January 21, 2021

Riffs: 04:26:09: Is My Evangelicalism Collapsing?

bapSeveral of you sent me links to a quote from National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson saying that yours truly was 1) somehow like Hugo Chavez (??) and 2) was in the midst of my own personal evangelical collapse. (“Autobiographical.” Unfortunate word choice.)

I decided not to respond, mostly because I know that keeping up the hype that there are 35 million actual evangelicals (as opposed to about 15 million evangelicals and a lot of wallpaper) must be time consuming.

But I will say this: the implication that my evangelicalism is collapsing is an unfortunate thing to say about anyone you don’t know. Maybe President Anderson needs to contact me and let me know where this autobiographical collapse is occurring. What “current events” took control of my mind and led me into panic mode? Am I under surveillance by the NAE? Can they read my mind? Hand me some tin foil…quick!

You see, the fact is that I’m more evangelical and Protestant than ever, and I’m more optimistic about being evangelical than ever. Just because I think the balloon is deflating doesn’t mean I am not optimistic about the great things that are happening.

I agree with President Anderson in all the points he makes regarding the next ten years of evangelicalism world wide. I don’t think his spin, however, has much to do with what I wrote, but then there’s no evidence in his comments that he ever got near part III of my CSM piece, where I say exactly what he said. He can work it out with the ARIS study. My conscience is clear.

Why is my evangelicalism not collapsing?

For starters, despite the fact that the person I love most in the whole world becoming Roman Catholic, and despite the fact that no evangelicals I know can ever make anything like the following ad, I’m still evangelical and happy to be evangelical for the rest of my life.

If you can watch that ad and not be moved, you’re better than me. The fact that there’s no mention of purgatory, Marian dogma, infallibility, indulgences, other Christians, transubstantiation, annulments, relics or a dozen other relevant parts of the discussion doesn’t stop me from being impressed, and frankly, saddened that my team is mostly known these days for Joel Osteen, R-rated expositions of the Song of Solomon and gay bishops.

My evangelicalism was doing real well in church this morning as I watched 6 of our high school students be baptized. One from India, one from China, four from the United States. All of them under my preaching for a year or more. Half of them in my Bible classes 5 hours a week.

The Indian young man is the first Christian in a family of Hindus. He has no idea what his parents will say.

The Chinese girl goes back to the unknown.

I leave that baptism and grab a bite of lunch. I give a girl an ESV Study Bible (Thanks IM readers.) I go to my office where I interview a 14 year old African American, befriended by a Methodist woman who is willing to raise the small amount of money we ask for a summer school fee. The boy’s mother is there, but she hates him because his father was no good. She won’t let him near her or even come to the house. He has no father and has all thehistory and attitude, all the stereotypical problems of a million other African American teenage boys from the same background. He’s spent 5 months in a diversion program and now wants a fresh start.

I’m sitting here, with the power to give him a chance at an education, paid for by evangelicals, because of the kindness of evangelicals, because of the Gospel. Because of the Gospel. The question isn’t is this ministry collapsing. The question is why aren’t there 10,000 ministries like this one? And will evangelicals keep this one going through the hard times. (We’ll graduate 50 in 3 weeks, and a few years ago, several of the graduates were that young man.)

This is what I’ve done with my life for 17 years. I lead a ministry. I evangelize. I answer questions. I teach the Gospel. I preach. I invite students to Christ.

I don’t want to do anything else, and I want the students I reach to reach their worlds.

I’m mentoring preachers. I’m blogging and podcasting. I’m going to write a book about Jesus, one way or another. I’m going to encourage my audience to start churches, change churches, challenge churches. I’m going to go to Cornerstone ’09 and see what evangelicalism’s counter culture looks like. I’m going to Advance ’09 and celebrate the fact that we’re in the midst of a reformation theology resurgence we never could have anticipated. Flawed as it is, it’s wondrous and everyone who isn’t a reformation Christian can be jealous.

I’m going to work with all my might to be an evangelical on a mission to bring evangelicalism out of the wilderness and into the Kingdom God has promised.

