November 28, 2014

An Open Letter To My Fellow Evangelicals

open-letterThis is addressed to those who, like me, identify themselves most closely with the evangelical movement. While I feel there is much here that can be applied to other denominations, movements and churches, I am drawing from my 40 years experience as a Christian within evangelicalism.

Dear Fellow Evangelical,

I have shared ideas in the past three weeks on how we can save, or renew, evangelicalism. I’m not interested in just painting the walls a different color. Yet I also don’t want to put up a For Sale sign and move to a different neighborhood. What we need is to clear out the clutter that has accumulated over the past generation, clutter that comes with too much attention focused on me me me and what God wants me me me to have. The message has been that he wants me me me to prosper, so I had better start getting more more more stuff so I don’t miss out on any of his blessings.

There has been too much attention focused on what we are against. The world knows evangelicalism based on those things we fight against. We are against gay rights, gay marriage, gays in the military, gays in the Boy Scouts, and, apparently, gay dogs. We are against government bailouts, handouts, and copouts. We are against big government, unless it can be led by our party of choice. We are against religion (meaning any church but our church). We are against liberal theology (defined as someone who believes differently than we do). We are against Catholics and their candidate for antichrist status, the pope.

There has been too much attention focused on our own clubs, also known as churches. We build bigger and better clubhouses in order to attract more club members, knowing full well that these new members will be leaving their current club to join ours, and also knowing that if we don’t keep adding new and shiny programs and fun things to do in our club these people will move on to the next club that builds bigger and better. And we need lots of dues-paying club members to maintain our clubhouse. In our weekly gatherings, we never say anything that might challenge or offend a club member. We want to make them feel good about themselves so they keep coming (and keep paying their dues, of course).

So we have a lot of clutter to clear away if we are to make our house livable once again. Some have said it would be better to just tear down the whole thing and move on. I disagree. I think there is much good in evangelicalism still. A missionary zeal for the lost. Passionate worship. A willingness to try new ideas and methods of reaching the sick and hurting and dying. A reverence for Scripture. A willingness to let it be known outside of the church that we are, indeed, Christians.

It is this last point that needs to be where we begin and end in our quest to save evangelicalism. This is the one mark that Jesus said would identify us as Christians. It is the way he said those outside of our tribe will know we are his followers. It is what we are most in need of today. It is the area where we are least competent. John records Jesus’ words on this most vital of all tasks we should be about.

I give you a new Law. You are to love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.  If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers. (John 13:34, 35, NLV)

Love each other. The one thing Jesus told us to do in order to be recognized as his followers is the one thing we are most inept at doing. Instead of loving each other, we have causes and programs and plans and agendas that must be attended to or our young people will be swept away by the evil culture that surrounds them. Instead of loving one another we argue homeschool vs. public school vs. Christian school. Rather than love each other we protest our government by promoting political candidates from the pulpit. Love one another like Jesus loves us? Not when we have our careers to consider or movies to watch or …

Francis Schaeffer put it this way in his classic little book, Mark Of The Christian:

Jesus turns to the world and says, “I’ve something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: you may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians.” In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them. And we must not get angry. If people say, “You don’t love other Christians,” then we must go home, get down on our knees and ask God whether or not they are right. And if they are, then they have a right to have said what they said.

I want to tell you a story. As many of you know, I have been struggling with depression, very strong depression that has felt like darkness that is crushing me. I am on doctor-prescribed medication. I see a counselor. But what I really need are a few friends—or even just one—who will tell me they love me just as I am, and who will stand with me no matter what comes. I shared this need with ten men at my church, all either on the pastoral staff or elders. I told them all that the depression was so strong I despaired of living any longer. This is a church where I have been a faithful attender for more than 14 years now. Of the ten, a couple invited me to coffee or a meal, and one sent me a text once to ask how my day was going. None told me he loved me. None has made an effort to walk with me through my days.

Now, at my work, I shared the story of my depression with a couple of young women who work for me. One of these women, I’ll call her Smokey (since that is what we all call her), has told me she doesn’t believe in God. She lives a lifestyle that would make most evangelicals shudder. But Smokey now goes out of her way each time we are working together to ask how I am doing, to ask what she can do to make my day better, and to tell me she loves me. She has even called the store on her days off to see how I’m doing.

