation in Christian teaching has to be there before they can begin to relate to a potential convert.

            And yes, I know there are exceptions, like Merton. There is also the testimony of Donald Calloway, a priest who converted directly to Catholicism from a wild lifestyle of drinking, drugs, parties, etc. (My grandmother gave me the DVD of his testimony). But again, in the modern “Journey Home” Catholic convert culture, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Whenever I’ve seen The Journey Home, its almost always someone who converted (or “reverted”) from Episcopal, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, non-denominational, etc. backgrounds.

    • Hey Eagle, I have to say that I agree with each of our points, as well as with CM’s points. Evangelicalism took me from a state of having no religious beliefs to into an active and intense personal commitment to Christianity. It contains some good people and values the “passion” to commit, put the pedal to the metal, and live in view of the Christian mission. I have been shaped in some positive ways by it, even if I am no longer one of its foot soldiers (or at least, not in quite the way I once was).

      I also identify with your points. They are among the reasons that I couldn’t stay. As you said, the thinking and art in evangelicalism can be paper-thin. The movement is obsessed with boundaries and purity and suspicious of all kinds of imagined enemies. Due to people enclosing themselves in the subculture, insane beliefs about other people persist and are repeated without any ‘outsiders’ present to force truth-telling. The fear of the secular world, of the life of the mind, of ‘liberalism’ (undefined) were palpable. Even though I never quite believed it, I felt an outsider when confronted with doubt or uncertainty–anything that made it hard for me to run through all the recommended talking points with confidence. I wasn’t sure what to do when worship failed to drum up the expected feelings, when my feelings become more complicated. In all, it felt as though many fellow evangelicals were either insulated or working very hard to avoid saying or seeing, straight on, the way things actually were. There always had to be a (bad) explanation for everything. I got so tired of pretending the explanations were good, and I got so tired of people jumping behind X idea/author/book/organization because it was “Christian” and discounting Y because it wasn’t. The worst implication of this kind of thinking became evident whenever the insider/outsider defensive-line thinking stopped people from seeing or identifying with other people whose beliefs and biographies didn’t exactly match their own. After a while, my stomach started dropping out when I heard speeches that ran — as one acquaintance shared — “I want to go into my field because there are so many lost people in it, and there is nothing good in their lives, and it makes me so sad, so I want to shine for Jesus.’ Or ‘Now that we are graduating, we know everything we need to know and our goal is to hold firm.’ I realized with a deep dread that if faith meant believing I had everything figured out, or walking into a group of people and seeing only darkness in their lives, their feelings, and their life stories, or the death of curiosity and wonder, then I didn’t have it anymore and I didn’t want it either.

      But, here’s the twist. One reason that this all disturbed me so much was because evangelicalism itself taught that the pursuit of truth was important, and that all truth and God’s Truth were the same thing. Evangelicalism circa the 1990s, as understood and practiced by Danielle, collapsed under its own logic. And so, because of faith, I lost faith, and had to rediscover it. Ultimately I received a lot of gifts too, along with the bad. And I know I am not alone. I know that others are troubled by the things that troubled me, that are discussed on this blog, and that you have brought up. You are not alone in these feelings.

    • Eagle, # 7 & #8 especially bother me. I was involved with an evangelical group all through college, and looking back, I realize how much I missed because of it. I was on a mission to convert people, instead of reveling in all the people I could meet from outside my normal life. No, I couldn’t get to know them except to convert them because that was why we were put on this earth.
      I was afraid to step outside the box, as well. Don’t read that, don’t watch that! It wasn’t as bad in the mid-seventies before the culture wars began, but bad enough.
      Now, I am back to my Lutheran roots, but really, it isn’t much better. The focus is so much on the afterlife and how we can keep people from frying and how we can get more people in church and how those godless Muslims are trying to take over the country.
      The older I get, the less use I have for any of it.

  5. I’m thankful for the Evangelicals.

    Their ladder-climbing spirituality project type theology helped to put the gospel in stark relief for me.

    So that when I heard it (really heard it)…when I heard the sweet, liberating voice of the pure gospel…it broke every chain that the voice of accusation tried to lay on me.

    • Steve, do you still consider them part of the family?

      • I give all who claim Christ Jesus as Lord the benefit of the doubt.

        I say that Evangelicals are Christians, even if they quite often do not sound like Christians. I say the same about many Lutherans, and other Christian denominations.

        But we every right as Christians to critique those who preach another gospel (Christ +).

