What We Evangelicals Do Well
Temper fashionable cynicism by focusing on our strengths.

I'm proud to be an evangelical. I think we do many things well.

Some will roll their eyes at those first two statements. Why? Criticizing evangelicalism is fashionable and evangelicals have joined the fashion, sometimes with apocalyptic fervor. I wonder if the relentless critique of (sometimes hardheaded) evangelical pastors, theologians, and authors–not to mention blogs and internet sites–is not the place we ought to urge the beginnings of reform. I'm sure that most critics have their heart in the right place: they want evangelicalism to be more biblical and more robust. (I hope those are my motivations in my own critiques.) But there sure are a lot of critics. This is what I mean:

Some evangelicals think evangelicalism is not Reformed enough because it has lost touch with its Reformed roots. Some think evangelicalism ignores its Wesleyan heritage. Indeed, it would not be hard to find an evangelical survey that omits John Wesley. Some think we have fallen prey to political parties. Others think we need to recover the liturgy and lectionary, while others think we need to re-embrace the lost heritage of the Great Traditions of the classic creeds. Some think evangelicals have forfeited intellectual rigor as a populist movement, while others think evangelicals have become far too theological, creedal, and intellectual. Some think we have failed to preach prophetic texts and have lost enthusiasm for the Second Coming while others disparage every attempt even to suffer such literalism. Some think we'd be much better off if we were all charismatic, while others think charismatics are not real evangelicals. Some think we need to be more socially active while others raise the red flag at the first sign of the social gospel.

Some think evangelicalism is on its deathbed and that the only way forward is the emerging movement, while others think the emerging movement is dancing with the devil. Some think seeker services are the cat's meow, others the end before the end. The worship wars get at least two responses: a hearty, dismissive "Get over it!" and a "Dig in your heels because if we give in here we will slide down the slippery slope!" For some, prohibiting entrance of women into ministry is the litmus test for fidelity, while for others it's so utterly obvious that opposition is Luddite. Some today draw swords to affirm complementarian male-female relationships in the home and the church, while others think of the issue, "Times have changed."

Yes, we can always do better. But I've got a question for you: What do you think (we) evangelicals do well? I will mention a few–more could be listed–but I'm asking you to speak up in the comments section, because this is a post for evangelicalism.

October 31, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 19 comments

Adam S

November 11, 2008  9:20am

I would want to add a corrective to most of the comments. That would be "some Evangelicals do (insert idea here) well." All of these are overly broad. While I understand that this type of exercise requires generalizations, what might be more helpful is, "My local body is good at..." The generalizations allow us to be broadly critical without making any changes. The personalized look at our local bodies forces us to figure out where we are and where we should be going.

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Matt Valencia

November 05, 2008  1:20pm

Scot, thanks for opening up the dialogue like this and for pointing out what some are doing well. I would like to point out that the focus should not so much be defining "evangelicalism" as much as it should be on being biblical Christians. That means TWO THINGS: 1) we believe the Bible to be God's perfect word and 2) we seek to live it. To me that is the umbrella of biblical Christianity and I pray that it would also define "evangelicalsim". We must love God with our hearts, souls, minds and strength AND we must love others as ourselves.

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Ephrem Hagos

November 05, 2008  1:49am

Ecumenism, new birth, theology and personal tranformation are the strangest bed-fellows with too much to lose and nothing to gain! For a wholesome change, let us try first-hand and personal knowledge of Christ without which no single-minded servanthood in charge of God's secret truths and faithfulness is possiible (1 Cor. 4: 1-2).

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Winston Edip

November 04, 2008  8:01pm

I too am proud to be an evangelical - if, by being an evangelical you mean being a child of God (in every biblical sense of the word). And, yes, evangelicals are good in believing, emphasizing, insisting and living the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. Think J.I.Packer and his 'Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God' and 'Knowing God.'

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Chris Hewko

November 04, 2008  2:18pm

As a Canadian, i am often amused at the dynamic conversation that Christianity south of the 49th seems to be having for itself. Perhaps if only one could gain a broader perspective to the effect of the Gospel on our Global village, or even visit the post-Christian world of Canada or Europe, one might see the argument as unnecessary. It would appear to me that like all other movements (even movements of the Holy Spirit), evangelicalism - as an "ism" - is a contextually based movement. And like all contexts, the American one will change too, and evangelicalism will have served its purpose.

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Mostly Coastal

November 04, 2008  1:28pm

I wish a recognizable woman's name would have come to mind for two of those categories...Anne Graham Lott...the best preacher in Billy's family, and a wonderful example of evangelical ;)

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Brendan Johnston

November 04, 2008  8:08am

I speak as an outsider, though Evangelicism runs in my blood to a point. As a Lutheran (In Germany, Lutherans are actually called Evangelicals), I find my peers frequently are disparaging of Evangelicals for many reasons. However, I have always admired the passion you bring to being Church. You, as a group, carry on the tradition of the revival meetings, believing that the God we worship deserves not just our trust, but all the energy we can muster. Energy can always be channeled poorly. However, it's absence is irreplaceable.

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Tim Hallman

November 02, 2008  9:15pm

Evangelicals are good at transcending class issues; many evangelical churches in my city (including my own...) embrace a wide diversity when it comes to class status. Evangelicals get excited when a church reaches out to the least of these as well as the richest of these. Our denomination seeks to establish/serve churches in rural and urban settings, small towns and suburbs. The class/socio-economic diversity is good and it is encouraged.

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November 02, 2008  6:36pm

Phl 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Good word Scot thanks.

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November 02, 2008  7:44am

The first question I would have is "Could you please define what you mean as 'evangelical'?" In a recent poll, I read that more than 40% of "evangelicals" don't believe that Jesus is the only way. If that's so, then the irreducible minimun you mention may no longer exist? So I would like to agree with you and appreciate the reminder to think on "whatsoever things are of good report," but I would like a definition first of the word. That, it seems to me, is the real question: What/who are we exactly talking about?" Thanks.

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