October 19, 2017

iMonk Classic: The Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism (5)

Lent 2012: A Journey through the Wilderness
The Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism, conclusion
A classic Michael Spencer iMonk post from Nov. 2008

NOTE: On Sundays in Lent, we will run these classic essays from Michael Spencer on the evangelical wilderness.

I now come to the last post in this series on The Unresolved Tensions of Evangelicalism.

In this post I will write a response to each of the four topics of personal disillusionment: The Biblical worldview, Christian experience, Christian community and Christian commitment itself.

In my response, I hope to say something constructive to those evangelicals who have left or are contemplating leaving evangelicalism, as well to loyal evangelicals within the church.

The Biblical Worldview

Protestantism’s soul is its tenacity in grasping the essentials and refusing to compromise on those essentials. The Reformation was a witness to the corruption of the simplicity of the Gospel. Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, the Wesleys: all of these reformers are on a quest for simple, essential Christianity; Christianity that can be expressed in a confession of a few paragraphs rather than requiring a pope, a magisterium and a library of books to even suggest what is the “deposit of faith.”

At the same time, it is Protestantism’s curse that it cannot authoritatively define what the essentials are. It is on a never-ending journey of reading, interpreting, confessing and applying the scripture. In that journey, there have been many opportunities to fail, especially by creating far more to the essentials of the faith than was necessary.

From this has come vast systematic theologies where nuances of predestination held the key to understanding divine truth, alliances of academics and theologians imposing their grid upon the Christian faith, and courts of Pharisees sitting in judgement on those who do not honor their particular jots and tittles.

So today the “Biblical Worldview” and “Biblical values” movement is busy hammering away and unity and simplicity by seeking to make sure that everyone who says they are a Christian has the same opinion on everything, votes the same way, worships the same way, talks the same way and consumes the same evangelical culture.

It is simply not necessary. Evangelicalism should confess its creeds and confessions and STOP THERE. If we surrender to some alliance between the culture warriors and the teachers of the Word we will destroy a credible evangelicalism for thousands.

Simply say “Enough and No More.” The Apostles’ Creed. The Nicene Creed. The Confession of your denomination. (Which is minimal if you are fortunate.) And that’s all. After that, “it’s none of your business.

What we need is unfortunately what we largely don’t have: A confessionally simple catholicism. (Which is what Lutheranism and Anglicanism at their best amount to, but each one has found ways to be largely absent when evangelicalism most needs them as an option.)

If you leave because you can’t stand to be told that you must be a creationist and you must vote Republican, I completely understand. I work at a place that says it’s morally intolerable to have a glass of wine, which the Bible actually commands. I feel like a fifth grader.

But I will also say that you have choices on this score. There are plenty of places in evangelicalism to escape creationism, Republicanism and homo-obsession. I don’t like to use that “baby and bathwater” line, but it applies here. Most evangelicals could shed the majority of this problem without driving another 10 minutes.

But if you are an evangelical leader, and you’re paying attention, do this: Teach and preach what you believe are the essentials. Do it well, Biblically, often and persuasively.

Then stop and leave people alone.

Christian Experience

Frankly, you’re never going to get this one under control. Human beings are pretty squirrelly when it comes to religion. You couldn’t vacuum up the nut cases if you did nothing but vacuum all day long.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t determine to impose some discipline on the asylum.

For one thing, let’s agree that the spirituality of Jesus is the epitome of Christian spirituality, and if Jesus didn’t bark like a chihuahua or roll in the aisles, we won’t either. Even if you identity with the Charismatic gifts of the Spirit, you can agree that Todd Bentley was demanding we all believe that Jesus wasn’t really a good example of what the Holy Spirit does with a person. I think we can avoid that particular fork in the road by “keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Seriously.

For another, let’s nurture some spiritual directors in our midst. Learn that phrase and understand what it means: some people are gifted in helping us sort through spiritual experience and making real progress.

Read Alan Creech’s recent “Liturgical Gangsta” entry on spiritual growth. Don’t you agree we could use some of that sort of ministry among evangelicals? And this is one place we can learn a lot from Roman Catholics, whose track record of dealing with the varieties of spiritual experience is much better than our own. Spiritual direction is a an area where Protestants can benefit immensely from literature, mentors and academic study in the Roman Catholic context.

