In the Bible record, otherwise godly men would sometimes choose their own methods to accomplish the Lord’s work. Ignoring the Lord’s clear commands on how to do His work in His way. Choosing, instead, to work in another way to fulfill some promise or desire God had expressed to them.
This simple ignoring of God’s word in the name of a good Christian cause is an apt description of the New Evangelical movement. A movement that began back in the 1940s which has drastically changed the course of Evangelicalism.
The Dark Legacy of New Evangelicalism
At the core of the New Evangelical movement, was the idea that evangelism was the Prime Directive of Christianity.
It pushed a commitment to doing whatever it took to get the gospel message out. By making whatever compromises were “necessary” in order to reach as many people as possible.
One of the catch-phrases of New Evangelicalism was, “To reach the world for Christ in our generation.”
Some would say, “This was a great and motivating goal.” That “it brought many Christians across many denominations together.” And, “What on earth could be wrong with that?”
Certainly, on the surface, the desire to reach as many people as possible for Christ as soon as possible is a noble goal. There is no question that the mission fields “are white already to harvest“, as the Lord said (John 4:35)
But each of us is still bound to obey the scriptures in fulfilling that Great Commission. The urgency of the call does not give us license to use whatever methods we choose.
The New Evangelical movement did not remain within biblical parameters; but, instead, opened a Pandora’s box of unbiblical compromises that zealous leaders made in order to meet evangelistic goals.
“Whatever it takes” sounds impressive and devoted. But it encourages a dangerous license toward unbiblical thinking and methods that have compromised the church over the last generation.
This pragmatic philosophy has saturated Evangelicalism today. In fact, it would be very difficult to find a church that has not been compromised by this thinking and practice.
Reaching great numbers of people has become the measuring stick for determining success in evangelism. With the focus being, to seize every opportunity and to cast as wide of a gospel net as possible.
It was, and still is, all about big churches, big crowds, big arenas, big associations, and Christian world conferences with all kinds of groups coming together “in the name of Christ”.
But this is not what the Lord has called us to seek.
If You Love Him, Feed His Sheep
Instead, He has called us to Himself. To the quiet, continuous dependence and focus on Him.
He has called us to His word. To a continual, deep, and faithful obedience to His word.
This is what He was saying to Martha. And it is what He is saying to us today.
He has called us to feed His sheep first. To the continual, obedient teaching of His word to our brothers in Christ. To those we already have in our congregations.
Trusting the Lord, Himself, to add to our numbers in His own time and in His own way.
Believing that the Lord is the Captain of our Salvation. Because, He knows the urgency better than we do. And He expects us to do what He tells us in fulfilling the needs of those around us.
The All-Things Gospel
It takes time to individually train and disciple people. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:”
Carefully note the words, “all things” (Matthew 28:18-20).
This is in direct contradiction to most of the activity that churches tend to be occupied with today.
Funny how you don’t hear much about that these days.
Because our churches are trying to trim down all “those things” which the Lord calls us to teach. Trimming the truth into a smaller and smaller list of things everyone can agree on. And which won’t cause a doctrinal ruckus in our congregations.
So that churches can focus on a surface-level of teaching to the flock. So they can then move on to other things like evangelism, community outreaches and social-justice programs.
And then leapfrog over discipleship by duplicating our watered-down churches into a whole bunch of other watered-down churches.
Which results in the duplication of mediocrity. Or worse.
Which draws us toward a form of Christianity devoid of the Spirit of God. Which is precisely the direction which the Emergent church is leading Evangelicalism.
With the Lord standing on the sidelines; looking on as we go about our own business of serving Him; without our dependence and obedience on His Spirit and His word.
With the Lord still waiting for us to sit down at His feet, to listen to His word, so we can feed His sheep.