Recently a young man sat in my office enthusiastically telling me how God had called him to a new level of ministry in a well-known evangelical denomination. In recalling his journey, he said, "I was raised to know well what I was against, but really never knew what I was for." This discovery was for him a moment of freedom when he experienced God's maturing work in his life.

Clearly this is not everyone's experience. Too many evangelical organizations have been defined by a negative mindset that was forged at its birth when the rallying point was to "oppose" or "correct" the extremes of another group, creating an environment in which we define ourselves against the faulty beliefs or behaviors of "the other guy." As a result, our identity has too often been shaped by the position of others rather than by the center of biblical revelation.

Recently the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) decided to alter its longstanding position that a denomination could not be a member of both the NAE and the National Council of Churches (NCC). This decision, we believe, marks a milestone in the development of the evangelical movement and demonstrates the commitment to be a strong evangelical witness that stands on its own.

In American culture, the evangelical movement in general and the NAE in particular have served the church well with their clarion call to a soundly scriptural witness. Yet as the culture and organizations change, the points of reference also change. While the NAE was formed largely in response to the theologically liberal NCC, the landscape today is different. Likewise, the evangelical movement has matured. Not only have we grown in the confidence of our scriptural identity and witness, but the groups against which ...

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