It’s also a good place to discuss the effect of the decisions evangelicals make about ordination. How long does it take to become a pastor in your church? What’s the training? Where are the mentors? Where is the spiritual direction and formation? For many of our friends, it takes years. For many evangelicals, it takes minutes. And we wonder why we get Todd Bentley.

Then let’s talk more about what it means to be human. Real humanity grounds us in the real world and doesn’t leave us assuming that we have to fly away to be a Christian. Take up a book like Being Human by Macauley and Barrs, and use it as a central text in teaching discipleship.

Our problem with spiritual experience grows out of a failure to understand the interaction of the Holy Spirit and the human personality. For that reason we ought to reconsider the role of pastoral counseling and guidance in the context of community leadership.

When we take seriously a Jesus-shaped spirituality, we will be looking for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in fruitfulness and servant leadership, not in egotistical charismatic behavior. (John Crowder, your phone is ringing.) When our understanding of the processes and shape of Jesus-shaped spirituality demands leadership that is fully human, mature, accountable and full of the evident character of Jesus, we will put less emphasis on a spirituality of the miraculous and the bizarre.

But as I said, there is little that can be done apart from speaking honestly about these things, reading sane books and providing spiritual mature mentors and models. Religion breeds a special kind of excess.

The enamorment of evangelicalism with high powered claims and promises of spiritual excitement is massive. It dominates publishing, music, worship even the design of churches. It goes to the heart of the idol of the “big, exciting and growing” church. It cuts deeply into our need to feel the power of God in order to be convinced we are right.

To those who would leave over some disillusionment in Christian experience, I cannot blame you. But I can promise you that if you’ve found yourself in a corner of evangelicalism where God proves himself by dreams, visions, miracles and manifestations, and if you have been disillusioned and disappointed, I can safely promise you that is not all their is.

Again, our Anglican friends have such a wonderful balance in this area. Catholic Charismatic movements have shown a balance is possible. The Vineyard has grown in this area. Sovereign Grace churches have a balance.

You need not feel that all of Christianity is a collection of what you’ve seen or experienced. Reason, balance, mental health, truthfulness AND the power of the Holy Spirit are all available in the best examples of evangelicalism seeking to bring the fullness of the Spirit and the Word into balance.

It may take some sorting through, and it may take the humility to say that evangelicalism isn’t as bad as it looks in its worst moments. It may take some perseverance to stay with the Anglicans or the Vineyard folk from time to time.

But trust me, this does not have to be a rock to wreck upon. You don’t have to be a nut job, a liar or mentally unstable to be a Christian. (Though in some corners, it does help.)

Disillusionment With Christian Community

Of the four issues I have examined, the disillusionment with Christian community has prompted the most response from evangelicals themselves. Throughout its history, evangelicalism has addressed this issue through study, discussion, experimentation, success and failure.

Today’s evangelicals are part of a movement that has an incredibly diverse history of community expressions. While the dominant forms of American Protestant “church” have prevailed for the last several centuries, there is a deep recognition that this form of Christian community has not created the kind of community that produces transformed disciples.

There are two minds about this dominant model of “churchianity.” On the one hand, it has been remarkably amenable to the various methodologies that produce church growth and success, so there is enormous loyalty by the mainstream of evangelicalism.

On the other hand, there is widespread recognition that this model is, by many measures, a massive failure in terms of the New Testament concept of “church.” This has prompted various renewal movements and redefinitions of church, running the gamut of every theological and denominational possibility.

In the current environment, many who are disillusioned with the traditional church have gravitated to new and different forms of community. From Jesus People USA to Simple Way, these options have challenged evangelicals to remember that the form of Christian community is not static, but its own entrepreneurial spirit allows newer forms and experiences.

But what about the disillusionment many feel with their own experience of Christian community?