If I am the man who was beat up by robbers and left for dead in the ditch, which of these is my neighbor?

What would happen if we all practiced the kind of love shown to me by Smokey? Would people be healed of depression? Would the world notice we are more than a “voting block”? Would we have to build bigger churches to hold all of the lonely, abused, hurting, sick and dying people who want nothing more than to be loved as they are?

Jesus loved by preferring us to himself. Who can you prefer over yourself today? Jesus loved by touching the diseased in order to heal them, thus making himself unclean. Who can you love today that will require you to get dirty? Jesus loved by feeding the hungry and giving wine to a thirsty wedding party. Who can you feed and give drink to today?

I am writing to you today to urge you to love. Stop telling us all what you are against, and love. Turn off Rush Limbaugh, and instead love. Practice not caring what someone’s sexual orientation is, and love. Today, love. Find one person whom you can love, and love them well.

Let me conclude with words written many, many years ago by a Jesus follower named John. Listen to his words. Soak in these words. Live according to these words. Love according to these words.

It is not hard to figure out who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolical one: those who lack right standing and those who don’t show love for one another do not belong to God. The central truth—the one you have heard since the beginning of your faith—is that we must love one another.

If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.

My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. So my loved ones, if God loved us so sacrificially, surely we should love one another.

We love because He has first loved us. If someone claims, “I love God,” but hates his brother or sister, then he is a liar. Anyone who does not love a brother or a sister, whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen. He gave us a clear command, that all who love God must also love their brothers and sisters.

(All passages taken from 1 John, The Voice)

 

Comments

  1. We just don’t get it.

  2. Jeff –

    This line really struck a chord with me: There has been too much attention focused on what we are against. The world knows evangelicalism based on those things we fight against.

    This really is one of the great definers of much of American evangelicalism. Yet, I still have hope, as you do. I still believe we are headed somewhere. I think the shakeable things will be shaken so that the greater unshakeable things will be left standing. I’d be ok with a season of ‘manure’ – it smells pretty bad and if you step in it, well it’s not so nice. But manure can be used as a fertilizer for fresh, green growth.

    • Milford Haven, Marth 10th, 1836.

      A.N.Groves to J.N. Darby

      “you will be known more by what you witness against than what you witness for, and practically
      this will prove that you witness against all but yourselves”

      Very worth reading in its entirety. http://www.bruederbewegung.de/pdf/grovesdarby.pdf

      • Marth -> March

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        J.N.Darby as in “Secret Rapture” Dispy Darby?

        This goes back a LONG time…

        • That would be the guy. The disagreement between Groves and Darby led to the split in the movement, with Groves being one of the leaders of the “Open” Brethren, and Darby being the leader of the “Exclusive” Brethren.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Exclusive” Brethren as Wallbuilders(TM) to seal themselves off from all the Heathens and Heretics and Apostates? The Christianese Culture Bubble/Bizarro World?

            Again, this goes back a LONG time…

  3. OOOOOOOOOOOOoooo……if I could write an open letter to the Reformed crowd what i would say! :-P

    • While the Reformed have a fairly well-deserved reputation for elevating polemics, I think you’ll find there are some voices that are respectful, devotional, and evangelical. Ray Ortlund, Jr. comes to mind as one. He usually doesn’t waste your time.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The Truly Reformed crowd have come to resemble the classic Communists.

        Purity of Ideology, no matter how inhuman the side effects.

        • +1

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Oh, it gets better. At one of the spiritual abuse blogs (Wartburg Watch?), there’s a comment in a recent thread claiming John Piper describing himself as a seven-point Calvinist. Seven point Calvinist? Sounds like “more Calvinist than Calvin.” At least until an Eight-Point Calvinist comes along to denounce him as a Heretic.

            Again, Purity of Ideology…

          • ccsoprano says:

            Once upon a time a PCUSA minister of the word and sacrament (a former Episcopalian) told me the problem with Calvinism was the Calvinists. Not that I want to slog though the Institutes, but I think he had a good point. I’ve read some of his sermons that can be found online and the little book about faith. The neoreformed crowd gives the rest of us in the Reformed Tradition a very bad name.