  6. One more Mike says

    I owe a great debt to people who shaped me early in my life who were caring, studious people who let me ask questions and run astray when I needed to. Evangelicalism left me, I didn’t leave evangelicalism. I didn’t start the culture war, I didn’t try to shrink God down into a box where I could “get my head around him”, in a vain anti-intellectual exercise, buying into YEC and learning only enough “scripture” to fire back at people like A.G. above. I saw very early on that the church growth and purpose driven models are heresy. Unfortunately they are infecting “mainlines” also, but they started and were nutured in evangelicalism. I owe a great deal to many evangelicals but not to evangelicalism. Evangelicalism “the movement” turned its back on me, and I’m not going to chase after it. Ce la vie.

  7. So, comparing Chaplain Mike’s with Eagle’s experiences/lives with Evangelicalism (whatever “Evangelicalism” might be – according to D. G. Hart (Deconstructing Evangelicalism), it may be a meaningless/useless term):

    Is Evangelicalism a Jekyll & Hyde character?

    Did Chaplain Mike marry a good spouse, and Eagle marry a bad one?

    Even though both refer to their relationships/experiences with “Evangelicalism,” is it proper to consider the two as being the same creature? If so, in what ways? In what ways – and WHY – are they different?

    Are the flaws and evils Eagle experienced systemic to Evangelicalism, or only to certain kinds of Evangelicalism? To what extent may the Bible, and not Evangelicalism per se, be the problem?

    Of course, one could lay the praise or blame at Chaplain Mike’s or Eagle’s feet. But I don’t think that gets us anywhere. And as one who personally and family-wise has been the victim of authoritarian and cultish Christianity, I know that individuals can often have the best of intentions and still get their lives and minds screwed by the church system.

    Can the same system/beliefs/doctrines make some people use them rightly and others use them wrongly?

    • EricW, see my comments to Eagle above. I did not think it would be fair, honest, or gracious of me to wholly dismiss evangelicalism, even though I have moved in a different direction. I’m sure you’ll agree that we have been quite pointedly critical. Today it was simply time to point out a few good things. Much of what Eagle expresses, I think, grows out of deep personal pain and not just disagreement. That part of it was not characteristic of my experience, so perhaps I’m able to speak a bit more objectively.

    • Hi Eric,

      When a person surrenders their life to Christ and consciously makes the decision that He is their Lord and Savior, and makes a commitment to to follow Him, that does not destroy their human broken sinful nature. Add onto that foundation any additional brokenness/wounds from life itself, through the sins of others, and that person has an additional flawed filter through which to hear the Christian Message. Based on this I do believe there can be 2 individuals having listened to the same message that brought them to Christ, and receive the same instruction and yet end up with 2 very different understandings of what they embraced.

      In my journey within both Protestant and RC circles I have experienced and witnessed 2 extremes and a middle ground. Meaning : there are some of the most loving Christ-like individuals in all Christian circles and there are also some of the most cruelest and most arrogant of individuals who yet profess to be living totally for God. God alone knows what truly lies under the surface of both sets of behaviors. He alone knows what each individual struggles with that may be influencing what they do and don’t do.

      God’s Grace is there working through it all – unlike God, our knowledge of others is so limited which can make it so difficult to understand things that happen. Some times it’s difficult to even understand ourselves. Healing from the painful wounds inflicted by christians, especially when done in the name of God, can be, and is often a long and painful process. Even after coming to a place of forgiveness for the injury received there can be left scars that can seem to endure a lifetime. Both mercy and love for others is what I have often been left with and what I pray the Spirit of God will work through me. In the end it’s what I have come to believe is what truly matters. So much of life doesn’t make sense. I have to remind myself I will never figure some things out. Sometimes in the end all we have is knowing for certain that “God Is” and He Knows.

      • Daisey:

        Since this post is about Evangelicalism – i.e., a Christian system, theology, way of life, etc. – I was not so much (or not intending so much) focusing on whether the church can have good and bad individuals, or whether different persons’ responses to the same message can be different, as I was asking

        1) whether the problem is with the system itself, or even if

        2) Chaplain Mike and Eagle were actually both in the same system, despite the fact that both their experiences used or went by or could be described with the same name (“Evangelicalism”)

        As I note above, I’m not sure that Chaplain Mike has left “Evangelicalism,” even though he is in a more traditional and liturgical church. He, of course, may disagree, and it is probably a matter of definitions and semantics.

        • Yes Eric, I would say I am evangelical in theological terms, but I am now outside evangelical church culture.

        • In a way I was responding both to you and to Eagle to whom you responded. Eagle shared personal negative experiences. You stated, “Is Evangelicalism a Jekyll & Hyde character?” This is what I was commenting on.

