Why does the evangelical community end up with sinners like Governor Mark Sanford (adultery) and Ted Haggard (immorality) and CEO Kenneth Lay (fraud) and evangelist Jim Baker (licentiousness)—to take but a very few examples! A year doesn't go by that we aren't treated to another major scandal. Who will be next?
Unfortunately, history is a discomforting witness to the truth that church leaders and followers are all too easily mesmerized by money, sex, and power—or just plain sloth. In recent history, evangelical jeremiads were usually lamenting the sorry state of liberalism. Today, the jeremiads are self-directed, from The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind to The Scandal of Evangelical Politics to Pagan Christianity. It's now pretty much agreed that the evangelical church mirrors the dysfunctions of secular society, from premarital sex stats to divorce rates to buying habits. Much to our dismay, we are hardly a light to the world, nor an icon of the abundant, transformed life.
What has gone wrong? The first answer seems to be that we are not thinking right or doing enough. Some put their chips on redefining the gospel in social terms; they assume the problem is individualism. Others bet on spiritual formation; the problem is that we're lazy and spiritual disciplines point the way to a more godly future. Some say we need the dynamism of the Holy Spirit; the problem is formalism. Others plea for more accountability groups or more thoughtful worship music or more time in prayer or more of some other magic bullet. If we only do something more, things will improve.
We've tried all these, and tried them time and again. The lamentable conclusion seems to be that while the gates of Hades will never prevail against the church, ...