      • Ray Outland is a “yes Man” for CJ Mahnaey. He throws the Bible under the bus to protect his interest in the “Reformed Industrial Complex.’ How he can continue to defend Mahaney after all the information that pours out – molestation coverup, domestic abuse, cult like behavior, etc…just boggles my mind.

        I can see Ray Outland at the Nurmeburg Trials basically saying, “I was just following orders…”

        Mem is it “The Gospel” to force a 3 year old to forgive her molester? I guess Ray Outland believes that otherwise he wouldn’t be standing in Mahaney’s company and defend him.

        • I can’t speak to any of these particular issues, as I know little of Mahaney or the charges raised against him. As I don’t follow Mahaney or the news out of SGM, it’s only today I’m aware that there were allegations.

          Ortlund commented on Mahaney in a blog post on 14 Oct 2011. When Mahaney stepped down in July 2011, there was no accusation of abuse, was there? (I couldn’t find any, anyway.) The first mention I find of abuse allegations is in October 2012, a whole year after Ortlund’s post defending Mahaney, and well after he was reinstated in January 2012. As far as I know, Ortlund hasn’t written about Mahaney since then on his blog. Do you have any references for your comments?

          From the outside looking in, it seems like guilt by association more than any good reason to doubt Ortlund’s credentials. You’re wandering pretty close to reductio ad hitlerum anyway.

          To the original point, Ortlund is not polemical in his writing. He is reformed, and at the very least his writing isn’t nasty. (I suppose for some of you that may make it worse, if you’re of the persuasion that nice Reformed people “look fairer and feel fouler.”)

          • Mem…SGM Survivors has been going on for 5 years. You have the Ambassadors of Reconciliation report which was a cluster *&^%. When are some of you going to pull your head out of the sand. It’s not guilt by association, Outland stood next and defended. It’s a fraud, I saw these same techniques and questionable activity when I was in Mormonism. It’s cultish, etc… Why do Christians lack discernment?

    • Eagle, I hope you will write that letter! Might be therapeutic for me to read.

  4. I shared this need with ten men at my church, all either on the pastoral staff or elders. I told them all that the depression was so strong I despaired of living any longer. This is a church where I have been a faithful attender for more than 14 years now. Of the ten, a couple invited me to coffee or a meal, and one sent me a text once to ask how my day was going. None told me he loved me. None has made an effort to walk with me through my days.

    I plead guilty of the above. It is so easy to get so caught up and busy with church work and activities that genuine fellowship is all but impossible. I think there is something in the DNA of how many churches are being run that genuinely impedes true discipleship by obstructing our ability to show compassion for one another. This is the Achilles’ heel of program oriented ministry. Lord, give us your mercy to prevent our congregations from degrading into activity centers that keep us focused on tasks instead of people. It is such a painfully difficult cycle to break, but I suppose the first step is admitting the problem. Perhaps the next good step would be to get rid of all church programs? It just seems that sometimes church gets in the way of loving our neighbors.

    • The thing is, we think that we need the activities and programs to keep people involved, otherwise they just start drifting about aimlessly, or fighting among themselves, or worse – mutiny!

      It’s the same as the need for a ‘vision’. The ‘people’ need to know where we’re going.

      I find this all terribly difficult. I’ve been ‘going to church’ all of my life, and now I’m arguably part of ‘the system’, but I still don’t have a clear idea of what it’s for. Communion, but not just a club. Preaching the truth, but I’ve heard it all before. Worship, but c.f. Jeff’s diatribe about hymns. Evangelisation, but the activities tend to hinder more than help. I agree that we’re not supposed to pander to the wants of the masses, but at the same time I have to admit that most Sunday’s, I’d be quite happy to stay in my pyjamas at home…

      • Don’t forget — if we keep them involved, they will keep giving, and we can keep our campus going and pay our professional staff.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And if you don’t give us your account & routing numbers for auto-deposit TITHING TITHING TITHING, our security cameras are so good WE WILL KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

    • Stuart Boyd says:

      The danger is that “focusing on people” often quickly turns into socializing, which is not really what loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is all about, is it?