          I’ve been familiar with different evangelical churches even a member of one and experienced different “systems” approaches, structures each having their good and not so good points. My belief is what I wrote above that regardless of the “system” each individual person actively involved in a church plays a part on how a particular “system/approach” is portrayed/embraced by that individual church and therefore how it is experienced and embraced by other individuals.

          I was member of an evangelical church and was actively involved with the childrens education program. What I experienced was that some other individual churches within the same denomination gave quite a different presentation and focus on what the Christian life/church focus needs to be even though the core belief system was suppose to be the same. What was different was the pastor and the individual core members of the church.

          I was not referring to “good or bad” people but that each individual person brings everything about who they are to the table and this greatly effects how any church “system” will be lived out. Again I’m speaking from my personal experiences, many of which relate to some of what eagle experienced and very well portrayed to me at times a Jekyll & Hyde reality.

  8. I think it’s a matter of focus and emphasis.

    When a church’s emphasis is on ‘YOU’, trouble will follow.

    When a church emhasizes a loving and forgiving Christ, then things will be where they ought be.

    • Steve and CM

      Hi, I agree with “when the church’s emphasis is on “YOU”, trouble will follow”……

      I find myself in the post evangelical wilderness. There are a lot of things I see you both posting that I really like and agree with (especially Christ alone) but I wonder about SO much emphasis on Martin Luther. It almost seems like Lutherans worship him instead of Jesus.

      I want to go and explore the Lutheran church (i have never been) but this one thing keeps me hanging back. I was brought up in the Mormon church and it feels a bit the same as Joseph Smith is really more important than Christ. They profess to believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins but all they want to talk about is Joseph Smith.

      Could you guys help me out here a little bit. Of all the comments and discussions I find myself seeming to regularly agree most often with the Lutheran point of view. I am having trouble with more talk of Luther than of Christ though.
      Thanks in advance and I am very sincere and respectful in my quesstioning (in case that is not coming across)\

      • The reformed do a bit better job when it comes to a plurality of theologians. One main reason is, all Luther’s contemporaries who embrace his theology turned out to be secondary players in the drama of History. Plus, Luther had that Augustinian knack for one liners, so he’s easy to quote. I’d say our problem isn’t necessarily our over-emphasis of Luther so much as it is our neglect of all our other outstanding theologians. And Melanchthon is too complicated of a name for people to refer to in passing. People might think you’re talking about microbiology or something.

  9. I appreciate this article. While I know many (including myself) have been at times burned by various aspects of Evangelicalism, we must resist the temptation to begin casting stones at all of Evangelicalism. In a strange sort of irony, we can end up becoming just as judgmental as we claim evangelicals are.

    (I thank you, my God, that I am not like those “know-nothing” evangelicals! I appreciate science. I am more nuanced in my theology. I care more about social justice, the poor, the disenfranchised, etc. I am not a simpleton who falls prey to the latest huckster. I…I…I..) Yet the simple evangelical who says “God be merciful to me a sinner” goes home justified.

    I tend to llook back now and realize that those who were worst in their behavior towards me were struggling with their own issues, and were acting out of that rather than love. And while that is deplorable, it is understandable, because I do it all too often myself.

  10. Evangelicalism is where I was introduced to Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton and many others. As others have stated in the past, evangelicalism isn’t painted with one brush; it isn’t monolithic. Would I have been introduced to Merton or Chesterton had I been born Catholic? Would I have heard of Gerhard Forde had I been born Lutheran? Begging the question, of course, but my point is that there would have been no guarantee. (I know very few Lutherans who have ever heard of Forde, and not one of his books are in my Lutheran church’s library).

    No matter which river you swim in attempt to escape evangelicalism, one needs to accept a whole new set of good-and-bad found on that new shore. Evangelicalism isn’t the only home for the cultural war and self-help psycho-babble.

    There are a few pearls of thought from Chesterton which may be helpful:
    1. What is wrong with the world (including evangelicalism)? I am. What contributions have I made to either help put up the circus big tent or prevents it from being taken down? If I hurt someone as an evangelical, that is my fault.

    2. Love for ones church is always love-hate. One cannot blindly love the good things without acknowledging the bad. To do so is madness.

    Whether one stays or leaves evangelicalism, the consumerism needs to end. Don’t go to another faith tradition in hopes of feeling at home and happy; expect problems and be ready to rise up to defend and help strengthen it.

    Finally, church is not a destination. There’s a strange irony in leaving evangelical churchianity in search of a church which will solve all my problems. If we learn anything while the post-traveling through the post-evangelical wilderness, we should realize that we are always on a journey. It is a journey which will end one day at the feet of Jesus. We may find glimpses or symbols of Jesus in a church, but the church door is not the destination.

