Continuing on a discussion started a couple days ago, InternetMonk has released a three series blog post about the impending collapse of evangelicalism in the US….I interacted with part on in the last post, and will do the same for two and three. My thoughts are within the context of the Canadian evangelical scene; without further ado, my interactions with part two of Monk’s posts.
2. What will be left after the evangelical collapse?
b. An evangelicalized Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Two of the beneficiaries of the coming evangelical collapse will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been steadily entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more media and publishing efforts aimed at the “conversion” of evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox ways of being Christian.
My sense from a missional perspective? This trend may not occur. Evangelicals I suppose will opt for something deeper than their flaky consumer servings, I have personally observed young and old alike move to a more liturgical service. So on one hand evangelicals who just want to consume will move to higher traditions. On the other hand, it doesn’t fit a missional paradigm to go from one consumption model to another, higher church traditions do not currently have a better model to become engaged in missio Dei.
Ideally evangelicals sick of consumer church and going against the grain of culture will opt for something that appears more liberal; in the very least engages in a dialogue with the surrounding community without labeling them ‘pagans’. Monk said in part one that part of the evangelical demise is consistent clash between church and ‘immoral’ society. The higher church ground will incorporate a lot more rigidity (especially for elements of change).
This can be a good and bad thing, on one hand liturgy will never change, will continue using archaic language, but that’s what some people want….What we can be sure is that those outside of the Christendom realm will have even less reason to engage.
c. A small portion of evangelicalism will continue down the path of theological re-construction and recovery. Whether they be post-evangelicals working for a reinvigoration of evangelicalism along the lines of historic “Mere Christianity,” or theologically assertive young reformed pastors looking toward a second reformation, a small, but active and vocal portion of evangelicalism will work hard to rescue the evangelical movement from its demise by way of theological renewal.
This is an attractive, innovative and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches. But I do believe many evangelical churches and schools will benefit from this segment of evangelicalism, and I believe it will contribute far beyond its size to the cause of world missions.
This comment is troublesome because it speaks to the precise place where many missional heads want to or do exist. Perhaps the missional house-church isn’t threatened, but then again, the house church isn’t postured to receive many new converts. However, the larger missional gathering should pay attention. Even if you aren’t through and through missional, but fall more into the reformed category, i.e. Mars Hill Seattle, you should pay attention because in the case of Mars Hill, they are quite successful with their language model (of gospel via technology).
A corollary to Mars Hill’s success is the attempt for missional, and I suppose attractional, church to speak the language of their target. It’s understood if we can contextualize a gospel message to the Greeks in Greek, we’ll connect more people into the reality of God’s reign as expressed through Christ. To hear that the process of re-writing our evangelical ecclesiology won’t be good enough is a bit discouraging since at the time it sounded like the best solution…..(and may still be).
I suppose there are pros and cons to maintaining a missional posture despite the crumbling evangelical systems around us. Perhaps this won’t be a second reformation, but it may answer the questions to pave the way for wave two.
d. I believe the emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision. I expect to continue hearing emerging leaders, seeing emerging conferences and receiving emerging books. I don’t believe this movement, however, is going to have much influence at all within future evangelicalism. What we’ve seen this year with Tony Jones seems to me to be indicative of the direction of the emerging church.
Emerging and Emergent are two different things IMO, not sure about his semantics in this case. I would agree Emergent have had problems asserting themselves as a valid expression of orthodox Christianity. Having some ‘old school’ systematic theologians in the mix wouldn’t have hurt. But to see the movement as the answer to the evangelical, or even Christendom, problem is far fetched. However, I do believe we are indebted to the questions they have raised–the conversations. As many conservative heads hate to admit it, opening up our dusty paradigms to new ways of thinking are necessary to progressing the gospel message in our culture.
When Emergent disappears we can only hope they are replaced with something better (not sure if better is the best word to use in this case….)
e. Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear; they will exist only as a dying form of church…..The fundamentalist ghetto has been breaking down in my own lifetime, and I expect this will continue. The “Jerry Falwell-Jerry Vines” type of fundamentalist Baptist will become a museum piece by the middle of the century.
Jerry who? Canadians are only exposed to this nonsense through their specialty TV channels.
f. Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Within that community, the battle for the future of evangelicalism will be fought by those who must decide whether their tradition will sink into the quicksand of heresy, relativism and confusion, or whether Charismatic-Pentecostalism can experience a reformation and renewal around Biblical authority, responsible leadership and a re-emergence of orthodoxy..
I see signs of life on all those fronts, but the key issue of leadership and the preparation of leaders leaves me with little hope that Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity can put its house in order.
Interesting he would pose Pentecostalism as the only ‘sign of life’ for the future of evangelicalism….I do not sense their presence to be necessarily culturally accessible….but then again, that’s not the only component of maintaining ecclesial vitality.
i. I believe that the missionary sending agencies of evangelicalism will survive the coming collapse, but will be greatly weakened by significant decreases in the giving base. It is time for mission strategies among evangelicals to change, and it is long past time for westerners to use their resources to strengthen work within a nation and not to just send Americans to the mission fields.
If the sending agencies themselves collapse (I.e. denominational organizations) then so too will missionaries who depend almost exclusively on foreign money. The only thing going for missionaries is their appreciation for contextualizing the gospel message as a necessity to its proclamation. What they could benefit from are additional strategies on how to be leaders in their zones rather than voiceless. Some new paradigms and ideas for cross-cultural missions are sorrily needed…..
part three to come!