The pages of the Bible are a history of the failure of God’s people as a community, a nation and a church. The message of scripture is the faithfulness of God, not the faithfulness of his people. But those same pages are full of admonitions and messages regarding the quality of the life of the Godly community. Justice, mercy, compassion, generosity, love, patience, sacrifice: these are the qualities that are preached by the prophets and taught by the law. There is no possible way to conceive of Christian community without them.

Of course, Jesus defines Christian community. It must be Jesus-shaped and Jesus-flavored. Christian community must be a continuation of the movement of which Jesus is the center. It must recognizably true to Jesus as Lord of the church. Jesus is not endorsing our churches, denominations and institutions. We are organically joined to Jesus and therefore to his mission and his people.

I have been part of local Christian congregations my entire 52 years of life. I have been an ordained minister, laboring to create Christian community, for more than three decades. For the last 16 years, I have lived in an intentional Christian community, where we live, work, worship, pray and share economic life together.

I have also been deeply hurt by the church’s failure to reflect Jesus and his Kingdom. I find it very difficult to identify with any of the options of Christian community around me.

But it is here that I am the most grateful to be a part of Christian community. Despite whatever failures the church has demonstrated, it has included me. It has communicated the Gospel to me, although in a faltering and flawed way. It has allowed me be part of the people of God, to come to his table, to find the waters of baptism and too participate in the mission of God. The failures of community have hurt me deeply, disillusioned me and sometimes driven me away from community, but at the same time Jesus has kept his promises to me through the church.

If the church has hurt you, you may need to walk away. No one can tell you what form the people of God will take in your life. It is not a matter of “church hopping” or “church shopping.” It is a matter of being open to laying down our expectations. It is about moving past the distortions of community that have installed themselves in the institutional churches. It is about the possibility of going to the church of the poor, the church that includes the unlikely and the church that is small in every way.

The journey is about forgiveness and continuing to follow Christ as he speaks to us in scripture. On my own experience, this is a gift of community, but not so much the gift of the evangelical conception of a successful church.

Our openness to the Spirit of God in our time is the hope of the renewal of Christian community. We need- desperately- new churches, small churches and unlikely churches. We need churches that are not trying to be successful, but are simply looking to be faithful to the faithfulness of Jesus.

I pray that the hurt and the disillusioned, like a mighty river, leave churches that perpetuate the errors of the past and risk everything on remaking the church as an intentional and humbly Jesus shaped community.

Failure is certain. Hurt is certain. Disillusionment is certain. The Bible, if it is read plainly, does not deceive us here. But our need for community does not change. What can change is our participation in a system that worships the idols of the age more than the Christ of the poor and suffering.

Abandoning Christian Commitment

It is unthinkable to me that I would ever abandon my commitment to the God I know in Jesus. While I can respond to this personal decision by others, I cannot easily put myself emotionally in the place of abandoning Christian commitment. But I can identify with the desire to abandon being considered as an evangelical Christian. While that is NOT my decision, it is easy to understand those who make it.

Several years ago, I began using the metaphor of team sports to describe the behavior of evangelicals in relationship to one another. Like fans of various NFL teams, these teams have intense feelings for their own team and against competing teams. At least for a few “seasons.”

The problem is that a larger and larger proportion of those in evangelicalism are not fans of the sport at all or find themselves burned out after several “seasons” of competition. They are embarrassed and uninterested in this “team sport” variety of evangelicalism. They are non-denominational, or simply generic, emerging or post-evangelically catholic. They have a humble and simple view of faith. They resist the connections that are made by many Christians to “totalize” their religion into something that dominates all modes of thinking. They are fearful of losing their authenticity and independence in their personal life. They are resistant to being told what they must think and feel by men shouting in pulpits and by churches obviously in it for the numbers.

Many of these have walked away from what they have experienced in evangelicalism. Many have walked away from the oppressive involvement with censorship, the entanglement with sexism and homophobia and the brutal treatment of dissenters. They have abandoned Christian commitment of the evangelical kind, and are finding diverse expressions of their faith. Sadly, many remain evangelical, but are estranged and lost in the evangelical wilderness.

What is my response? I want to encourage these evangelical refugees to continue their journey. Write it. Talk about it. Blog it. Artistically express it.Truthfully express it. Don’t leave quietly. Tell us that you are going and disturb our slumbering evasion of what your leaving means.

