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Twelve Critical Problems Facing Modern Evangelicalism

October 19th, 2007
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Internet pundit Michael Spencer put this up for conversation. I thought it might be interesting here too. Swap the word "Lutheranism" for "Evangelicalism" to make it a much more interesting conversation.


1. Vast evidence of a growing doctrinal deterioration on the essentials and implications of the Gospel.

2. The expansion and influence of the “Prosperity Gospel” throughout evangelicalism.

3. The loss of the concept of meaningful church membership and the rise of the “audience-only” model of church participation.

4. The loss of the theological “center” in mainline churches at the
precise time many evangelicals are open to reconsidering the mainline
vision of worship, especially in Anglicanism.

5. The triumph and glorification of unchecked pragmatic
entrepreneurialism, especially in worship, but in all areas of
evangelical life.

6. The corrosive and compromised influence of Christian publishing
in shaping evangelicalism, as exemplified in the rise of Joel Osteen,
The Prayer of Jabez and the Prosperity Gospel.

6. Growing chaos in the theological and practical preparation of pastors, especially in the “emerging” church.

7. The failure of the “Seeker” model to use its vast resources and
influence to produce a Christian counter-culture or challenge the
“program centered/facilities centered” model of evangelicalism.

8. The lack of rising “Billy Graham” quality new leaders for the larger evangelical movement.

9. The failure of most evangelical denominations to broadly embrace and effectively mentor the current church planting movement.

10. The demise of quality Biblical preaching at the hands of technology and entertainment.

11. The apparently fatal infection of much of the emerging church movement with the failed theology of 20th century liberalism.

12. The cannibalism of evangelicalism on issues related to theological, cultural, social and political diversity.

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  1. October 20th, 2007 at 02:04 | #1

    This is a great list to think about. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Jeff
    October 20th, 2007 at 10:07 | #2

    This guy has it right on. Some of this stuff, is making its way into mainline churches as well. For example, there are many mainline churches that want to emulate the “church growth movement” and emerging church sensabilities. This is an amazing time to be alive. Protestantism is in total realignment mode. We are living in the fragments of the church as R.R. Reno once wrote. For many of us Roman Catholicism is not the answer. Easter Orthodoxy is not the answer. Happy-clappy mega church evangelicalism is most certianly not the answer. The answer is to be found in Confessional Lutheranism. LCMS and confessional ELCA congregations as well as other Lutheran manifestitations need to in this time and place, cooperate, share the Gospel together, do mission together. This is our time, we should grab it.

  3. DW
    October 20th, 2007 at 10:26 | #3

    This list is pretty solid. I returned to the Lutheran church a few years ago after seriously flirting with Protestant Evangelicalism. I attended an “interdenominational” college and even was licensed as a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church of America. Over the years I began to become increasingly uncomfortable with Protestant Evangelical theology and practice. I began to see that programs, coffee houses, small groups, leadership training and “cutting edge” worship was not achieving the “results” I desired; either in me or the people I served.
    Our church’s at this time were beginning to be flooded by the liberalism and neo-orthodoxy of the emergent church and the fanaticism of “word of faith” theology. My wife and I began to wonder if we had made a serious mistake in leaving our Lutheran heritage. Eventually we did leave and return to the LCMS; why I did this, I didn’t even know for sure at the time.
    The truth is is that we really didn’t even know what the Lutheran understanding of God’s Word was. I was baptized and “catechized” LCA/ELCA. My wife was a lifelong member of and LCMS church, but what was she taught? I was taught as a child that the Bible was a collection of moral truths; nothing much more than that. My wife was taught a “mixed” confession, to be kind.
    Only after reading the Lutheran Confessions for the first time (because my wife and I were never instructed in it before we left the LCMS) did I have an understanding that Lutheranism was decidedly different than Protestant Evangelicalism, in all its various forms.
    Once my eyes were opened I began to look around at the LCMS, I saw much of the same doctrine and practice in place for which I had left the EFCA. With this recent realization in the past two years I want to tell every Lutheran I run into of the pitfalls of following after the doctrine and practice of Protestant Evangelicalism–much of its doctrine and practice is a Trojan Horse. I am thankful to Christ for His patience in my life and revealing to me that which I should have been taught 25 years ago. I pray God will use me in some small way to lovingly teach others of Christ and the glorious gift we have recieved in Lutheran doctrine and practice. Peace to you.

  4. Matthew J. Surburg
    October 20th, 2007 at 11:33 | #4

    Why are there two #6′s?

  5. wcwirla
    October 20th, 2007 at 12:53 | #5

    This is an important list, and we ignore many of these points to our own peril. It is a dire warning to Lutherans that the trappings of Evangelicalism are a Trojan horse with a belly load of Greeks whose interest in the city is not the same as that of her citizens.

  6. October 20th, 2007 at 15:19 | #6

    My wife and I have just started seriously attending an LCMS church after spending our entire lives in one kind of evangelical church or another, precisely because of all the things on this list. It’s felt like coming home to me. The commenter above has it dead on — the LCMS has the capability of fitting what a great deal of “post-evangelicals” (to use Internet Monk’s term) are looking for, and hopefully people will realize this.

  7. wcwirla
    October 20th, 2007 at 23:17 | #7

    “Why are there two #6′s?”
    Someone forgot to include the third one.

  8. October 21st, 2007 at 03:47 | #8

    Good list. I wonder why Lutherans need a “rising Billy Graham quality new leaders?” I though Ablaze was bad? Perhaps that should have been replaced with the third 6.

  9. Ruthie
    October 22nd, 2007 at 09:45 | #9

    Great list! I would add that the church is getting weak on sin. The number of Christian couples living together before marriage is appalling—-Pastors are eager to marry them, but could ex-communicate them first. Other couples fornicating, but not living together and Pastors are clueless that this is happening in their congregation. Pornography and other addictions are rampant, but the church doesn’t think this happens. Divorce is as common among christians as non-believers. I see many churches sitting back and lamenting that prayer has been taken out of school, but not addressing the problems in their flock.

  10. organshoes
    October 22nd, 2007 at 10:37 | #10

    When was evangelicalism *not* in danger of facing these 12 problems? When was it ever solidly theological, and not driven by emotion or sensation or sanctimony?
    I don’t see that it has much to apologize for, since it wasn’t well-grounded to begin with.
    As for replacing ‘evangelicalism’ with ‘Lutheranism’, well, then you have a crisis. Those evangelicals out of love with their movement, perceiving it has fallen from some higher place, could put themselves to use rescuing Lutherans from a worse fate than evangelicals.
    Lutherans are supposed to know better. Lutheranism is supposed to know better.

  11. Rev. Al Bergstrazer
    October 22nd, 2007 at 10:56 | #11

    The tragedy for Lutherans and Lutheranism is that while many of our peers in the ministry were adopting the newest of the evangelical new measures, the evangelicals were realizing the error of their ways. It’ll be another decade before any similar reality check happens with the Lutherans who have adopted said measures, if at all.
    Stick to your doctrine, not cliches, the only theological center for the church is Christ crucified. Don’t worry about being counter cultural, pick up your cross and follow Christ. We don’t need another Billy Graham (no disrespect to him) rather, pray for your pastor, encourage and help him as he serves Christ by serving Christ’s flock. Trust the efficacy of God’s Word, not in technology, packaging or programs.

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