So, contrary to reports in Newsweek, I am not projecting a collapse out into the world that’s actually happening within me. I’m doing just fine, President Anderson. Thanks for your concern. I rejoice in the good that’s happening and plan to keep doing good till my health breaks or God calls me home.

I want my son and new daughter-in-law, my daughter, my son-in-law and every student I’ve ever had to be an evangelical, sola scriptura believing, missional, evangelistic, passionately Gospel-centered believer. That’s how I’m living my life. I’m going to keep giving to Gospel for Asia, Ravi, the SBC IMB and World Vision. I’m going to keep working at that Baptist school I never mention until they fire me or bury me.

What are you doing with your life, reader?

Blogging? Twittering? Sleeping? Complaining? Doing nothing and calling it something?

Or are you living an “evangelical” life? Are you part of the collapse, or part of the hopeful future?

Why not ask yourself if anyplace, anywhere is different because you are on the planet….living as an evangelical. Are you applauding the coming collapse, or working to strengthen one of our many tents that can survive and grow?


  1. God has a plan and it is a successful plan – to bring people from every nation, people, and language, to Himself. We are seeing this happen right before our eyes. I believe God’s plan is working and will continue to work. I don’t think the plan to Republicanize America and to win a “culture war” is going to go very far – and it is not really all that closely related to the gospel message – which is that God loves everyone and not just a righteous few.

  2. “The Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648. It is now 2009.”

    You do realize it did not resolve the reasons for the Reformation. Sometimes I wonder how many people believe Protestants are still protesting.

    Maybe I’m just a cretin since I don’t think we’ve advanced beyond the historic division and resolved all the silly doctrinal matters which the Reformers stood firmly against.

    I do think Michael writes some great things, and it’s nice that Protestants and Catholics can dialogue here, but your pithy self-amusing comments don’t change the facts. The link below tells me what Rome thinks, and although Catholics may shun the notion, that just tells me they are not true Catholics since you do not have the option to oppose such teachings.


  3. Ron,
    I think there is an unspoken agreement here on iMonk that certain intractable issues will never be solved on this blog and by the posters represented here, so we refrain from seriously dwelling on them, which might explain the “pithiness” of certain responses…

    This site is kinda like the de-militarized zone where we put away our weapons, meet in the middle, pick berries and have a picnic together. I think we understand that the trenches await us when we leave but we enjoy our pax while we can.

  4. “so we refrain from seriously dwelling on them”

    I too, yearn for a day when we have unity in spirit. But that is not today, and we of necessity need to be serious about doctrinal differences. It is a disservice to Protestants and Catholics when we minimize them.

    There are times to pick berries and hum a happy song, and I for one enjoy that. But, that cannot be the theme for a serious look at our faith, and I suspect Michael would consider this blog a serious look at the Christian faith.

    There is almost a snideness in this supposed harmonious world represented by the commenters on this blog. Sort of a “we are above the bickering” (unless it is potshots at Leith Anderson). Well, the bickering is oftentimes for valid reasons (e.g I’ll bicker with anyone who praises Joel Osteen and yes, even some individuals like Dobson).

    I understand that Michael has complaints against what is largely perceived as Evangelicalism in this country, and I agree with many of the observations, but for that to turn into a wistful sense of what Catholicism is renders his opinions suspicious. He is forecasting this tearing down and re-building of Evangelicalism into a more biblical and gospel centered model. That’s fine, but I don’t understand the apologetic sense towards Rome.

    Maybe I’m missing something. If I am please help me understand what the point of this blog is.

  5. Curtis,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree that we have found a safe place here to meet other Christians, and to share what we have. (and drool over what we don’t have.)

    Ron, I don’t understand what you mean about Michael’s “apologetic sense towards Rome?” Can you please explain what you mean by that.

    All of us Catholics recognize that Michael isn’t going to and shouldn’t cross the Tiber. His ministy (and may it flourish to the end of time) is evangelical. His theology is evangelical.

  6. Ron,

    Michael’s policy, at least as I understand it, is that he does not want people on here trying to convert Christians from one denomination to the other. And while there are important doctrinal differences, I think he presumes Catholics to be Christian. Better that we all direct our evangelism efforts to the unbelievers.

