Part three of my response series to a set of posts from Internetmonk about the impending doom facing North American evangelicals. I have written responses to all three of his posts here; my take is from a Canadian missional perspective.
Monk closes the series with a number of additional insights and opinions. He asks the question (assuming his assessment is correct):
3. Is all of this a bad thing?….
The coming evangelical collapse will be, in my view, exactly what Horton has been warning us about for two decades. In that sense, there is something fundamentally healthy about accepting that, if the disease cannot be cured, then the symptoms need to run their course and we need to get to the next chapter. Evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral.
But not all; not by any means. In other words, the question is not so much what will be lost, but what is the condition of what remains?
As I’ve said in the previous post in this series, what will be left will be 1) an evangelicalism greatly chastened in numbers, influence and resources, 2) a remaining majority of Charismatic-Pentecostal Christians faced with the opportunity to reform or become unrecognizable, 3) an invigorated minority of evangelicals committed to theology and church renewal, 4) a marginalized emerging and mainline community and 5) an evangelicalized segment of the other Christian communions.
I disagreed with point 3 in the previous response. In Canada the numbers of the Charismatic-Penetecostal movement are not as huge compared to the US. If evangelicals collapse there is nothing preventing charismatics from heading in the same direction. Albeit their numbers have grown over the years, attracting more converts than ‘recruits’, they are not postured or regarded as leaders of the Christian faith in culture.
Monk asks more questions.
Is it a good thing that the emerging church will fade into the irrelevance of the mainlines? If this leaves innovative, missionally minded, historically and confessionally orthodox churches to “emerge” in the place of the traditional church, yes. Yes, if it fundamentally changes the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate churches.
Assuming missional is the correct approach then I suppose, but I would have to agree wholeheartedly that losing 80% of non-contributors from the pews, and therefore the denomination along with it, can’t be a necessarily evil thing.
Will the coming evangelical collapse get evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about its loss of substance and power? I tend to believe that even with large declines in numbers and an evidence “earthquake” of evangelical loyalty, the purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in full form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church’s problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time. (I rejoice in those megachurches that fulfill their role as places of influence and resource for other ministries without insisting on imitation.)
I’d have to say no to the first section of this. Evangelicals will not give up power, they will not loosen their grasp. We won’t have a happy ending a la Footloose. Their exist leaders who note a change is necessary, but denominational leaders tend to be managers looking after resources (land and monies) rather than leaders willing to be risky. One road is risky and may fail at particular junctures, however, the other looks more like burying money in the ground for fear we may loose our horde.
But it is impossible to not be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.” Christianity has flourished when it should have been exterminated. It has conquered when it was counted as defeated. Evangelicalism’s heyday is not the entirety of God’s plan.
Something stronger will replace evangelicalism. Gone will be warehouse churches and consumer programs. In its place hopefully we find an overzealous Christian ramped up for the mission of God, willing to invest in the community and individuals for years upon years, all in the name of bringing God’s reign on earth to reality.
To read internetmonk‘s closing paragraphs check out his article…..and let’s prepare not for the worse but for what comes after–let’s be leaders rather than cranky customers.