      Somewhere along the way we have re-defined “fellowship” to mean hanging out together (hence the invite to lunch?) when loving one another requires so much more of us. Agape-ing one another is about sacrificing (time, energy, resources) for one another, but we become conditioned to socializing as the goal of our gathering together, especially when the “tasks are removed.” We somehow think that if we spend time socializing that we have met the “sacrifice of my time” requirement of agape. But what was our motive for “sacrificing our time”–was it really about meeting someone’s need or was it simply a way to focus on ourselves, our fleshly desires, us-us-us and what makes us FEEL good.

      We tend think of ourselves as as “righteous” for not falling into the temptation to let “tasks” and “programs” swallow us up without ever realizing we’re still missing the mark.

  5. Jeff –

    One thing I thought about that might be worth considering – those on the pastoral staff/elders are still learning. As an elder/pastor myself for the past 4 and a half years, I think I’ve come to be more aware of my faults than the good things I do. I know plenty of folk I’ve let down over the years, even before being an officially recognised church leader. I am so thankful for God’s grace and I’m learning to try and display the grace I need to those around me.

    Blessings

    • I find it quite impossible to care for all the people that need cared for in a manner that is effective for all of them. I am but one man. I can only maintain so many relationships. Somebody comes to me in need, but honestly helping them sometimes means ceasing to help some one else. And what of my family in all of this. Two boys and a wife need me a whole lot more than the average person at church. The Church must love each other because as a Pastor it is impossible for me to love the whole Church.

      I also hate feeling like I’m the answer man. “Oh we’ll just send him to Pastor Brendan, he’s got all the answers. He can fix everything!” No, I can’t. I can help, but you have to actually do the work yourself.

      Luther’s Gospel is great for Pastors for this reason. Otherwise we’d wallow in our own inadequacies.

  6. May God bless Smokey.

  7. Jeff…..two things~

    First, Smokey has an advantage over your church friends…..two “X” chromosomes. Those of us of on the distaff side tend to find expressing love and concern a bit easier than our brothers do. I am not excusing the men—if they are trying to follow Christ, they missed a God-given opportunity to “heal the sick”. But American men, even Christian ones, tend to be really lousy at emotion and “weakness”, in themselves or others.

    Second….”Who can I prefer over myself today?” is going on my ‘fridge and above my desk at work today. Pretty much says it all. Thank you for it….

  8. I’ve found that the average person-on-the-street doesn’t have a clue what the Gospel is, but they know all these long lists of things the Evangelicals don’t like. If all we talk about are rules, no wonder people think Christianity is about measuring your good deeds versus your bad deeds to see whether you get into heaven. Why don’t we tell people about the stuff that we say is actually most important?

    • I write about conservative evangelicals and the culture wars all of the time. It is because the only things that people get out of conservative evangelicalism is what they hate, that young people are rapidly unchurching themselves, and if conservative evangelicals keep going they way they are going, they will rapidly find themselves back on the fringes of society with nobody taking them or their “Gospel” seriously—most of them don’t know the Gospel of Christ anyway. They are overfond of the Old Testament and its punishments and mistake that for love. This hate for people who are different and crappy attitude towards women is the reason I have been unchurched (and happy) for the last 20 years. I saw so much physical and emotional abuse of women, no respect or regard for their communication with God, (except to pray that their husbands would change their abusive ways because the ones I saw, their pastors would not allow them to divorce their abusive husbands). I realize not all conservative evangelicals are jerks, but there is absolutely no way I’d ever go back to church. I can’t hate like they do. I feel compassion for the woman who aborts, and I feel she has a right to choose. I feel compassion for the poor (and conservatives call them lazy and entitled and try to take programs away that would help them). I feel love for gay people, many of whom are far more Christian than the Christians are. I do not have to condone the lifestyle, but I do have to love them, if I believe what Christ says. How arrogant it is to feel one has to convert society into YOUR model of what you think it ought to be, rather than making changes in yourself or your congregation so that people would see your good works and come to Christ. I have made a career out of writing about abuses in conservative religion and I’d like to be out of a job, thank you very much. I’m sick of evangelicals telling people who to vote for as if they are holier and more righteous than anybody else, as if they have a corner on morality. The last election shows that the American people made the moral choice by not electing conservative politicians because they are perceived as being immoral–hateful, arrogant, prideful and plain old fashioned jerks. If I have a choice between being ministered to by a gay individual and an arrogant evangelical pastor, I’m going to choose the gay guy every single time. And you know, I wonder if God doesn’t feel the same way. Excellent article, and I shall return to this site and keep reading. God bless you all.

