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.
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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