In this series, I have to revert to the more abstract word evangelicalism for the sake of economy, but I always have in view concrete, embodied evangelical institutions, churches, and events that reflect classic evangelical beliefs and behavior.
Furthermore, this series is not intended to convince people to stay in their evangelical churches or parachurch organizations, to hold on to the label evangelical for dear life, or even to give themselves with equal passion to evangelicals of all subcultures. God leads each of us in mysterious ways. If God is calling you to a church that doesn’t describe itself as evangelical, he probably has something for you to do there. Given your social location, if you believe the word evangelical confuses others about what you believe, stop using it. Not everyone is called to work across evangelical subcultures, and if this frustrates you to the point of ineffectiveness, then there’s nothing wrong with focusing your discipleship on your own subculture of evangelicalism.
In other words, this series is not about denying our great diversity, insisting that we all be on the same page about all things. It’s not even saying we have to like one another (though we are nonetheless called to love one another!) or even work together just because we’re evangelicals. In fact, as will be made clear in future essays, we hope many evangelicals will work across subcultures and with evangelicals with whom they seriously disagree about this issue or that. But we also recognize that is not everyone’s calling.
In sum, this series is about describing something that transcends all these differences, about beliefs and traits and habits that characterize a certain way of following Christ, one that has expressed itself in a variety of cultures and in a variety of times. It’s about evangelical distinctives that usually transcend the movement.
Remember Who We Are
This series essentially says: “Let us recall our distinctives.” In the last few decades, evangelicals have become more appreciative of the many gifts that Catholic and Orthodox traditions bring to Christendom, for example. While this has led some to convert to those other streams, some evangelicals have been more eager to incorporate these gifts and insights into evangelical life. This is all to the good—unless the incorporating dilutes or compromises the gifts that evangelicals uniquely bring with them.