As I’ve looked back over previous posts, a nasty trend became obvious to me…I tend to rail against Evangelicals without writing many positive things. There are plenty of ‘grumpy Christians’ in cyberspace who write plenty of negative articles and blogs about the unfortunate state of Evangelicalism–and if we’re honest we’ll admit there are many, many problems in our circles–but I don’t want to be characterized as one of those naysayers who never has anything good to say, because the situation is far from hopeless.
With these thoughts in mind, I thought I’d take some time and discuss some of the things Evangelicals are doing right. This isn’t to say that all of these areas are done well or even done at all in every congregation, but in contrast to other Christian circles (even conservative, confessional ones), Evangelicals are doing lots of things right. Here are a few:
- Missions and evangelism
- Emphasis on prayer
- Importance of personal devotional time
- Stress on personal holiness
- Centrality of the cross and salvation by grace alone
1. Missions and evangelism–Let’s be honest, who else besides Evangelicals is really involved in these areas? Sure, most denominations have mission arms and evangelism programs, but nobody really takes the Great Commission very seriously outside of our circles…even the majority of conservative, confessional Christians who may have their theology right (in my opinion) do a pretty lousy job here. Whatever one may think about programs or methods, Evangelicals are engaged in presenting the core truths of the gospel to the world.
2. Emphasis on prayer–While the mid-week prayer meeting is a things of the past in many places and a TBN-inspired ‘name-it-and-claim-it’ midset has creeped into our minds, a deeply-rooted belief in the effectivity and necessity of prayer still exists in Evangelical circles. Though I generally abhor bumper sticker theology, the idea that ‘Prayer Changes Things,’ is still rightly held and put into practice by Evangelical believers.
3. Importance of personal devotional time–Even though many Evangelicals resist the idea of means of grace, personal ‘quiet time’ of meditation, prayer, and Bible reading is still important to many as a time of communion with God and personal worship. In my experience, there is a marked difference in the level of maturity, humility, and Christlikeness of those believers who regularly spend time with Christ in prayer, worship, and personal devotion. To underestimate its importance is a foolhardy mistake.
4. Stress on personal holiness–If you pay attention to some of the scandalous behaviors recently exhibited by some Evangelicals, you may tend to think that personal holiness is passe, but watching the lives of parishioners in past congregations where we’ve worshiped strongly makes the case that, by-and-large, the concept of living holy lives is still alive and well. Sometimes this takes the form of legalism and works righteousness, but if I had to choose this error over debauchery under the guise of ‘freedom in Christ,’ I’d rather be associated with the former as there is a better hope for growth and redemption out of that sort of immaturity.
5. Centrality of the cross and salvation by grace alone–There is really no comparison here between Evangelicals and other Christians here. In leftward-leaning circles ‘salvation’ has come to mean just about anything other than what Scripture describes it as…freedom from male-dominated societal norms, cessation of oppression by (insert group name here), correction of social injustice, etc. Unfortunately, while Evangelicals could learn a great deal about social ministry from the left, these concepts are not salvific ends in themselves.
Despite some of my previous writings, and no doubt some of my future ones, Evangelicalism is not a sinking ship that should be abandoned. We have problems aplenty, no doubt, but the Church has always had warts, and we may be confident that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her! (Mt 16.18)