Will Evangelicalism Die or Revive: An Excerpt from My Almost for His Highest
- Friday, October 22, 2010
Evangelicalism is dying. The glory of God is ready to depart. As a movement, we're growing more and more content in the world. Rather than preferring to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, far too many of us prefer to be present with the body and with our future plans. We attend church. But mainly our interest is to learn how to improve our own lots in life. We're repeating the error of the impenitent thief on the cross to whom Jesus was only a matter of convenience. You can hear it in our prayers. Entreaties and petitions that once reflected verses of the Bible are now strangely at odds with Holy Writ. The way He taught us to pray, with hearts submitted to his Kingdom rule, are more and more becoming images of modern man and his quest for successful living.
What has become of the spirit of brokenness and humility in our churches? We are forgetting to bow the knee. What has happened to the cry of the penitent thief who, in unassuming contrition, cried from the depths of his sin-sick soul, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" We are forgetting we are thieves. Daily repentance and walking in true faith and holiness before God are being pushed aside to make room for the idols of personal relevance and the settled life.
What has become of our commitment to the crucified life? Have we forgotten His promise that we'll be persecuted for the sake of righteousness? To scores of Protestant believers the cross is a symbol, but that is all. What was once our joy to bear His cross turned to apprehension of it, and in our apprehension of it, we soon came to revile the very thought of losing face for His gospel. We are losing our saltiness.
Once there was a highway to heaven, full of born again souls set on pilgrimage to their heavenly Zion, a place not of this world. But now the highway is quickly being paved over with the veneer of casual Christianity. Other than the remaining trappings of ecclesiastical tradition found in some of our churches, or the name of Jesus heard through the loud speakers of culturally-sensitive extravaganzas called worship services found in others, very little evidence remains in the evangelical movement of what might be coined "evangelical."
What is the cause of our sickness? Evangelical leaders, and their followers, are relinquishing their commitment to the fundamentals of the Bible in order to induce church growth, regardless of the cost to the purity of the Church. As a result, though many of our churches look prosperous on the outside, they are dying on the inside. What's so very sad is how few know it, and if they do know it, are unwillingly to admit it.
But there is hope for the future. Spiritual awakening is on the horizon. Though modern evangelicalism is dying, God is coming to revive His people. God is already at work raising a people with a Christ-centered and Christ-focused theology and manner of life. This move of God will bring reformation to many churches, ignite personal and proclamation evangelism, convert scores of people -- many of whom have been members of churches for years -- and kick off a fresh wave of missionary activity. The concerned Protestant is therefore incorrect to interpret the swelling tide of worldliness, which is now overtaking our churches, as the final word. No power on earth can resist almighty God when He flexes His awakening muscle.
This very moment God is preparing a generation of people like John the Baptist, reared in the wilderness, who truly grasp the anointing of the Holy Spirit and are fathered, mentored, and taught by God Himself through servants who proclaim His Truth. Their theology will be both scriptural and supernatural. They will feed on the works of the Reformers of old while contending for the wonders of Acts, not for the sake of spectacle, but for the unveiling of a Living, Holy God who can only be beheld through the sin-demolishing blood of Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior. It all goes back to the cross, however. When that becomes central in the body of Christ again, the sleeping giant, the Church, will arise and will be one army, united behind one cause -- the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
How will God bring revival? Precisely the way He's done it in the past. He will cleanse the house of Israel of its cultural carnality and vindicate His name among the nations. In this special season, we will embrace the "words in red" -- which we've conveniently quarantined under the "hard sayings of Jesus" -- the way an asthmatic embraces oxygen. The waste places shall be restored. The ancient fields replanted. He will put a "new Spirit" within us. No longer will we permit the culture to set the agenda for the Church. The Church will again set the agenda for the culture.
If you doubt my anticipation of a great coming revival, then consider the following historical facts. The 16th-century European Reformation had a profound impact on virtually every area of European life. However, the spiritual danger facing Europe of the early 17th century was one that the magisterial Reformers Luther and Calvin would not have predicted. The rising sun of the Reformation that had shown such promise of being the standard-bearer of the light of the gospel to the nations had, within just several decades of their deaths, been eclipsed by a false gospel -- the "light" of reason. In the hands of Descartes and Locke, this light was said to aid men in their search for the truth of Christianity. In the hands of Tillotson and Toland, however, this light became the grid through which all revelation was to be judged.
By the mid-18th century, the gloves were off. When Voltaire and Rousseau referred to their activities as promoting the "Enlightenment," they meant that they were replacing what they perceived as the darkness, ignorance, and grip of Christianity that had ruled men's minds from the Middle Ages to the Thirty Years' War with the "light" of human reason, autonomy, and tolerance.
It took but a short time for the doctrines of the Enlightenment to reach the shores of America. By the late 18th century, the "best and brightest" of our still young nation were being captivated by its seductive grip. It's believed that by the time Timothy Dwight became the eighth President of Yale in 1795, there were fewer than twenty Christians in the entire college. Yet did God wring His hands in desperation? No. In response to the prayers, fasting, and supplications of godly men and women in Scotland and America, He raised up mighty, Spirit-filled preachers of the gospel, men such as Daniel Baker and Asahel Nettleton, to usher in the Second Great Awakening...
This article is an excerpt from John Barber's new book, My Almost for His Highest (Wipf and Stock). Dr. John Barber is pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and instructor at Uzima Reformed College in Nairobi, Kenya. He is author of several books, including The Road From Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture. He maintains a website (www.roadfromeden.com) specializing on topics relevant to Christianity and culture and he blogs at Legato (http://johnjbarber.blogspot.com/)
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