Chaos in the Church: The Waves of Evangelicalism
Pastor Richard Rogers
We are going to address some of the highlights of evangelicalism. This topic is worthy of an entire college or seminary year, if not a major for a degree! It is crucial to stay on top of the issues involved, as the philosophy has taken American Christianity by storm. It has provided the basis for so many contemporary philosophies; the mega-church movement, church marketing movement, the replacement of doctrinal centered theology with feeling oriented psychology, from the singing of contemplative hymns to celebrative contemporary choruses. And it has impacted fundamentalism! We are going to start with a very brief history of the evangelical purpose; then move into the purposes of the church and see how the evangelical philosophies have impacted the church. You also need to understand that the conclusions I have reached have been the result of research AND observation! Some of this information I have documented, some I have obtained through conversations and observation.
I. CHANGE: A MINISTRY FOR ALL
This gives you a brief background of the changes evangelicalism has brought. We are going to change direction now and move on to the ministry of the local church, and see how these factors impact ministry. Biblically, the church has three main responsibilities - worship, discipleship and evangelism. Of course, these have many sub-points which can be developed much further.
II. WORSHIP: A MINISTRY TO GOD
Explanation: We will address worship in the context of the local church service, and narrow it to a specific activity. When we speak of a "Worship Service," we need to reflect on what worship includes. Surely praying, reading the Scriptures, preaching and teaching of Scripture and the offering are all acts of worship. However, few activities render themselves as naturally to worship as music does.
True Worship in Music
The word, proskuneo, means to kneel before One in reverence. It shows how the worshipper esteems and values the One worshipped, illus in Rev. 4:8-11.
John 4:21-24 shows that worship is based from the spirit within and in truth! There may well be an emotional element in our singing (based on "spirit" that is within us which relates to God. Our singing should be joyful and out of adoration, which are emotional responses to Gods greatness. We are not advocating a lifeless, droning monotone as worship, Psalm 95:1-3). However, we must base worship on truth, which must be the foundational to our feelings. The two are comrades; what we know about God should create an attitude of worship within us. Through worship, we correspond with the spiritual aspect of our being with truth!
There are New Testament Principles for Music
Trendy Worship in Music
Contemplation (traditional, doctrine hymns) has been replaced by celebration (feeling centered choruses).
The focus is no longer on the Lord and doctrinal truth, but upon man and his feelings.
The accepted, traditional music which uplifted the spirit and mind towards God has been replaced by rock, country and rap beats which feed the flesh.
Pianos and organs have been replaced by electric guitars, bass guitars, drums and synthesizers.
In short, worship has become entertainment.
(Quote from The Young Evangelicals, p. 132.) At this early date, with this goal, we see some roots of the evangelical philosophy of music. Does it seem to hold true through the last 23 years?! In some churches, you cannot tell if the music is from Christians or the Rolling Stones! Yet this is how the evangelicals say they "worship God" - with music that is feeling centered, doctrinally empty, rock & roll driven, performance oriented noise, often accompanied by "worship leaders" - sounds like entertainment, not worship! Incidentally, this "feeling oriented" mentality fits in very well with the current evangelical trend of Christian psychology and self-esteem. Feelings are the most important area of our lives - right?
III. DISCIPLESHIP: A MINISTRY TO BELIEVERS
Explanation: Within the realm of ministry, the local church has varied responsibilities to each believer, involving a process well call discipleship. The church, through discipleship, has a ministry for believers, and is often defined in a statement of purpose. For example, the purposes of a church may include a group of believers gathered together for worship, fellowship, evangelism, instruction, ministry, discipline, organization and observing the ordinances. These responsibilities are fulfilled in various ways and with various philosophies. In this point, I want to address one particular area that effects the underlying foundation of all church ministry; the ministry of instruction. Instruction in Bible doctrine is the foundation of everything the church does and in everything it teaches. In the evangelical trend, doctrine is under a vicious attack.