Evangelicalism’s hope does not lie in silencing those who are leaving. No, its hope lies at least partially in finding the courage to HEAR and RESPOND TO the stories and the experiences of those who are walking away from Christian commitment within evangelicalism for something else or even nothing else.

I am NOT saying we as evangelicals need to take the same route or agree with all that we will hear. No. But we deeply need to hear; we need to hear until we really understand who WE are and what WE are becoming. We need to include these painful voices in the “we” that conceives and creates our future.

I believe those who are abandoning evangelical-style Christian commitment are telling us some things we will never hear any other way than to listen to the painful experiences of those who can no longer worship with us. We have become the absolute masters of self-hypnosis and scapegoating. We can easily say “That’s the devil” or “They are just trapped in sin.” (Evangelicals like nothing better than to have the truth delivered to them by someone gay. Then they can write the whole matter off as “a strong delusion.” But the truth is that these thousands of leavers are the unpaid bills of what we’ve done and not done. They are a reflection of who we are.

I do not believe we can accommodate all these leavers and abandoners, nor should we attempt to. Many have moved far beyond the boundaries of Christian believe and morality. But how we treat those who have gone out from us cannot be simple a quote of “they were never really part of us.” We need to learn, be moved, weep, pray, study, reconsider and grieve profitably.

Our views of leadership particularly need to reflect a humbler approach to those who abandon our faith. Our course and our curse is being led by men largely without humility; men who constantly tell us what God says in such a way that their own visions and plans are confirmed. Where are those leaders who see the tragedy of evangelicalism and are willing to take steps to heal it? Where are those men willing to listen, to pray, to build bridges, to learn from others, to sacrifice “success” for Christ?

Where are the leaders who will stand firm on the Gospel? Build simple, faithful churches? Smash the idols of evangelicalism? Learn from the poor and the suffering rather than the wise of this age?

Where are the leaders who will give themselves to a Jesus-shaped evangelicalism, reconnecting with the broader, deeper, wider, more ancient paths of Christian life?

Such leaders are, in many ways, the key to not wasting this moment in evangelicalism.

They also will be critical in developing an evangelicalism that is catholic and Protestant, Biblical and reasonable, spiritual and practical, open and committed, humble and bold, sacrificial and generous. They will be the keys to allowing Ed and his thousands of brothers and sisters to relate to the church again while retaining their authenticity and individuality.

I would like to thank everyone who has read these posts. I hope they have been a reasonable and helpful start to an ongoing conversation of our evangelical future, and not just a witness to our demise.

Comments

  1. I went to the Reason Rally yesterday. One of the speakers I listened to was Greta Christina…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E4RbDx3Kvk

    The best line she said was that she was angry that she knows the Bible better than Christians in order to deal with them.

    But let’s step back a second. I almost wish there could be a Christian version of Greta Christian who could address some of this disillusionment and the other issues head on. The trouble is that I don’t know if Christianity will allow it. It seems to have trouble reforming or correcting itself due ot its high conservative nature. Thus excess and corruption are institutionalized in the system.

    The interesting part about Michael Spencer’s essya was that it was written before some of the major abuses and issues in Christinaity came to light. There is so much that has happened these past 4 years with Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Sovereign Grace, the prosperity crowd, the Great Recession, etc… That I wonder how this essay would be re-cast in the light of that information. Or would it be expanded.

    We will never know. We lost a gifted and talented individual. You know what I’ve sometimes wondered…is how Michael Spencer would have reviewed Mark Driscoll’s book on marriage. What would he say? What would he teach? Or how would he come down on Driscoll? We shall never know….

    • Good points.

      The devil knows the Bible better than most Christians. It (the Bible) can be used as a tool to take people away from trust in Christ, when read as a law book. Then it all becomes a project.

      There are those out there in the Forde mold, that realize this and endeavor to keep people centered on Christ and His pure gospel. No add on’s. No projects. Just the gospel and the freedom that lies within that basic truth that Christ dies for sinners. Real sinners. The kind we know we are.

