Stopping Cultural Drift
Evangelical leaders are worried about the future of the movement.
That's one conclusion I reached after editing "What's Next?" in the October 2006 edition of Christianity Today. For that article, we asked more than 100 evangelical leaders about the challenges evangelicals face in a number of spheres: politics, higher education, culture, international justice, relief and development, and so on. Two quotes, in particular, suggest the nature of the worry.
Evangelist Greg Laurie: "The church has made such tremendous strides that now my only concern is that we're so cutting edge, we're so cool, and we're so hip. But are we still preaching the authentic gospel message?"
Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse: "The most important challenge that will face evangelical relief in the next 50 years is to make sure we don't dilute our faith as we respond to hurting people around the world."
This is not a new worry, of course. Theologian David Wells has for years complained about evangelical capitulation to culture:
Preaching finds its echoes in secular teaching and counseling. Evangelism finds its echoes in sales. Pastoral counseling finds its echoes in the efforts of the caseworker. Church ritual finds its echoes in the formal procedures of the court and legislature. And the administration of church programs finds its echoes in the management of countless secular organizations.
Looking back at the movement, historian David Bebbington, among others, has noted how the Wesleys' "optimism of grace" fit well the optimistic temper of the Enlightenment and how the Keswick movement's cultivation of the "victorious life" owed much to 19th-century romanticism. While evangelicals have been adept at adapting to culture, we have not always been able to ...