New Testament evangelists make it easy to get into the church “that very hour,” but they also make it mean something to stay in. We, in contrast, make it hard to get in, but once in the body a member usually is secure for life regardless of his beliefs or lifestyle. It is easier to remain a member of the average church today than it is to continue one’s membership in a lodge! If we exercised biblical care and discipline, we would have little or no difficulty in adopting and following the biblical pattern.
The fact is that a sound and lively truth-basis has been ejected from the premises of modern evangelicalism. Evangelicalism has been dispossessed of truth to such an extent that it is becoming frightening. In its place experience and mysticism are house-sitting the church or, if not these, then church growth pragmatism or an unhealthy preoccupation with the psychological. But the necessary doctrines of the holiness of God and His just wrath, justification by faith alone, the transforming nature of regeneration, the sovereignty of God over all of creation and in salvation itself, the nature and extent of grace in justification and in sanctification – doctrines upon which the earlier revivals thrived – have been considered unimportant and useful only for wizened old theologs holed up in ivory towers who do not relate to the church’s future.
Evangelicals believe in the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ that penetrates any culture. On the basis of the divinely inspired Word, evangelicals proclaim the good news that God justifies by faith alone those who believe in Jesus, whose atoning death and triumphant resurrection make it possible for sinners to be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Wherever you see cooperation around these core convictions of the gospel handed down through the centuries, you see the evangelical movement.
Worship is the lost chord of evangelicalism.
The problem with conservative churches is not that they lack members. The problem is that many of those members are not converted. Millions of members of evangelical churches are absent from worship services each Sunday and are equally absent from Christian living during the rest of the week. Biblical illiteracy and unethical conduct by Christians seem to be on the rise. Many people who attend are indifferent to the truths of Christianity, and others are divisive, even mean-spirited.
First of all, the evangelical is one who is entirely subservient to the Bible… This is true of every evangelical. He is a man of one book; he starts with it; he submits himself to it; this is his authority.
There are other people who are prepared to argue and discuss and even change their opinion, but they do not do anything about it. The evangelical, however, is a man who acts on his convictions. There would never have been Protestantism if this were not true.
The only people who are ever interested in revival are evangelicals, and a good way of testing the quality of a man’s evangelicalism is his interest in revival. The institutional people do not often talk about revival. They try sometimes to pay lip-service to it but they do not believe in it… The true evangelical, on the other hand, is always longing for an outpouring of the Spirit, and the great evangelical reawakenings have always been a result of an effusion of the Holy Spirit. The evangelical by nature is tremendously interested in revival.
The evangelical always gives primacy to preaching. When people cease to be interested in preaching, they cease to be evangelical. If you put discussions before preaching you are beginning to deny your evangelicalism. The church starts with preaching. Revivals, reformations, have always been great restorations of preaching. To the evangelical, nothing compares with preaching. Even reading is very secondary to preaching – “truth medicated through personality,” the impact of a man filled with the Spirit proclaiming the message of God!
“Schism” – People who were agreed about the centralities of the faith dividing and separating from one another over matters that were not essential to salvation, not absolutely vital. This is always one of the dangers afflicting us as evangelicals… We can be so rigid, so over-strict, and so narrow that we become guilty of schism.
Within evangelicalism is a distressing drift toward accepting a Christianity that does not demand a life-changing walk with God. Many evangelicals (today) do not realize that the church has always been an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism, but as a result they turned the world upside-down.
How deeply has the tendency to deny hell penetrated evangelicalism? One survey of evangelical seminary students revealed that nearly half – 46 percent – felt preaching about hell to unbelievers is in “poor taste.” Worse, three out of every ten self-professed “born again” people surveyed believe “good” people will go to heaven when they die – even if they’ve never trusted Christ. One in every ten evangelicals say they believe the concept of sin is outmoded.
Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world.
To call a man evangelical who is not evangelistic is an utter contradiction.
If I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity. The old cross slew men, the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.
The new evangelicalism is not driven by the same passion for truth as the older form, and that is why it is often empty of theological interest. We now have less biblical fidelity, less interest in the truth, less seriousness, less depth and less capacity to speak the Word of God to our own generation in a way that offers an alternative to what it already thinks.
The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, His grace too ordinary, His judgment too benign, His gospel too easy, and His Christ is too common.