What Has Happened to the Evangelical Christianity of Not Long Ago?

There are 36 Comments

TylerR's picture

Editor

This is basically what every church I've ever attended looks like, plus or minus a few things. But, there does seem to be a pervasive casualness and frivolousness that has infected many churches. A lady from our church went with a friend to attend another church, as a favor (the friend didn't want to visit a new church alone). This is what the member reported back:

  • The music was loud and the congregation didn't participate; it was a band's show.
  • The "sermon" consisted of two pastors sitting on stools and having a conversation with each other about something innane.  
  • The Lord's Supper was held that day, and was arranged on tables at the back. The lead pastor closed the sermon, asked everyone to partake, and left people to grab their crackers and juice and socialize at will, as music played. Literally, there was nothing else said about it Children rushed to get cups of juice, ignored the crackers, some adults ignored it altogether in favor of the coffee bar, and nobody cared.
  • I've seen something similarly blasphemous (but, not as bad) concerning the Lord's Supper at a local GARBC church, too. 

This is so irreverent and blasphemous. Is this really what most "conservative" churches are like? It's impossible to tell; our own perspectives are so limited. But, it's frightening. That isn't Christianity. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

WallyMorris's picture

I agree with you Tyler. This is what conservative "Christianity" is becoming in an attempt to be nonthreatening, casual, cool, relevant, reflecting the culture rather than Biblical principle in order to keep seats filled, ministries continuing, salaries paid, and debt paid.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

RajeshG's picture

In a response to some comments to this article, the author of this article says,
 

I thought I did mention the main cause--cultural accommodation (on both the "right" and the "left")--being more concerned with fitting in than standing out.

 

Accommodating culturally (in the ways that the author speaks of as problematic) supposedly for the sake of the gospel is greatly hurting the cause of Christ all over the world.
 

T Howard's picture

RajeshG wrote:

In a response to some comments to this article, the author of this article says,
 

I thought I did mention the main cause--cultural accommodation (on both the "right" and the "left")--being more concerned with fitting in than standing out.

 

Accommodating culturally (in the ways that the author speaks of as problematic) supposedly for the sake of the gospel is greatly hurting the cause of Christ all over the world.
 

Is cultural accommodation in and of itself problematic? Can we accommodate the culture in ways that is not sinful or problematic?  Or, is all accommodation wrong?

The author mentions that he’s not bemoaning “drums on the stage,” yet why is that not a sign of the cultural accommodation he’s against? Certainly the types of instruments we use during worship is a reflection of someone’s culture.

If he admits that some of his concerns may be issues of legalism , what is the way forward? 

Jay's picture

You guys may have missed the key sentence:

Why has it changed so dramatically in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in America? I suspect the “old evangelical” ways are now considered legalistic. Perhaps so. Some would even say it was more than just “old fashioned;” it was too out of step with culture to have much impact on the culture. Possibly so. I could go on with the reasons why this mid-twentieth century evangelical subculture has largely gone away (except among separatistic fundamentalists).

I don't know what circles Olson runs in, but quite a few of the things he mentioned are still in practice in my circles and church.  Other sections he wrote (in my opinion, like "revival meetings", which I read as "revivalism") are unhealthy and need to die.  But if the main point is that Evangelicalism is dying, and you run in circles that aren't committed to doctrine enough to separate from sin and error, then I'm going to wonder why you're so surprised when people don't take the Lord's Supper seriously.

We can gripe about the music and dress standards, but that's fruit off of an unhealthy or poisoned tree.  Deal with the roots of the issue first - what kind of God do they believe in and worship?  What message do they preach?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

WallyMorris's picture

A good illustration of what's happening in supposedly conservative Christianity is the change in the SBC. Note what the current SBC President did recently in the church he pastors: https://twitter.com/thejoshcarlile/status/1091668187979108353

Whether SBC, independent Baptist, or what flavor church: This is disgusting. If anyone doubts the Conservative Resurgence is failing, this should help convince you.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

Editor

What is wrong with people? That is truly blasphemous. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Darrell Post's picture

Is the writer of this article the same as the Roger E Olson who wrote in defense of "Postconservative Evangelicalism" in the Four Views book edited by Andy Naselli? The same book where Kevin Bauder wrote defending historic fundamentalism? 

