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Home > 2012 > July Online Only > Who's Tending Our Well?

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There was a recent survey of "famous Christians" according to which Billy Graham, amazingly enough, was still the name with the most responses—but of course at a much lower level than in previous decades. The pope was second; only one other name (Joel Osteen, at 4%) registered at a statistically significant level.

The social capital of evangelical leadership is getting thinner each year. The desire for a pope might be as misguided as Israel's desire for a king, but our current strategy of "each did what was right in his own eyes" is not working that hot either. There is an increasing sense of fiefdoms and competing coalitions. There is a certain kind of mindset that almost seems to rejoice in "outing" someone who has questionable evangelical credentials in the eyes of the "outer." This is not healthy for the evangelical community, and is repellent to those who are truly on the outside.

C.S. Lewis (another well-digger) said that one of his reasons for writing about what he called Mere Christianity ("the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times") was that when we publicly focus on intra-mural divisions it "has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold."

We have been blessed with some wonderful voices in our own time—I think of Rich Mouw, Neal Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Scott McKnight, and Dallas Willard. I hope we listen to our best voices, not just the loudest ones.

I hope conviction-filled civility triumphs.

I hope we spend more time digging wells than building fences.

John Ortberg is pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and editor at large of Leadership Journal.

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John Ortberg is editor at large of Leadership Journal and pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California.

Related Topics:ChristianityEvangelismFuturePrioritiesRenewalTruth
Posted: July 16, 2012

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Displaying 2–6 of 7 comments

Gary Stewart

July 25, 2012  5:08pm

I found the article well reasoned and relevant for our times. I am an American male (although I'm not sure why that matters) but I have ministered in India and two different African countries and think the issue of well digging v fence building relevant for those places as well

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Mary Fisher

July 18, 2012  1:02am

John Ortberg, May I suggest some other than white and other than male names. I confess I read your article with a growing sense of "Here we go again...cognitive control is his paradigm". And when I saw all the names I thought Menlo Park for goodness sakes send him overseas to a non English speaking country for a few years.

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Mary Fisher

July 18, 2012  1:01am

John Ortberg, May I suggest some other than white and other than male names. I confess I read your article with a growing sense of "Here we go again...cognitive control is his paradigm". And when I saw all the names I thought Menlo Park for goodness sakes send him overseas to a non English speaking country for a few years.

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David Severy

July 17, 2012  10:20pm

from the article: "I know the word evangelical is just about shot in our broader culture. But no good replacement has come along yet." Some one teaches that evangelists are church planters. I am quite enamored of this view.

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David Severy

July 17, 2012  10:19pm

from the article: "I know the word evangelical is just about shot in our broader culture. But no good replacement has come along yet." Some one teaches that evangelists are church planters. I am quite enamored of this view.

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