Friday, 28 December 2007
Liberals and Evangelicals: the Coy and the Cocky
Tim suggested that this was a strange poll and Jody is clearly unimpressed by what passes for making disciples in evangelical circles. This first post then relates to some of my concerns about evangelism and explains some of the reasons behind the poll.
My own recent experience and reading has persuaded me that the missiologist David Bosch was onto something back in the 90’s when he suggested the possibility of a coming together between the evangelical and liberal movements. (1) If this is right it is a good thing. Each movement has distinctive strengths that are lacking in the other. In relation to evangelism liberalism tends to be much less formulaic and dogmatic than evangelicalism and much better at humble, respectful dialogue but evangelicalism evidences much more enthusiasm and is much more likely to actually get on with sharing the faith.
What I long to see is an expression of protestant Christianity which combines the best of both these approaches. Many seem to think at that the two sets of qualities are incompatible. I cannot accept this. For example I can’t see why it isn’t possible to enter into genuinely open dialogue with an enthusiastic hope that the other will come to follow Christ. I think it was David Bosch again who spoke of the need for a bold humility.
My fear though is that we will end up running away so fast from the more distasteful approaches to evangelism to be found in some forms of conservative Christianity that we will end up being coy about verbal faith sharing and luke warm when it comes to helping others to become disciples. Certainly recent expressions of classic liberalism, most forms of post-evangelicalism/emerging church are depressingly diffident when it comes to telling people about Jesus. The former is declining at a rate approaching the speed of sound and the latter is patently failing to make significant impression upon postmodern generations.
Sure evangelism is about far more than telling, Jesus didn’t call us to be gobs on legs, but why oh, why do we find it so hard to embrace a genuinely holistic form of witness holding together being, doing, showing AND TELLING?
1. This coming together, if it is to happen, is unlikely to embrace the whole of evangelicalism. I suspect that the future of evangelicalism will see a bifurcation between those who become ever more entrenched in reactionary forms of neo-fundamentalism and those on the left wing of the movement who recognise the need for significant change.