This post doesn't deal as much with the "future of evangelicalism" but rather as a way of establishing our past and/ or current location. Over the years, I've struggled to know what being evangelical means. I have certainly been grounded in evangelicalism:
- My denomination has an evangelical stream, but is not considered an evangelical denomination.
- Personally - growing up - I was raised as an evangelical. My most formational pastor in my middle and high school years was a former missionary to Chiapas, Mexico, and the church was a new church planted only about a year before we began attending.
- My mentor in college was a deeply evangelical and evangelistic pastor with a mind like John Stott's and a heart like Billy Graham's.
- The first church I served was traditional and conservative, but theologically evangelical.
- The second church I served had a deep evangelical history (including deep involvement with Wycliffe, Intervarsity, built by a former pastor of Park Street Church in Boston, and some interaction with Francis Schaeffer) on the campus of the University of Michigan, but didn't "fit in" with many more conservative or fundamentalist evangelicals on campus.
- The church I serve now defines itself in its values as holding to "an evangelical and reformed understanding of the Christian Faith."
But even though this grounding is clearly a part of my history, there are a number of reasons I've struggled with this identity. First, when someone who is spiritually seeking wants to know what "brand" of Christian I am, the answer would probably be "evangelical," but the follow up questions, "What do evangelicals believe" is not as easy to answer. Second, there are a number of people who more tightly define evangelicalism to exclude myself and others of my friends who I would say are deeply theological. (see "Lining Up" post). Third, there are a number of streams within evangelicalism that are pulling at one another, fighting sometimes against one another, and vying for leadership for the future of evangelicalism. I would argue that often these arguments are about "secondary issues" and not primary ones, while others would call primary what I would call secondary. So, who says? Who decides?
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