    So if your desire is to help Catholics see the error of their ways and join the Reformation, this is probably not the best place to do it.

  7. “Ron, I don’t understand what you mean about Michael’s “apologetic sense towards Rome?” Can you please explain what you mean by that.”

    Anna, thank you for asking. When I read Michael’s critiques of Evangelicalism, the tone is almost we have more problems than Rome. Sure enough we have a lot of housecleaning to do, but I’m bothered by what seems to be an admiration for things that ignore the cause of separation.

    As for Catholics posting here, what is your goal? To bring us home or as Benedict says, point out that us Protestants are in peril? Do you enjoy reading an Evangelical rail against his home team? Or is it the American brand which some of my Catholic friends represent (Oh that Benedict, we don’t pay attention to everything he says). Let’s find things to agree on and push the stink under the carpet. As a former Catholic I find that absurd. Is the Pope the Vicar of Christ or isn’t he?

    The fact that I’m not sensing any real challenge to what is wrong with Catholicism makes me wonder. I must be a better man than Michael since the ad he is enamored with held no sway over me. Show me a clip about Hudson Taylor and then I’ll get emotional.

  8. Anderson is discomfited when someone points out that his base of power is diminishing. And so he lashes out.

  9. dave jaspersen says

    Amen !

  10. Ron:

    You’ve totally lost me. You sound like one of those people who can’t be happy till I stop lamenting and start a team cheer.

    I love Hudson Taylor and I’m sure would weep over a properly made film.

    Who has more problems than whom? On the Gospel, they do. On lots of other stuff, they do. On a bunch of stuff that we ought to know better about, we do.

    What does it matter if I lament the Reformation? The point of the whole piece is how I’m living my life as an evangelical. Where have I told someone to become a Catholic on here? Maybe the Catholics could point that out.

    I loathe personal comments that analyze the writer and poster. What you’re doing here making this about me is the one reason I close comments.

    But this time I’ll just return fire: You appear to be someone who wants “Reformation good, Catholics Bad” on a requisite number of posts. If I don’t say it, then’ll you insinuate it for me. At the end of the day, you’d be far happier if I said the pope was the anti Christ and Rome the whore of Revelation than if I say those are my brothers and I lament our divisions.

    Now, since I don’t know you at all, just the stuff you write, get angry at that and say I’ve shorted you. Then you’ll know how I feel when you run your mouth about me.


  11. First of all I’m not angry wiith you, and I had no intent to insult you. I was conveying what I sensed as I’ve read your recent posts. Also, it’s your blog and your posts. By nature people will analyze. If I were you I’d stop posting completely if you want no personal analysis.

    “Who has more problems than whom? On the Gospel, they do. On lots of other stuff, they do. On a bunch of stuff that we ought to know better about, we do.”

    A general statement that I agree with. Of course item one in your list is what it all hinges on, and the fact that they have the Gospel wrong warrants a strong statement. Please understand, I know there are many problems with Evangelicalism. I do not bury my head in the sand over these matters. I have voiced concern within my church about certain things you’ve pointed out.

    It’s my Catholic background that makes me so passionate about maintaining clarity as Catholics as Evangelicals interact. I fear for the Catholic and Evangelical who want to just get along. I’m not talking about being civil, which we should be, but the notion that we can have these disagreements and in the end everything is all right is unsettling. Your blog seems to be a place where Catholics can feel comfortable being Catholic. It’s the Catholic comments I’ve read that have a tone of “Imonk, he’s an Evangelical, and sure he disagrees with us, but that really doesn’t matter” and I just don’t think that’s helpful. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it’s what I sense.

    Mostly this comes down to whether Catholic or Protestant, we have too many people who do not know what they believe, and that happens in both camps. Maybe that’s what you’re trying to get at and I can appreciate that.

  12. Ron,

    That’s one thing that I like about this place. I know what Michael believes, and I know that he’s not going to change it. I appreciate the reading material that he has suggested, also.

    Besides, we have the same opinion of “cafeteria Catholics.” GRIN

    Besides, we do agree on some stuff, like the Nicene Creed, the importance of evangelism, the need for safe places

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