  9. Great post, and this is an “action plan” I can really live with……. even though i’m an evangelical anglican. Nice work and words.

  10. But what I really need are a few friends—or even just one—who will tell me they love me just as I am, and who will stand with me no matter what comes.

    Jeff: I only know you through iMonk. But I’ve read and followed your struggles as you’ve shared them here, your struggles with life and especially with Evangelicalism that I’ve also had (which at one point took me into the Orthodox Church for a time). So I feel I know something about you. We’re probably somewhat close in age, too (I’ll be 61 this year).

    A church friend who is about my age said almost the exact same thing to me last week. That he just wanted someone to love him for who he was, however messed up that is or may be. We do tell each other we love each other, and hug and pray for each other at church, though not nearly often enough. I KNOW HOW EFFECTIVE AND IMPORTANT THOSE SIMPLE WORDS CAN BE, HOW IMPORTANT IT CAN BE TO JUST HAVE A FRIEND HUG YOU AND SAY THAT THEY LOVE YOU, EVEN IF THEY DON’T FULLY KNOW YOU, AND BE THERE FOR YOU (as my friend was for me last week when I was facing a potential crisis and requested prayer).

    So, today Jeff – I love you for who you are here at iMonk, and what you share here while striving against the demons of doubt and despair. And I hope/pray the Smokeys of the world will continue to care for and ask about you, and that the church will start becoming Smokeys.

    (And as I’ve asked before, if you are the Jeff Dunn who helped write or edit SAVE ME FROM MYSELF by Brian “Head” Welch, who Welch thanks by name at the end of the book – then “Thanks!” for helping Brian get his story into print.)

    • +1

    • Thank you, Eric. Thank you very much.

      (And yes, I helped write Brian’s book. Interesting dude that …)

      • Jeff: His new band, Love and Death, just released an album, “Between Here & Lost.” I’m tempted to go hear them when they’re in Dallas March 6. Take care of yourself, bro.

    • So, today Jeff – I love you for who you are here at iMonk, and what you share here while striving against the demons of doubt and despair. And I hope/pray the Smokeys of the world will continue to care for and ask about you, and that the church will start becoming Smokeys.

      Copy that. I second the emotion.

  11. Love is hard. Programs are easy. Love gets strange and messy and unpredictable and requires vulnerability. Programs are well laid out, and have flowcharts and measurable goals, and are like machines that can keep going regardless of who’s running them. Love is organic and grows where it will. Programs can be controlled and managed from afar. Love is about God and others. Programs are about what I can put into them and what I can get out of them.

    I didn’t agree with everything Michael Spencer said in Mere Churchianity, but I understand where his heart was at, and what he was calling out. This post gets to its core. When becoming a Christian means personal devotions (aka Quiet Time), church meetings, and Getting Involved, more than being the person Smokey has been to you, we have missed the bloody point. And I feel 95% confident that were I in your life, I would look more like the church people than Smokey. And this from a person who knows something of what you’re going through–I’ve spent time on antidepressants, and had moments when I didn’t particularly want to be alive anymore.

    Lord have mercy. And Lord help me to take this to heart, and not forget about it as soon as I go to another website.

  12. Jeff,

    I sympathize with your “black dog”. I constantly struggle with the same, though it’s been a few years since I’ve felt as dark as what you have described. My “normal” expression of depression is constant anger, which usually begins after Thanksgiving and means I need to up my dosage so as to not naw the Christmas tree in half….

    I think people (Evangelicals and other Christians also) act and have the attitudes you rail against because;

    1. We don’t really understand the purpose that the Trinity has set itself to, namely, our (all of all of us) adoption into their dance of love.

    2. We don’t take God in Christ seriously when he said, “It is finished” — God is done with counting sins against us, we’re accepted and we’re included and there is no longer a barrier between us and Father. Matter of fact, the barrier never existed except in our own thinking, our own hatred of God, our own fear of the Father.

    3. We don’t really know the “Good News”. We continue to think the Gospel is something we have to do to make God accept us rather than the great news of what Father has done for us in Christ.