The Status of Theology in Evangelicalism
Explanation: I will be quoting several sources in this section to give an accurate picture of what conservative Evangelical are saying! Some evangelical have a credible view of Theology. For example, Carl F. H. Henry and Kenneth Kantzer produced three "marks" of evangelical authenticity: "1) belief in the gospel as set forth in Scripture. 2) commitment to the basic doctrines of the Bible as set forth in the Apostles Creed and other historic confessions, and 3) an acknowledgment of the Bible as the authoritative and final source of all doctrines." However, there are requests to abandon the terms throughout evangelicalism. Theologically, this has resulted in:
Explanation: Traditionally, the true church held to a view known as sola Scriptura, meaning that Scripture alone was the Word of God that was inerrant, infallible, inspired and authoritative. If God said it, it was believed, trusted, preached and defended - the way that fundamental Baptists must strive to accomplish today! But attacks often come from within, which the Bible warns about e.g. 2 Peter 2. Martin Luther believed that the devil always attacked externally through unbelievers and scoffers and internally through false teachers! These false teachers "tear (the Bible) to pieces, scourge and crucify it, and subject it to all manner of torture until they stretch it sufficiently to apply to their heresy, meaning and whim." Another side to this needs to be mentioned. In saying this, please dont misunderstand what I mean. The knowledge of Biblical languages is very important, and we need to be developing our grasp of Greek and Hebrew. However, some have done this to such a degree that they have lost the meaning of the text due to their (over) exegesis! They talk smart and credible, but often miss the point of the passage, e.g. 1 Tim. 2:9f. A relative view of the Bible and thus Theology has replaced the absolute authority and objectivity of it. The results of this have been very devastating to the church!
The Shift of Ideology in Evangelicalism
These are a few meager examples which have effected evangelical. One can determine, however, the consummation of evangelical thought. A pastor cannot preach the Word of God and take any doctrinal stand because, in a mixed congregation, he cannot offend anybody. So he preaches shallow messages on the Christian life, self-esteem and how to deal with your problems. Since that will not create hunger for people to attend, entertainment must be used to draw and keep the people in. Thus celebrative music replaces contemplative hymns, drama presentations and musicals replace biblical preaching, and the church is marketed - mans way, not Gods way! However, through it, one builds a crowd, but not a church; one can collect much money, but not teach the importance of sacrificial giving as an act of worship; one can make a name for oneself, but not a Name for the Lord!
IV. EVANGELISM: A MINISTRY TO THE WORLD
Explanation: We know the importance of world evangelism, cf. Matt. 28:18ff; Acts 1:8. However, it is to be accomplished by prayer, truth, purity, and dependence on the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, this is not necessarily so! In summary, evangelical has misdefined what the Gospel is (not clear on its content), has misdirected the results of it (easy believism, after salvation, go back to false church...), has misguided the proclamation of it (ecumenicalism and compromise of Biblical truth) and has rendered it inoperative (by marketing techniques and psychological endeavors, not by the Lord and His Word!).
Conclusion: Fundamentalism has made mistakes, and may continue to do so; that does not mean the movement is wrong - if it is based on Scripture! We need to be careful not to allow our faith to be a mechanical, non-emotional relationship, but a vibrant, active and joyful faith - based on truth. For those who are trying to re-claim evangelicalism back to the truth, they have not yet realized they are fighting the same battle the fundamentalist did for years. They may even belong in the fundamentalist camp - even though they do not know it yet, and would likely not admit it!! History does repeat itself!
SOME SUGGESTED READING
Armstrong, John H., ed. The Coming Evangelical Crisis. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996
Written by conservative evangelicals describing the negative changes taking place within their own ranks. Contributing authors include R. Kent Hughes, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul
Pickering, Ernest. Biblical Separation. Schaumburg: Regular Baptist Press, 1979
A classic, fundamentalist work about "The Struggle for a Pure Church."
The Tragedy of Compromise. Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994
A fundamentalists view of "The Origin and impact of New Evangelicalism."
Quebedeaux, Richard. The Worldly Evangelicals. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978
The Young Evangelicals. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1974
Written by an evangelical defining and defending the evangelical goals and philosophy.
Wells, David. No Place for Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993
Written by a conservative evangelical describing the discount
of truth within evangelicalism