    • Greta gets props for including the issues of NON Christian religions, something usually glaring by ommission in the ponderings of other atheist apologists.. Nor can I dismiss her anger over abusive pedophiles…..it makes me angry TOO, but sadly it is not a perversion that the Catholic Church has propriatory rights on….too many teachers and coaches are also sick abusers. But otherwise her video clips is complaints about evil in the world…..the very evil most Jews and Christians work to alleviate. So that is where she lost me.

      I am also reading “Mere Churchianity” and seeing the formation of Michael’s though process on all of the manifestations of evangelical belief and action in America. I have little buzz of an idea that I hope to be able to articulate later….

      • I’ll have to tell you about the rally later. I listened to a number of people than something strange happened wihihc bothered me. The 14th Pslam popped up in my noodle, and then when I was in the tent featuring secular humanist, atheist organziations who were recruiting I saw pamphlets at a number of booths for the group “Final Exit” It advocates doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia. I felt sick when I saw that and steped back and went inside the Smithsoniam of American History and juts sat in the cafeteria and thought about things. Then I read the 14 Pslam over and over on my smart phone and decided I should leave. A freind called me up and said, “let’s chat…”

        What really bothered me about the doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia is that it strikes me as a reaction to Christianity. I don’t see how any of that is “death with dignity.” Who determines what? Pattie as I thought about all this I thought of my Dad who’s starting chemotherapy tomorrow. He’s in his early 70’s and I wonder what some of these suicide advocacy groups would say about him getting treatment. That really bothered me. The other thing that bothered me is that when I see this type of material it strikes me to be just as bad as the Neo-Calvinist refromed crowd who says that it’s God’s will that a tornado killed people in Indiana.

        Anyhow after talking with my freind (who was a missionary to Kenya) I left and decided to go to St. Joseph’s of Capital Hill. http://www.st-josephs.org/ Then after that I continued to read from Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace” that I forgot was in my backpack.

        So it was a schizophrenic day…and not one that I planned. But the assisted suicide/euthanasia advocacy made me feel sick. It just did….

        • Oh and BTW… When Richard Dawkins was speaking someone gave me a Ken Hamm tract. I could have done without that….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          What really bothered me about the doctor assisted suicide and euthanasia is that it strikes me as a reaction to Christianity.

          “Reaction to Christianity” as in “Whatever they’re for, I’m Against It!”?

          • Culture war: its over 9000!..

            rev 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, only eternal culture war. Evangelical salfism VS the 12 imams of Reason”

            ..sigh.

        • Eagle , i’m dying to hear more about the rally. So far the reports I have heard from/about it have been…interesting?

    • Can’t watch the video (Youtube’s on the other side of the Great Firewall of China) but your mention of Greta Christina’s words elicited two thoughts from me as I read it.

      First, it may be true, as Steve says, that the Devil knows the Bible better than Christians but that doesn’t excuse Christians from not having at least a reasonable acquaintance with it. And by reasonable acquaintance I mean something more than several mental pages worth of memorised verses wrenched from their contexts, with or without zip codes.

      Second, from what you said, Greta got to know the Bible ‘in order to deal with [Christians]’. Christians as something you have to ‘deal with’ is a problem. I remember back in Sydney, before I came to China, there was a Baptist fellow who would get on his soap box (actually a short platform, but it might as well have been a soap box) once or twice a week outside Sydney Town Hall and proceed to preach at the passersby. Perhaps he fancied Town Hall was like Speakers’ Corner in London (it’s not!). Perhaps he thought he was preaching to The Unsaved. But to preach to people, they have to be willing to listen. These Sydneysiders were not, and he never seemed to show much concern regarding how they felt about what he was saying. It was as though he were discharging a duty. Actually, as soon as he set himself up, a wide open space would materialise around him as the passersby gave him a wide berth. Indeed, I did likewise- in spite of the fact that I never actually heard him say anything that I positively disagreed with. I often felt (though never acted on it) that I should go up to him and say, ‘Mate, I agree with everything you’ve said, but you’re really not helping your cause here! In fact, you’re shooting Christianity in the foot by doing this stuff.’ And I pitied the people (probably numerous) who would, will or have dismissed Christianity as worthy of any consideration because of that guy.