    The Gospel is not the news that we can receive Jesus into our life. The Gospel is the news that Jesus has come and that the Father, the Spirit and the Son have received us into their life.

    B. Kruger

    Perhaps American Evangelicalism can be redeemed. The starting point will be repentance — going beyond our present thinking.

    T

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    There has been too much attention focused on what we are against. The world knows evangelicalism based on those things we fight against. We are against gay rights, gay marriage, gays in the military, gays in the Boy Scouts, and, apparently, gay dogs.

    Like the townsman in Lenny Bruce’s “Masked Man”, who after Masked Man outs himself and Tonto spends the entire remainder of the skit pointing at Masked Man and screaming “FAAAG! FAAAAAG!! FAAAAAAAG!!!”

    We are against government bailouts, handouts, and copouts.

    Unless we’re the ones personally benefiting from them — 501c, anyone?

    We are against big government, unless it can be led by our party of choice.

    AKA G/b>od’s Only Party?

    We are against religion (meaning any church but our church). We are against liberal theology (defined as someone who believes differently than we do). We are against Catholics and their candidate for antichrist status, the pope.

    We are against pedophilia and child molesting — when it’s (a) same-sex or (b) done by Romish Papists. Otherwise…

    And THAT is the image of the church and its Christ you get outside the four Thomas Kincade-decorated walls of the Christianese bubble.

  14. Well written Jeff. After leaving leaving evangelicalism after a 30 year stint last year I noticed something strange. I have gotten to know several people from my old church better and more authentically now that I am gone from there. I think there are masks that are worn in some evangelical circles that get I the way of having the real community we are seeking. When I was authentic at my old church about doubts I was having, it just made things wierd and I became a problem that made the prayer list. I felt in the end that the bad thing outweighed the good things at my old church and you highlighted them in your article perfectly.

  15. Here’s another good action plan;

    ‘repentance and forgiveness’

    None of us are up to this stuff. We all are stretched in so many ways. No one loves the neighbor, or God as they ought.

    So go, hear the law and then be forgiven. Receive His body and blood…and live.

    And do it all over again the next week.

    When will we stop trying to think that we can fix ourselves?

  16. sarahmorgan says:

    I feel I have so much I could say about Jeff’s letter that I could spend (or waste) a day writing a tome, but stirring up the sludge of my evangelical church experiences leaves me likewise depressed, and I’ve learned it’s best to refrain. I still remember handing out copies of Schaeffer’s “Mark of a Christian” to some of the ministry leaders I worked with, desperately trying to explain how important Jesus’ words were, to no real avail.

    When I abandoned the toxic & dysfunctional churches that I served in as worship leader/music director here in my town and instead switched my focus to the music department of the small local college, I was simply floored at how much more authentic, honest, well-adjusted, and caring all of the people I met in the school environment were compared to the evangelical church environment I left. This will sound harsh, but my local evangelical community was insular, proud, ignorant, disingenuous, callous, clueless, caring only for their own interests, and oftentimes cruel in comparison. Why would I want to stay in that environment? So many people told me that I should stay in church to “change it from the inside”, but after years of trying, you learn that when you’re in the small minority of a group that doesn’t want to change the status quo, you don’t change things, you just get eaten alive.

    At this point, though churchless, I’m thankful that I can still sing praises to God as I’ve done throughout my churchgoing life — the choirs and quartets I’m in now regularly sing African American spirituals and European sacred music of the 16th-18th centuries. There are days, though, where I wish I could sweep out of my head the memory of the young, arrogant new worship leader hired by one of the churches I served (this guy later turned out to be a fraud who lied about all of his previous church pastoral experience) who flat-out told me I had no skill in singing. Every time I think about trying to find another church to be part of and participate in, this and a thousand more bad memories keep me away. :-p

  17. Being a true friend is hard work. It can be messy, requires taking off the public mask and being vulnerable. It also takes time and availability when it may not always be convenient. I have lots of acquaintances, but true friends I can count on one hand. It takes intentionality to make time for face to face communication. It can also be very uneven. Sometimes I can give 100%, sometimes the circumstances in my life only allow 50% if that. There are a myriad of reasons none of those folks stepped up to the plate, but Smokey did, and that’s a friendship worth having and cultivating.