    • Good points. The church isn’t the Gospel. Growing up entails taking responsiblity for ones actions. For children it’s always someone else’s fault. Keep your eyes on Jesus’

  11. You are right about music. Where else would I have found Mark Heard?

  12. Kenny Johnson says

    Do you really consider yourself outside of Evangelicalism? Despite your church home you seem to be otherwise deep within Evangelicalism… reading Evangelical blogs and books and regularly writing and commentimg on Evangelicalism here and elsewhere.

  13. A fitting and gracious post. Smacks of style and class.

  14. CM, Thanks for this post I am enjoying it so far (I will have to read the rest later.) You said… “Though I might have chosen a different route from the beginning had I known what I know now, the plain fact is that I did not know it then.”

    Someone asked me a couple of months ago if I had the chance to go back in time would I attend the particular fundamentalist college that I attended for two years as a young(er) man knowing what I know now.

    I was really trapped in a paradox with that one…I responded that If I would have not gone I would not know what I know now.

    I know God uses our mistakes as a magnifying glass for his ability to sovereign decree the end from the beginning! what a blessed thought.
    Thanks again for your post I look forward to the rest of it.

  15. I am thankful for my Evangelical past because part of it’s fundamental DNA is:

    Jesus is alive and works in our lives, as he did in the book of Acts. Our lives are a continuation of that.

    The idea of being ‘sold out’ to God is not a foreign concept. My surrender to Him needs to be total.

    It’s not about me having to do good works and earn something.

    We have a view of scripture that says we need to wrestle with it to contextualize it to our lives. And just as Jacob was touched in his wrestle with God, it touches us in deep places and changes us.

  16. My Lutheran upbringing was about the vertical dimension of the faith — between oneself and God. My encounters with evangelicalism shed welcome light on the lateral dimension — between oneself and all others.

    Lutheranism, by way of emphasis, taught me pessimism about human nature and the mystery of God’s grace. Evangelicalism taught me that God, working through His own, transforms people, and this can be expected.

  17. CM, I am relatively new here. I discovered the original iMonk’s famous “Coming Evangelical Collapse” on another site, discovered this one, read many of his essays, and I just keep coming back.

    Thank you for this post. I am very pleased with what you have said. I have been reading the current postings for a only a short time, and while I agree with so much, I felt like you were cutting off evangelicals altogether, and were even discounting many things Michael Spencer had written.

    I was wrong. This post proves it. I hope that you find a full and wonderful walk with Jesus and His followers in the Lutheran body. Please pray for us who have remained behind in the “evangelical wilderness”.

  18. Glad to read your post. While there are many things wrong in the evangelical culture, there are also things that are right. Outside of the internet, I have not met many people that have a zeal for the Lord in mainline churches. Mainlines in my area are extremely liberal, for the most part.

    I am thankful for my time in evangelical churches. It gave me a good foundation, helping me to understand who God is and his enduring, unchanging and complete love for me and his entire creation. I do not hear this in the local ELCA, unfortunately. Admittedly, I have had to correct a few teachings from my past that went off the rails, but they were part of the evangelical “culture” more than the actual doctrine of the churches.

  19. Keeping with the metaphore of the extended family (especially this week). There are always a couple relatives you are thankful for during those family unions. Its kinda like Evangelicalism – if only the rest of the family wouldn’t come.

    May you each of a blessed Thanksgiving!

  20. I find it can often be a healing thing to think on the good. My first 4 years of marriage and ministry were hell, but in all honesty, looking back, we really did have some good times. The saddest thing of all is the broken relationships. No tradition is immune to that, but evangelicalism tends to dominate the fracture market, on the personal and institutional level. I suppose there is a freedom to be found in learning to embrace a church with all her flaws, rather than splitting hairs and parting ways. Idealism can quite often be Satan in disguise.

  21. Despite my earlier criticisms, I too have experienced much good from Evangelicalism, which I am grateful for, and have carried with me to this day. I learned to love, to love Jesus, love the Bible, and for that I am grateful. CM, you have given me much to relect on. You and Eagle both. Thank you all. 🙂

  22. In your post-evangelical wilderness, have you settled anywhere in the present?

  23. isnt the issue one’s relation to GOD thru His Son Jesus Christ? I never understood the continuing bashing of each other’s denomination….GOD loves all men..sent His Son to die for our sins and to prove His sacrifice was sufficient he raised him from the dead Acts 17:30-31…Be Blessed my friends..