iMonk had a great post answering a question someone asked him, “What do you see as the ideal Evangelicalism?” Since there never will be an ideal Evangelicalism, he turned the question around and gave a list of ten ways that Evangelicalism could be better. I tried to pick-out my favorites to list, but I really couldn’t choose since I think they’re all fantastic points. He usually has a rousing discussion in the comments section of his posts, so I suggest you go check-out what transpires from this one. But I’d also like to hear any thoughts you might have about his critiques on the current state of the Evangelical world.
*(I must mention that his views come from a perspective that will sound rather foreign to some of you if you have never been in conversation with Christians who are not traditional conservative Evangelicals. So I strongly encourage everyone to familiarize yourself with his blog since it will only be to your benefit… it’s been a huge source of learning for me over the past year or so, and he’s one of the only people I know of where I tend to agree with almost every single thing he says.)
1) Evangelicalism would be much better if it would admit that the Reformation and all subsequent divisions divided the one true church of Christ. None of those divisions created a new church or recreated the one, true church. All of Christianity today is the broken parts of what should be whole and entire.
2) Evangelicalism would be much better if it learned to see its own destructive, polluting entanglement in culture instead of trying to justify that entanglement as evangelism. Evangelicals have to live in culture, and I believe we should influence it, discern it and build admirable contributions to it, but the most essential attitude we should have toward it is to avoid the destructive, parasitic entanglements with culture that have sucked the life, power and distinctiveness from evangelicalism, especially in North America.
3) Evangelicalism would be better if it would admit and address its authority issue. Evangelicalism consists, to a large extent, of groups and individuals waving Bibles and shouting verses at one another. Evangelicals use terms like “Biblical Christianity” as if they could actually produce such a thing if asked. The assumption that our views are “based on the Bible” has produced a cacophony of contradictory, divisive and endless claims, counter-claims and wars. The evolution of evangelicalism seems destined to be toward the opposite poles of abandoning the concept of authority completely to the individual (usually the charismatic pastor) or creating an authoritarian hothouse where complete submission is obligatory to avoid exile or worse. Evangelicals have an authority problem. They will quite possibly never solve it as evangelicals, but they can make the situation considerably better by directly addressing the problems created in Protestantism and evangelicalism by our various approaches to authority and implementing serious measures to bring some coherence to the situation.
4) Evangelicalism would be better if it rid itself of every form of the prosperity Gospel and pursued spiritual formation and an imitation of Jesus that was consistent with what Jesus and the New Testament teach about money.
5) Evangelicalism would be better if it learned to see, in the various divisions of Christianity, the remaining diversity that once adorned the united church: liturgy, missions, evangelism, spiritual formation, theology, Biblical study, the work of the Holy Spirit, the power of the sacraments. Even if these divisions cannot be overcome, the visible remains of the once glorious body of Christ can still be seen and experienced, even in our broken condition. Evangelicalism should determine, like Merton said, to bring together in itself as many different aspects of the holistic church of Jesus as possible. As someone recently said, we are in a time when the basis of Christianity is being eroded in masse, yet we are still debating the issues of the 16th century divisions and ignoring how irrelevant these are to the world at large. I affirm with my own denomination the need for a Great Commission Resurgence, and it must encompass all Christian traditions, but especially evangelicalism.
6) Evangelicalism would be better if thousands of churches die and many thousands more are born via healthy church planting relationships.
7) Evangelicalism would be better if it brought out all of its riches of corporate worship and put them on display, rather than throwing out what seems old, selling out what seems out of fashion and denouncing what isn’t popular. Evangelicals have in the more ancient, broader, deeper, wider Christian tradition all those aspects and elements of worship that can not only end the worship wars, but bring the focus of worship clearly onto Christ being exalted in all things. Evangelicals are starving by the millions for Christ focused worship and gospel dominated spirituality, but at this crucial hour, we are determined to be trendy, innovative and to get more cars in the parking lot. A sad betrayal of all we know for the wisdom of the world. We’ll be very sorry in 20 years.
8. Evangelicals would be much better off if, as a movement, they had a common set of confessional/creedal/catechetical documents.
9) Evangelicals would be be much better off it they were poor and had to proceed, in every way, without the assumption that they can easily generate millions of dollars to do whatever they want to do. We need to embrace poverty for the sake of Christ, and repent of our idolatry of all things big, successful, wealthy and powerful. In the midst of this, we should repent of and renounce our dreams of political influence.
10) Evangelicals would be much better off if the Charismatic movement were to become a manistream part of every church, renewing and being renewed; giving and being nurtured itself. Christianity is not the dead, dry, dusty movement most of us see. It is alive with power and emotion; with human and divine energy. We should desire the full manifestation of the Holy Spirit and the continual empowering, freeing, healing, humbling work of the Spirit. Charismatic Christianity needs a Biblical/theological rescue, but mainstream evangelicalism desperately needs the spiritual movement that is at the heart of healthy third-wave and charismatic movements.