      It’s not even a religious thing when it comes down to it, I think. I can’t stand it when someone is trying to sell me something. I avoid shops with spruikers outside. I’d rather browse, then bring my choices to the counter. I suspect that most evangelicals who buy into the Wretched Urgency mentality not only have some problems in their theology on that count, but also have a very poor grasp of what motivates humans to do anything.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I remember back in Sydney, before I came to China, there was a Baptist fellow who would get on his soap box (actually a short platform, but it might as well have been a soap box) once or twice a week outside Sydney Town Hall and proceed to preach at the passersby.

        There are a LOT of YouTube videos of the same thing. Usually preaching by screaming denunciations and damnations. Makes for a lot of “crazy preacher” videos.

        I suspect that most evangelicals who buy into the Wretched Urgency mentality not only have some problems in their theology on that count, but also have a very poor grasp of what motivates humans to do anything.

        In my experience, the main fuel of Wretched Urgency is FEAR. Fear that God “Will Hold YOU Accountable” (i.e. Punish You) if you don’t get in-your-face of everyone you come across. Like the muzzle of God’s Hell-gun is pressing to the back of your head with one up the spout and the hammer back and the slack pulled out of the trigger, 24/7. Witness! Witness! Witness! Save Souls! Save Souls! Save Souls! OR ELSE!

        And layered above that (at least during the peak of Hal Lindsay) was The World Ends Tomorrow, It’s All Gonna Burn, and (most importantly) The Only Thing You Will Take Into Eternity is The Souls You’ve Saved, Everything Else Is All Gonna Burn. I even heard that God will judge and reward us only on “How Many Souls Have You Saved?” Enter Christian One-Upmanship, Sheep Rustling, and all that.

        • Stanislav says:

          There was one of those at my university. There was always a ring of hecklers around him. Oh, and he handed out Jack Chick comic tracts.

        • Yes, fear is definitely the intended motivating factor there. The problem is fear is only going to generate a short-term, highly reactionary response. Sure, it may be enough to get me to say a prayer, walk an aisle or tick a box, but if preachers like this really want to change people’s lives (which is what they claim), much less accept the claims of a whole religion, they’re going to need something more than fear to do it. This is true even on a purely pragmatic level. I mean, even the Coca Cola Company understands that they’ll sell more Coke by picturing happy, attractive people having fun while drinking it than if they show ads with people getting sick and dying from drinking Pepsi!

    • There is more to evangelical Christianity than John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, and Mark Driscoll. They only represent one section of American evangelical Christianity. While they may be an influential lot at the moment, these things are always changing. I realize many here have issues with them (as do I) but it’s also important not to make them out to be these all-powerful bogeyman. The church of Jesus Christ lived long before them, and it will live long after them.

      • The Pipers, Mahaneys and Driscolls of “Christianity” should be ignored. Study the Bible, read Michael Spencer and let God be your judge.

    • “I almost wish there could be a Christian version of Greta Christian who could address some of this disillusionment and the other issues head on. The trouble is that I don’t know if Christianity will allow it.”

      I hope you realize that when you use the term “Christianity”, you are actually saying “Evangelicalism” or “fundamentalist”. Many non-evangelical Christians would read the above sentence and it would make no sense whatsoever (unless, of course, they are familiar with evangelicalism, to an adequate degree, that they understand what you are saying).

      There are many people within ‘Christianity’ that address many of the issues surrounding disillusionment, the late Mike Spencer being one, but not the only one.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Unfortunately, Dennis, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists (Fundagelicals?) have redefined “Christian” without any adjective to mean THEIR brand of Christian and their brand alone.

        “I used to be Catholic (or Lutheran, or Presbyterian), But Now I’m CHRISTIAN!” — remember that little one-liner? I heard it enough on Christian radio talk shows in the Eighties. And CHRISTIAN (TM) means Fundagelical.

