The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2

Continuing Maurice Smith’s great article – this is the encouraging part.

Maurice Smith

 

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

Part 2: Evangelicalism in Transition

Now I want to offer several observations regarding what I see as the outcome of that collapse.

Evangelicalism will look more like the church of the first century, and less like the church of the last (i.e., 20th)  century. I’m tempted to simply allow that statement to stand without comment – forcing you to simply digest it without elaboration . . . . but what fun would that be?!  When David Lehman in “The Answering Stranger” declared, “The Twentieth Century is the name of a train that no longer runs”, he could easily have been referring to the Evangelical Church. The Church of the 20th Century witnessed the rise and fall of the temperance movement in the first half of the century(culminating in the 18th amendment), and the rise of the pro-abortion movement (culminating in Roe v. Wade) in the last half of the century. The Evangelical Church has witnessed Billy Graham filling Times Square (September 2, 1957), and “gay pride” marches filling those same streets. The Evangelical Church has witnessed the rise of the mega-church and the precipitous decline in the impact of the church on American culture. We began the 20th Century with a world wide awakening of historic proportions, and we ended the century with . . . . nothing of note. I believe God is done with the Church of the 20th Century, and He is taking us back to the Church of the 1st Century.

Evangelicalism will be vastly smaller, but vastly more effective.  Let’s face it. In traditional Western Christianity of the 20th Century, “success” is measured by size: the size of your congregation, the size of your budget, the size of your facility, the size of your staff, etc.  Size matters . . . except in the Kingdom of God.  But the day of “size matters” is quickly Continue reading “The Collapse of Evangelicalism – Part 2”

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THREE APOSTLES TO THE PHILIPPINES

I’ve just returned from one of the most significant trips that I have had to the Philippines. We (myself, my wife Esther and my good friend Carl Porter) went there to serve some churches with whom we had a relationship – and in the process finished up serving three apostles, three good Filipino men that Christ has given as gifts to the church.

FELIX DE RAMOS

One of them was Felix de Ramos. Felix has been serving as a father in the Philippines for the past 15 years and more, travelling around the country building up pastors and serving the Filipino church. He is one of the humblest, most unassuming men I know. His home church, Peace International Christian Church, sounds grand but meets in the basement of a house in Quezon City, Manila, hidden from view yet immensley influential.

Which is what true apostles are all about. Like the bones of the body or the foundations of the building they carry weight and give strength and shape but are hidden. It’s the flesh that carries the life and is seen. Felix, to my mind, embodies that principle and is a gift to the church.

LHOY EDANIOL

Lhoy and Venus EdaniolLhoy I’ve introduced in the previous post. He met me with tears at Felix’s church and we proceeded to Sapang Palay to meet the two churches that he was fathering in San Jose del Monte, a significant city in the hills above Manila. Five years ago God restored a very broken Lhoy back into ministry and gathered again the scattered flock that he had left – and added another battered flock to him as well. By the time we arrived Lhoy, with the enthusiastic help of his wife Venus,  had formed them into a couple of vibrant churches with equally enthusiastic workers reaching out among the poor and planting home based churches among them.

Part of the reason I went was to check that he had put into place some protections for himself and his family. Church planting is hard work in the Philippines, especially under old paradigms of ministry. I left him, confident that the safeguards are in place (before I came he had submitted himself to an older pastor in the area who loved him)  and confident also that God had restored him from the wilderness to be a key man in the city. For he carries an apostolic heart for the city, for the churches of the city and for the many other pastors who have fallen under the weight of ministry. God is making him a father beyond his local congregations. And I’m looking forward to being part of that process, raising some support back here in Yeppoon and dropping in now and then to strengthen him in a great work.

MOLONG NACUA

Then there was Molong.  But he definately requires a separate post … stay tuned.

Deja Vu

I’ve been musing on the similarities between the apostolic movement in Australia and the movement that I was a part of in the UK during the 70s and 80s.

Back in ’74 I found myself, at the end of a long period of backsliding, thrust into a new thing that was emerging in the UK – a house church.  House churches flourished in the 70s in the UK, born out of the Charismatic Movement and expressing a dissatisfaction with the existing expressions of Christianity and a desire to get back to ‘simple’ church. Those in more traditional structures dismissed them or criticised them as being theologically shallow, dangerously independent or ‘fly by night’ but they never the less flourished and many of the most mature and influential churches and networks in the UK today trace their beginnings back to homechurch.

Alongside this movement however was another important move of God that embraced these pioneers and gave them the foundations they needed in order to stay on track and grow. This was the Restoration Movement, a move of God to restore the foundational ministries of apostles and prophets to the church.  Men like Terry Virgo, Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallace and Gerald Coates emerged as fathers and mentors to these fledgling churches and brought stability, orthodoxy and vision.  Under their ministry there was a restoration to the church of such concepts as true community, discipleship, the true nature of the Church, the oneness of the Body of Christ, the power of grace, and the true destiny of the Church. It was an exciting time.

Consequently the churches that embraced the apostolic began to grow.  Many grew too big to meet in a home but, instead of multiplying into a network of home churches, they followed the conventional wisdom of the day and moved out of their homes into a hired hall.  And then out of a hired hall into a purpose built building.  Then out of a smaller building into a larger one.  And on the way, of course, out of jeans into suits, out of simple acoustic worship into a worship band and out of song sheets into overhead projectors, and out of OHPs into Digital Projectors etc etc…..  And, in the process, out of ‘simple’ church into ‘sophisticated’ church – Sunday morning ‘event’ church. I did it myself and loved.

The problem was however, that although we loved the new songs, the bigger crowds and the you-beaut technology, our churches in fact often looked very similar to the ones that many had left in the 60s/70s except that the buildings were newer, the songs more contemporary, the technology more up to date and the preaching more entertaining. Sometimes though, if we were honest, we would find ourselves travelling home from ‘church’ wondering whether we had actually touched the throne of God or simply been caught up in the ‘event’. Bit like the effects of a good concert or movie. The trouble is that it is not easy to see that when you are a musician or preacher, caught up in the program of producing the Sunday morning event (and making sure that it is a better event than the one offered up the road). Sometimes you have to leave the thing to see what it has actually become.

IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN

And that, I believe, is where we are right now. Deja vu. It’s happening again. There is an exodus taking place in the Western nations of people who feel that they have for a long time been mere spectators in a system that is geared towards producing the Sunday event, as if it were meant to be the main expression of church. People who are looking for Continue reading “Deja Vu”