During the last few weeks, there has been much discussion about the future of the evangelical movement and its impact on the American culture. For years, prophets of doom have been busy telling the world that the evangelical movement is dead or dying. This year as President Obama’s administration has shifted the nation’s stance on embryonic stem cell research and abortion, many in the faith community have justifiably become concerned. Further, RNC Chairman Steele’s decision to lower his personal and his party’s vocalization of socially conservative issues, such as protecting the life of the unborn and preservation of tradition marriage, has left many evangelicals feeling abandoned by both parties.
What’s next for evangelicals? It seems to me that evangelicals are on the verge of finding their collective voice in a very new way. In the future evangelicals will seek to be more of a swing vote, placing pressure on both parties to advance a theologically conservative and fiscally conservative agenda. They will base these stances on a combination of biblical orthodoxy and common sense. The conservative movement would do well to attempt to re-build bridges behind the scenes with mature and developing evangelical leadership - especially in minority communities.
Several groups are attempting to give their answers to this question. One man, Michael Spencer, who calls himself “the internet monk,” went so far as to say that a major collapse of evangelical Christianity is coming within ten years. He predicts that evangelicals will do the following:
1. Continue to confuse the true gospel with the culture war.
2. Lose the ability to pass on the importance of the faith and “a vital evangelical confidence” in the Bible to our children.
3. Lose financial strength.
4. Falter in aggressive evangelism.
While I disagree with Mr. Spencer for reasons I will outline at the end of this essay, I believe that his negativism is based on his personal disappointment with the last generation’s evangelical leadership. He has judged the so called religious right as being part of a massive attempt to drag the Church off its mission. The truth is that the evangelical church must desperately embrace both the biblical evangelical and biblical prophetic role of the Church. We cannot afford to think that there is an either/or choice in terms of cultural engagement and evangelism.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.