        • ‘And CHRISTIAN (TM) means Fundagelical’
          In their own heads, sure. But not outside their own circles. I grew up in Newfoundland in an Anglican home, and became a Christian outside the church. It has taken me several years to even begin to understand the language and mentality of American evangelical culture (mostly with the help of Philip Yancey and books like Blue Like Jazz). To the outsider it is very strange.
          I can appreciate those from the inside, who have no means to see the hijacking of the faith by ‘fungelicals’ (hence, the “post-evanglical wilderness”), but once you’re on the outside, why continue to define Christianity from the ‘fungelical’ perspective?

  2. Sorry, this is not related to this post. I tried to send a comment in reply to your invitation to new people to comment. It disappeared and a screen telling me I didn’t check the “human” block appeared. I was unable to retrieve it, and since it was somewhat long, unable to rewrite it all again. What is the purpose of this? Apparently I missed it when I clicked “Post Comment”

    • Rob, I’m sorry your comments got lost. They are important to us. But we have to use the “human” check-box to prevent spammers from clogging up our comments. The blessings and curses of the internet are sometimes hard to distinguish…

    • We installed it when we had a large spam attack, Rob.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But still, I’ve been able to use the back button on my browser, retrieve it, and check the checkbox and resubmit. Maybe the length of post is an additional factor?

      • Thanks for the answers guys. I can see how that makes sense. Yes I did try the back button. I was just rambling about Christian communities and the “fundagelical” one I came from. BTW I do enjoy Eagle’s comments.

  3. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… this is why we miss Michael Spencer. I absolutely love how you guys have kept this blog site going and growing, but there is still no replacement for iMonk.

  4. The other day, Rachel Held Evans posted an article about why she left church. (She later posted an article on why she returned or never abandoned the Church altogether) There were several responses to her post from people testifying to the fact that there are numerous churches within the US that are healthy and live out the faith well.

    I would encourage people to not be intimidated by media, or the various loud-mouths within evangelicalism.

    I honestly believe that people are drawn to Jesus because people crave reality. This is why I believe that the small, quiet fellowships will win out over the loud, media driven, as well as politically and socially charged, churches. I also see more and more people who recognize that expanding one’s sphere of influence through media is not necessarily effective. We must overcome the desire to enlarge ourselves and recognize the power and beauty of the small and intimate. It was never ‘Me’ against the world, singlehandedly. It has always been the Church at large; over here, and over there, in this community, and in that place, making the difference together quietly but surely.
    Large egos may steal the limelight, but they do not extinguish the power of the Church at work in the world.
    In other words, i believe it’s happening: real reform.

  5. Pastor Don says:

    Thank you Chaplain Mike for presenting this conversation and for a cogent summation and reflection to this point.
    My wife and I visited an evangelical/Pentecostal church today (we have yet to find a Christian community we want to be part of). On the way home, my wife asked me what I thought of the pastor’s message. I hesitated because my wonderful, beautiful, Jesus-loving wife has not experienced the things I have of late. So I hesitated, then answered. I told her that while watching him I recognized myself some years ago. Encouraging people to get closer to Jesus, taking snippets from Scripture (paying no heed to context, just my message) and creating what one thinks is a masterful argument that leads people to your conclusion. All the while not leading them to Jesus but leaving them wandering down spiritual paths that do not lead them to the water of life. I prayed for him, thankful that even at this late stage of my life the Lord has shown me the truth of Grace and its power. It isn’t about building our churches, or sustaining our ministries, or keeping everyone happy in their ministry. It’s about helping people bathe in the love, forgiveness and nurture of the Holy Spirit remembering what Jesus has done for us (individually). I don’t think it’s about getting closer to Jesus (as the pastor and much of evangelicalism preaches it) but about realizing how close he is.

  6. I appreciate your blog. I’m exploring the meditative life, the contemplative life to finding the love and Union of God usually to be read about in Catholic books – but I’m an evangelical. It’s a rarity in Protestantism to have that kind of “catholic” mystic mindset, which is really what the Protestant creeds intended to convey – the priesthood of all believers, equal access to God, etc. If we preach and live out the truth of Christ’s love for us and love for others, I think the rest is generally negotiable. There’s a fear in evangelicalism that if we lose the “evangelical” mindset we lose our identity but our identity is in Christ, not in evangelicalism. Thanks for the thoughts.