The Splintering of Evangelicalism is Noisy

Here are two blogs that offer help for those trying to understand current evangelical divisions, and another blog that offers . . . well . . . Let's accentuate the positive.

Kingdomgrace takes up the question What is ministry? here, here, and here. Her gift is for spotting the right question, inviting comment, and summarizing the results. In this case, she sees that many evangelicals view the concept of ministry differently -- some as a profession, others as a way of life. She lays the differences on the table and lets people talk about them. When she infuses controversy into the discussion, she restores focus instead of inciting reaction. She is, in other words, a leader who helps a group get smarter.

I believe Spirit-led people will follow leaders like her.

Jollyblogger also offers help, commenting on the merchandising of Jesus here and here. Jollyblogger is onto the fact that marketing has worn out its welcome with the young. I think the division between generations of evangelicals is partly a result of older generations' love for the extravaganzas and bombast of the TV aesthetic. The young aren't buying.

The divisions are treated in a measured way at Jollyblogger, and he concludes that "the critics of the franchise church are spot on - this is an argument against the commodification of the faith and an argument to engage people as people, not prospects and to engage them as human beings, not as a part of an assembly line process."

Again, I think Jollyblogger is the type of leader Spirit-led people will heed.

The clashes of perspective shown in these posts help us understand why evangelicals are splintering. Many no longer hold common definitions of such basic concepts as kingdom work, compromise with the world, and evangelism. What is considered credible among some evangelicals, like marketing, is considered pathetic among others. The disagreements are often grave.

Which is why following these discussions can put a knot in your gut. Can we rebuild an evangelical consensus on these issues? If we're unclear on such basic matters, how can we form vibrant communities?

And then you read Josh Brown here.

Or rather, you read him if you can stomach his replacement of argumentation with scatology. Brown wants to deal with misconceptions about emergents, and deal with them he does. With flamethrowers. Brown not only blasts critics of emergents, but insults anyone who dares even pose questions in the comments.

The Lord has blessed evangelicals with an emergent conversation that is larger than Brown's rhetoric. If he really did speak for emergents, the prospects for rebuilding an evangelical consensus would be nil. But, while I wonder whether he speaks for Emergent Village, I can't believe emergents will listen too long to his rantings.

I believe evangelicals can become members of one another in Christ again -- in a way that is not merely notional but practical. I believe they not only can, but they will. The leaders are out there.

This joining will not take place, however, as a result of blogs, books, or conferences. It will not be organized by yet another national movement. It will grow as individual Christians commit to each other in local churches -- churches they recognize to be faulty. Their joining will come at the price of their complaints. Eventually, they will tire of nursing their wounds. They'll ignore the abstractions of zealots and seek strength from emotions other than anger. They will establish bonds with those communities that teach the Bible, and strive to live in the power of the risen Christ.

They will do this because they have the Holy Spirit, who sovereignly nourishes the body of Christ (Ephesians 4.1-6). The splintering of evangelicalism may be noisy, but it will prove temporary.