Larry Nelson's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

Is the writer of this article the same as the Roger E Olson who wrote in defense of "Postconservative Evangelicalism" in the Four Views book edited by Andy Naselli? The same book where Kevin Bauder wrote defending historic fundamentalism? 

.....it is him.  Which is why the OP article befuddles me. 

In "Four Views..." he argued that much of evangelicalism needed to be scrapped.  In the OP article he argues that in some circles much of evangelicalism has been.    

So where does he really stand?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Olson is strange. Sometimes (like in this article) I agree with him. Other times, I don't. Today, he just published an article in which (among other things) he bemoans evangelical's unwillingness to see Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as true Christians. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

With due respect to Whitney Houston and a couple of men doing some goofball things linked by Wally, I'm not all that worked up about Olson's list because most of it is Christian-ish microculture.  Some of it, like #13 about preaching being always to convict of sin and such, ignores the fact that a lot of passages in Scripture discuss other topics, and hence to "go for the jugular" that way is simply to misrepresent Scripture.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Olson's comments, though, as I remember learning the hard way about 21 years back about the problems of the "seeker-sensitive" movement.  Preaching--really any exegesis of the Word--was downplayed to the point where a former coworker of my wife who visited--this is a guy who dressed up as Gene Simmons from Kiss for Halloween--characterized our then-church as "church lite."  But I don't think that re-emphasizing fundagelical culture from the 1950s to the 1990s really corrects this problem.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The greatest moment of my pastoral ministry came last year, when a church member brought a friend to church. The friend is unsaved. She said that, although our church was nice and the people were friendly, there was too much Bible in the message. She said she was looking for something lighter. #winning. 

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim Welch's picture

My response to what I just saw in this video:  "I wanna puck alone, not with anybody."  How does this confront an individual with the glorious Christ?  

WallyMorris's picture

Doesn't matter whether what Greear did was during a worship service or not - He did it in his church as pastor. Can anyone imagine Adrian Rogers or W.A. Criswell doing anything remotely similar to this? People like Mohler must be devastated at seeing the President of the SBC doing this. And this is part of the problem with the new leaders in Evangelicalism - No Taste, No Class, No Brains. Does anyone doubt situations like this happen because they are letting the wider culture influence them? No one is talking about "re-emphasizing fundagelical culture from the 1950s to the 1990s". But compared to the culture being emphasized today, it would be an improvement.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

John E.'s picture

Let's be honest, the main problem that some have with the video of Greear is the music he lipsynched to. I remember BJU's Gold Rush Daze and a variety of other events at Christian camps, Christian schools, and youth rallies at my IFB church where pastors, youth pastors, college presidents, and teachers "acted the fool." No one that I was aware of had a problem with any of it. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

My own problem with Greear's actions are that they're (1) stupid, (2) irreverent, (3) distract from whatever he's allegedly trying to achieve at the event. But, I am a bit of a stiff. I admit it. I hate the irreverent stuff in church

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Since W. A. Criswell was brought up –

Yes, I can imagine him doing something a little like this.  Pastors have often made fun of themselves, and just had fun with their congregations.  There is a time to be serious, and a time to laugh. 

W. A. Criswell dressed up in an Easter Bunny costume during Easter programs for the kids at First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX.  And he acted like, well, an Easter Bunny. 

Yet, Criswell also stood and preached the glorious reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of, one day, our own Resurrection. 

https://www.wacriswell.com/sermon-topic/resurrection/

I doubt if I’d do what either Criswell or Greear did, but sometimes we can be outraged a little too quickly. 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

If you doubt this, Wally, take a look at Olson's list.  Do we have a Biblical mandate for Wednesday night prayer meeting?  Are we Sabbatarians?  Do we call our meeting hall a "sanctuary" (hint; that's not traditional Baptist theology!  It refers to sacraments being practiced there)?   Do we excommunicate people for failing to work in the nursery or Sunday School?  Does Scripture prescribe setting a specific time for "revivals" or VBS?  Does Scripture command us to listen only to Christian music, or to watch a Billy Graham crusade in lieu of a football game?

