Sunday, June 1, 2008

This morning, the New York Times released an article entitled "Taking Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to The People," which touches on something I have been speaking about on this forum for some time: the de-emphasis of partisan politics in the American evangelical community. The article makes some interesting and truthful points stating that young evangelicals are still resolute in their support of the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage, but they are also broadening their support to include issues like the environment, human rights, and care for the poor and people with AIDS.

The Times piece features interviews by Darrin Patrick, David Gushee, my good friend Dean Inserra, the director of Acts 29 Network, and yours truly (that's me, in case you were wondering). I think it is correct in its analysis and fairly written. It is definitely worth a read.

Anyone want to chime in on whether or not you think this analysis is correct or agenda-driven?

How do you think evangelicalism will look differently in the next 5, 10 or -- years?


Letitia (The Damsel) said...

Wow, your blog did not show up in any of the searches I did containing mentions of the NY Times article. Thus, I have found your comments quite unexpectedly while looking for other things. There is definitely something wrong with that--you should have been page one!

I am linking your post to my own blog.
The Journey in the NY Times

Letitia (The Damsel) said...

You asked:
How do you think evangelicalism will look differently in the next 5, 10 or -- years?

The waves of new, younger evangelical churches will take more prominence as the new face of the Christian church, particularly in the U.S. Denominationalism, whose heydey has already passed, has lost a good deal of significance and will continue to lose significance in the coming years. What will distinguish churches from one another will be concrete stances on doctrine and attitudes toward cultural engagement.

Particularly with the SBC (this is what your question is really about?), I think the difficulties it has presently cannot be overcome in time to turn back the slide into obscurity as a denomination and in this country. In 10 years, the SBC will still be around, but I see that it will have lost much of its internal driving force, not because of lack of initiative at the upper levels, but through the crumbling of its constituent churches. This year shows the lowest delegate attendance at any annual convention. Churches are increasingly distant from SBC business, as many congregations struggle with their own growing list of issues (leadership conflict, lack of pastors to fill pulpits, dwindling attendance, aging congregations, to name the most common).

Of course, I don't believe the SBC will go out quietly in the night. If and when sum of churches realize that the denomination is in serious trouble, there will be a short-lived resurgence in involvement, but I fear that it will be too little too late.

Having been brought up in SBC churches, I have that common love-hate relationship toward the denomination. I wish the SBC well, but if I should participate, I might not be well.

Great question.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Thanks for the insightful comments. I appreciate them.

I like your phrase "love-hate relationship" when describing the SBC. I feel that way often. Still, I am one of the few in my generation who believes that if a few of us will remain, the denomination might be able to turn around. It is a big boat, but once the boat turns it can be a powerful force for the Gospel.