    • When does your book on friendship come out ?? Excellent points. The scarcity of really good friends is largely due to your intro sentence #1.
      GregR

  18. My wife and I still wrestle with our decision that led us to leave our local Evangelical Church last summer. “Post-Evangelical Wilderness” is such a good description of where we feel that we are. Because we have not found another building to worship in (and the real possibility that we may not ever go back to a building) is hard reality to consider given our previous ecclesiology. So, we often need to remind ourselves of why we don’t go back and I thought my wife made this point quite well the other night when she said; “Evangelicalism has spent so much time majoring on the minors that they lost the ability, along with the credentials, to communicate the gospel.”

    Maybe someone has said as much before but it does seem to convey the current state of Evangelicalism today.

    • Evangelicalism has always been in some way, shape or form, “Jesus and __________”. It is my observation that it is now; “_________ and Jesus” Not only is the concept of “Jesus AND something else” ridiculous, but they even put it in the wrong order.

      P.s. – Could someone (lovingly) point me in the right direction of how to use code for wordpress. i.e. block quotes, italics, bold. Thanks.

      • {b} or {i} or {blockquote} or any combination thereof, with what you want italicized or bolded or blockquoted between them – but use the less-than symbols instead of French brackets.

      • {b} or {i} or {blockquote} or any combination thereof, with what you want italicized or bolded or blockquoted between them – but use the less-than and greater-than symbols instead of French brackets.

        • And use the forwardslash character for where you want to end the formatting. When I tried to spell this all out WordPress took my slash as a code.

      • http://www.w3schools.com/html/default.asp

        Here’s a HTML tutorial.

  19. Thanks for being real Jeff. I appreciate that about your writing.

    I am still Evangelical, but in the evangelical Anglican tradition. It is different.

    Maybe because its roots are not so much in revivalist Christianity. The reformation in Anglicanism was liturgical. So I find there is no ethos of ‘bigger than real life’
    It is very different than what I spent almost 40 years in.

  20. David Cornwell says:

    Jeff, very sad, very moving. The very heart of God must be saddened and hurt by how we behave toward one other. Some of those like Smokey have a better understanding built within their hearts than within their intellects. That’s because they seem to know how to truly and fully love the other person. Thank God for them. May we all do better.

  21. Ben Howard says:

    Thank you for this convicting openness. I needed and I think all of us who claim to be within the evangelical spectrum need to hear, and heed your wisdom. May you truly find people around you who demonstrate Christ’s love, and may I be one of those people to those in my path.

  22. Jeff,

    First, my thoughts are with you. I have little experience with depression except the occasional blues, but my heart goes out to you.

    Second, I know a few really great pagans (and I use the word pagan in this case in an affectionate way) who are very warm and caring folk, and I enjoy having them in my life. I really think in some way God is working through them, showing some of us how we can be more selfless and outward facing and not so wrapped up in our legalism.

  23. Jeff, I deeply appreciate this letter and I deeply appreciate your heart in these matters. While so many are content to either bash evangelicalism or bash the bashers of evangelicalism, you manage to avoid both tendencies. Instead, in this letter and in the other posts of yours that I have read, you offer a realistic critique coupled with a wise, discerning, and compassionate corrective, which is absolutely essential as we move forward. God is using you to help us all find our way out of the post-evangelical wilderness. Christ loves his bride, the Church (including the Evangelical part of it) and so we must love it, too, despite it’s weaknesses and failures. Thank you for helping to point us in the right direction as we seek to do this together.

  24. David Zook says:

    Thanks for the letter Jeff.

    Here is what it tells me: we (evangelicals, even us dreaded reformed people) are all still sinners who make the most basic mistakes in our walk. We are way to judgmental (against everything) and way to hypocritical (not loving enough). This is precisely why we don’t need to tell people to love more. After all it’s just another of the endless list of rules to follow. This purpose of the gospel, in part, was to arrest us from this rule based thinking and doing and accept God’s unmerited favor and his power through the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts to him.

    What we need because we are so stained in sin, is the gospel of every minute of every day. If there was one rule that I would tell my fellow Christians it would be this: preach the gospel to yourself everyday, multiple times a day.

    When you do this, over time you will be known for what you are for and the love you have for others.