I've been blogging the past few days about Michael Spencer's article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled: The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism.
After assessing reasons for why he predicts that evangelism will collapse in the next 10 years, and what will be left, he makes the statement: "Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout (we are all so excited about those these days), it needs a funeral.
But what about what remains? He asks:
Is it a good thing that denominations are largely to become irrelevant?
Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshall resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into planting and equipping churches.
Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart?
Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.
The ascendency of the Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a very good thing.
Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development?
One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be more about renewed vigor to "evangelize" Protestantism in the name of unity.
Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallownemss that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. He expects the landscape of the megachurch to be around for a very long time.
Will it shake loose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? History is not that encouraging.
It doesn't sound too hopeful, does it?
No, if we look at it from our evangelical vantage point. But, when we back up and consider the Bible and recent history, I am anticipatory for some extraodinary days ahead:
The Bible teaches us that when the Holy Spirit came upon the Jesus followers in the upper room waiting for their promise, a revival started that lasted for 300 years. It was only when the powerful, life transforming witness of the Jesus followers became the official religion of the State, that things began to shift for the worse.
We often equate freedom of worship with success. My view of China points to the opposite. When the missionaries were forced out of China because it became illegal, the fire was lit and new believers were born with increasing speed.
When the church is forced into smaller communities, the power of invitation becomes life altaring. Deep friendships are formed, and lives of faith are lit on fire!
When we begin to live with a realization that Jesus taught us to seriously "take up our cross daily and follow him," we understand that we have freedom in our faith, but losing freedom in our culture re-inforces that following Jesus is a faith worth dying for.
The next 10 years is the separation from the Christian era to the post Christian era. We will need to live differently, but Jesus' Church is not going to die. It's going to be refined, purified, brought back to the origins of the basic commands of Jesus and the power behind it, and that, I think is a very good thing!
Spencer ends his article by stating this: "Christianity loves a crumbling empire.
We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born.
I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, number, and paid staff its drugs for half a century. We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being his people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture."
After reading these blogs and thinking through the implications, I'd love to hear your viewpoints on what you believe will happen in the coming days, and the next 10 years.