Hijacking Evangelicalism

Communication requires the use of words. Words are the units we use to build sentences and thereby present our thoughts and ideas to others. For communication to be useful, the person presenting the words and the one hearing the words must have the same understanding regarding the meaning of the words.

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The problem is that not everyone understands specific words in the same way and over time the meaning of words can actually change. Consider these words:

Awful:  In the 1300s awful originally meant “inspiring wonder” and was a short version of “full of awe”. But now the word has purely negative connotations.

Bully: Referring to someone as a bully in the 16th century was like calling them “darling” or “sweetheart” – probably from the Dutch word “boel”, meaning lover or brother. But the meaning deteriorated in the 17th century through “fine fellow” and “blusterer”, to “harasser of the weak”.

Nice: The term was derived from the Latin nescius meaning “ignorant”, the word began life in the 14th century as a term for “foolish” or “silly”. It soon embraced bad qualities, such as wantonness, extravagance, cowardice, and sloth. In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve. Society’s admiration of such qualities in the 18th century brought on the more positively charged meanings of “nice” we know today.

Gay: Back in the 13th century the word meant “light-hearted” or “joyous” and a century later it meant “bright and showy”. But in the 1630s it acquired connotations of immorality with the term “Gay woman” meaning prostitute or “gay house” a brothel. It was first used to refer to homosexuality in the 1930s.

But it’s not just words that can change meeting over time. Entire philosophies of thought can also change over time. From the above examples, we that words change over long periods of time and usage. Philosophies can change much more rapidly; in fact, they may seem at times to be hijacked.

Evangelical Christianity seems to be in the process of being hijacked. I recently came across an interesting statement by Roger E. Olson entitled “How American Evangelical Christianity Has Changed…”[1] Olson reflected on a number of the most dramatic changes he has witnessed in his lifetime. Let’s consider some of his concerns.

  • Churches in the United States in the recent past focused on the return of Jesus Christ. This perspective of Christianity has been largely dropped by Evangelicals. As Olson points out, “…only crazy fundamentalists “date-setters” even talk about the return of Christ. I guess I must be one of those.
  • In the past, evangelicals focused their attention on heaven and hell. Now we tend to hear little about these two major Biblical themes. Like many issues, they remain in our doctrinal statements, but not in our sermons. With the going popularity of the Emergent Church we will here less and less about them because universal salvation is a major doctrine of this movement.
  • Christianity of the past was always about missions and evangelism. These seem to still get lip service in the Church but direct action within the evangelical church seems to be waning. The most rapid growing religion in the US is Islam. I must ask, “Why not Christianity?” It seems we in the church have become complacent and we stopped sharing our faith. Perhaps, the church has lost its zeal for Christ and is living the Christian live as a tradition instead of as a driving force of our life.
  • Christians used to stand “separated from the world.” There used to be a difference between the actions and lifestyles of Christians and those outside the church. But such distinctions are much fuzzier now. People are not challenged to leave the worldly life for the godly life   as presented in the Bible. There little difference today between the secular world and the Evangelical Church.
  • In the past, evangelical Christians took it upon themselves to help those in need. Olson says, “…evangelical Christianity in America frowned on all forms of government welfare including subsidized home loans…Today evangelicals are just as likely as anyone else to rely on government financial support.”
  • There was a day when evangelical Christianity prepared its people for persecution…evangelicals actually expected to be persecuted. Now those in the church go to any measure to escape persecution…believers will actually deny their faith.
  • Evangelical Christians of the past actually knew their Bible. They read it often and memorized it. Families had time together and practiced family devotions. Now many in the church cannot find specific verses in the Bible; much less are they able to discuss major Bible themes.

These are only highlights of many of the changes we have seen in Evangelicalism since the 1950’s. But why do I share this? I share this because evangelical Christianity has been hijacked. We have move away from the teaching of the Bible and adopted the ways of the world. We would rather turn to business gurus like Peter Drucker to tell us how to “do church” then to turn to the Bible and learn what the God of the universe wants us to do.

The church has moved to fads such as Seeker-Friendly, Church Growth, Emergent Church, and others to bring people into their congregations. I must admit that the numbers of people these movements bring into the church is impressive. I am less impressed by the lack of spiritual growth that occurs in these churches. They tend to deemphasize sound doctrine in favor of relationship building.

The purpose of the church is not to bring large numbers of people into large buildings. At TFL we have defined the purpose of our church.

Truth Fellowship Live exists to glorify God by teaching and applying the Truth of God’s Word resulting in:

  • Evangelism promotes growth by defending the gospel and by offering the gospel to the unsaved.
  • Edification trains those members to be productive disciples thereby building up the church. Edification involves teaching, praying, fellowshipping, observing the ordinances, and maintaining church unity.
  • Worship praises and rejoices as our response to the Glory of God, to the salvation He freely provides, and to His provision of our daily needs.
  • Service results from the disciple doing the good works that God prepared for us to do in advance. Our love for God results in serving others in acts of Christian love and compassion for believers and non-believers.

In 2 Cor 5:20 we read, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” This passage precisely summarize the role of every Christian in the world. We are to be ambassadors for Christ. This thinking is lacking in the church today. Paul’s appeal was a passionate plea (“we try to persuade men” [v. 11]) addressed to the world on Christ’s behalf. We are to tell the world—“Be reconciled to God (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3–4).

The church has lost this zeal. Let us rejuvenate our passion as we seek to be Christ’s ambassadors.

Consider this…What is your passion? What would you rather have or do in life? What is most important to you? If it is not Christ and serving Him then it will burn at His judgment seat (1 Cor 3:9-15).

Let’s stand together as defenders of the faith. Let’s stop the hijacking of the Evangelical Church.

[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/06/how-american-evangelical-christianity-has-changed/


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