Winsome Words 4/25/15

It is true that we are sinners;–but Christ has suffered for us. It is true that we deserve death;–but Christ has died for us. It is true that we are guilty debtors;–but Christ has paid our debts with His own blood. This is the real Gospel! This is the good news! On this let us lean while we live. To this let us cling when we die. Christ has been “lifted up” on the cross, and has thrown open the gates of heaven to all believers.   J. C. Ryle

3 Important Church Trends in the Next 10 Years, as Ed Stetzer Sees It

I am at that point in ministry (age 65) where just at the point when I think I have some idea of the rhythms of ministry and culture it is someone else’s turn! My basic response to future ministry challenges that will face Evangelicals is how complex the lay of the land is. In my younger years the options were fewer, the culture more friendly, and the Neo-Evangelical consensus of the Carl Henry, Harold Ockenga and Billy Graham variety was holding firm. The charismatic movement was making big inroads, the seeker sensitive movement was just beginning to gain some attention, and the role of women in the church was raising the temperature in all things ecclesiastical. Worship wars were in the infant stage, with Calvary Chapel spearheading contemporary music. Reformed theology had not yet hit critical mass outside of historically Reformed communities as it has now in the Young, Restless and Reformed movement. Theological debates were significant, as they have always been, but the rancor and sharpness of controversies were confined to smaller networks. Obviously, the internet has changed the landscape.

There is no one model or path that seems to have captivated the larger Evangelical movement. Diversity is increasing and theological differences are deepening. There are no Ockgengas and Henrys dominating the Evangelical consensus. Up and coming Pastors are having to make more choices than those I faced.

Stetzer’s take on the next ten years is here. I am wondering what the theological trends will be among Evangelicals. There seems to be a softening of hard lines and more openness to rethinking and/or restating doctrines that we thought were once for all settled – theories of the atonement, the historical Adam and Eve, sexual morality, and eternal punishment to name a few. I do think the YRR has seen its peak and will ride that for awhile until Arminians figure out how to wage theological battle and find a spokesman who can be their version of the likes of John Piper.

Evangelicals Who Are Not Evangelicals

Evangelicals Who Are Not Evangelicals – This blog post by Thomas Kidd is worth reading. He identifies four groups that usually get the appellation of Evangelical by the press or in church parlance. The word is not as elastic as it is currently and wrongly used. Evangelicals never thought Rachel Held Evans was an Evangelical even before she announced she was leaving Evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church. Rob Bell is still being described as an Evangelical. A good number of the Young, Restless and Reformed are called Evangelical though in fact they do not so self-identify. The list goes on. Thomas Kidd’s recent biography of George Whitefield identifies him as the Father of Evangelicalism. I agree. It is a transdenominational ethos that brings orthodox believers together for cooperative purposes of revival and mission. The classic definition is given by David Bebbington.

George Barna has not helped in this matter. John Piper has pointed out that Barna has so dumbed down (my words) the definition of Evangelical that it is worthless as a category that has any definite meaning, much less Christian. Piper has expressed concern about the amount of damage Barna’s inaccuracies have caused traditional Evangelical churches who are painted darker by Barna than they should be. See Ben Witherington’s series of blog posts on Barna and compatriot Frank Viola. His criticism is part of the fabric of larger concerns about loose definitions and inaccurate information.