Sorry, brother, but that's all "fundagelical culture of the 1950s through the 1990s", exactly as I said.  

Now I concede that I personally practice a certain amount of what Olson endorses because I enjoy it and find it helpful, but that doesn't change the fact that he's really endorsing more fundagelical culture than any Biblical mandate, and absent a Biblical mandate, I'm at a loss as to why we should mourn the loss of a part of this relatively new culture.  Maybe as we lose it, we can gain what the ancient church had in Acts.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

My take:
1) Olsen is an odd duck. Like Tyler, I am always wondering which Olson I am reading.
2) It absolutely matters if Greear did that in a church service or not. I’m surprised that’s even up for debate. If it was in the service I would hope his church members would be calling for his removal. The fact that he did it elsewhere is still incredibly foolish. I was embarrassed for him watching that. Personally I don’t care if it was Greear, Criswell, or John the Baptist, that is unbecoming behavior for a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Larry Nelson's picture

John E. wrote:

Let's be honest, the main problem that some have with the video of Greear is the music he lipsynched to. I remember BJU's Gold Rush Daze and a variety of other events at Christian camps, Christian schools, and youth rallies at my IFB church where pastors, youth pastors, college presidents, and teachers "acted the fool." No one that I was aware of had a problem with any of it. 

Made me think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmSQlu5PjP0

(Some of you may recognize some of these guys...)

TylerR's picture

Editor

The real question is whether Criswell ever "acted the fool" while he was working at the carwash ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim Welch's picture

Nearly 15 years ago at Shepherd's Conference, I heard Phil Johnson state something like this:  the contemporary Evangelical Movement is in greater need of reformation that the Roman Catholic Church was when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis.  

I agree that context does determine so much.  So in what context is it good for a preacher of the Gospel to sing, "I want to dance with somebody.  I want to feel the heat with somebody.  I want some body to love."  Perhaps with his wife?  Pretty sure that my wife would have been embarrassed if I were singing this song in public.  

Darrell Post's picture

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

 

pvawter's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Made me think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmSQlu5PjP0

(Some of you may recognize some of these guys...)

I'm sure I've seen this before, but that blasphemy reminds me of the worst of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, and all the rest of the charismaniacs. Disgusting!

RajeshG's picture

T Howard wrote:

Is cultural accommodation in and of itself problematic? Can we accommodate the culture in ways that is not sinful or problematic?  Or, is all accommodation wrong?

What examples of or teaching about cultural accommodation that is legitimate do you see in Scripture?

Kevin Miller's picture

RajeshG wrote:

What examples of or teaching about cultural accommodation that is legitimate do you see in Scripture?

I Cor 9:20-21 seem to refer to some sort of cultural accommodation. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

RajeshG's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

RajeshG wrote:

 

What examples of or teaching about cultural accommodation that is legitimate do you see in Scripture?

 

I Cor 9:20-21 seem to refer to some sort of cultural accommodation. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

 

Is that it? In the whole Bible, is that the only passage that you can find that refers to "some sort of cultural accommodation"?

Bert Perry's picture

Well, you've got Galatians 3:28 and Acts 10:13 and Acts 11:7.  You've also got the widespread use of purple, a product of pagan Tyre, the use of embalming for Joseph and Jacob, and a lot more.

But really, probably the most compelling example of cultural accommodation is the New Testament itself.  You have a book written by Jews, most of whom spoke Aramaic (a borrowed language from the Babylonians) with a smattering of Hebrew, but it's in Greek, and a lot of it has to do with how the cultural traditions of the Jews can be, and should be, abandoned for the Gospel.  That's powerful.

Never mind the fact that the culture we have in today's church is not exactly that of the ancients.  You want to bind yourself to the culture of the ancients, be my guest, I guess, but it's going to entail a lot of changes from what we do today.  And if you're going to claim that today's church culture (or that of 1960 or whenever) is the only acceptable one, you're just conflicting with history and Scripture there.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Is that it? In the whole Bible, is that the only passage that you can find that refers to "some sort of cultural accommodation"?

 In addition to what Bert mentioned, In Acts 16:1-3, Paul had Timothy circumcised to culturally accommodate the Jews. 

Pages