Evangelical Fear

Invariably when I find myself presenting to Christians an idea that challenges the status quo I find myself confronted with a response somewhere in the crowd that says ‘Ah yes, but don’t forget XYZ…’ where ‘XYZ ‘are our old ways of seeing things – the familiar and safe – and invariably I want to ask ‘why not?!’

Why should we be ‘careful’ not to negate an old way, or at very least question it, especially if its a flawed way, or an inefficient way, or even a theologically defective way?

I’ll tell you why we are told to be careful.

Because new ideas scare us. New ideas unsettle us and disturb the ground we walk on – and have walked on for years and decades. We like that ground. It makes us feel safe and sometimes we’d rather safety and error or safety and irrelevance, rather than the possibility of discovering a new and maybe even liberating truth.

New learning might end up calling a new response out of us and it could be beyond our capacity to respond because we have become so entrenched in a way of thinking and behaving.

I love evangelicalism’s commitment to biblical authority and the desire to live out of that, but it seems to be offset by unhealthy phobia that we might actually live contrary to scripture at some point and so we protect our inherited truth like a mother bear her cubs.

The simple fact is we are wrong about some things and we are committed to other things more from tradition from any biblical mandate.

And where it gets really tricky is when its ‘big’ things’ that we’re screwing up.

I’ll pick a safe example. The term ‘missional church’ is almost historic these days, but when it was first mooted that churches had lost their missional imperative, it was met with both heartfelt cheers from the frustrated missionaries, but also vicious resistance from those who saw that their forms of worhip may need to change. It was a bizarre response, but it seems that fear does that to people.

To use another example, those who have introduced contemplative worship practices into protestant churches have been viewed suspiciously and accused of bringing ‘Eastern religion’ into the church, (like Christianity isn’t that) when in fact they have been freeing people from an overly left brain, cerebral way of engaging in spirituality and helping people encounter God in fresh ways.

One of my great hopes is that we can create communities where we can reflect, learn and grow rather than simply protecting what we have or agreeing to compromise and keep people happy.

Of course there’s such an enormous cultural shift in that alone that I just might be shooting for the stars.

7 thoughts on “Evangelical Fear

  1. Good article. Reminiscent of what happened during the Jesus Revolution of the 1970s. Most of the new Christians were not welcome in the regular churches, and lots of them dried up as Christians and went away. Eventually most of those churches died.

  2. but isn’t it the question, if we are content to jump or to do something like a “free fall”? that leads me to the question – how can i encourage people around me to do this? maybe.. be an example, stay with them,… any other ideas?

    i have the same hope! lets shooting 4 the stars together! 🙂

  3. Interesting article.

    What seems lost in the church today is the real GOSPEL. You know, the substitutional sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. This is liberating stuff. The Gospel is assumed by those who don’t preach it and believe that the Christian in the pew does not need it every week. But we do need it every week because as soon as we leave the church and hit the parking lot we begin to sin and sin much. I need forgiveness and God’s mercy through the cross and i need my Pastor reminding me of it weekly!

    The new ways developed by many recently in the church have tried and failed as they neglect the cross/Gospel – and that is exactly what contemplative mysticism does. I’d argue that it is dangerous, prideful and using it to ‘experience’ God takes christians away from real FAITH in christ. Now the christian can go straight to his false God and experience Him…..Experience God!, logical?…God is Holy and we are sinful and you don’t have to be a christian to practice it!

    I’d suggest we all go back to Acts and the epistles and see how we are to conduct ourselves as a church.i.e. following the teachings of Jesus and the apostles (the guys appointed to spread the Good news and build the church after Jesus rose, walked amongst and ascended into heaven…the apostles proclaimed christ and the Gospel of reconciliation through him alone, the Holy Spirit worked in the unbelievers and the church grew…very effectively) . It was revolutionary then and would be revolutionary now. This is the cultural shift we need.

  4. I love change. But only when I’m either in charge of it, agree with it, or it doesn’t affect me.

    Change that happens to me, goes against what I think and has an affect on me is something that I will normally fight against (for a while at least).

    And I call myself open minded!!

    No wonder it’s hard to change church cultures!

  5. Hi Ivan – what would you see Jesus’ gospel as?

    Specifically which ‘new ways’ have neglected the cross and how?

    Are you suggesting we don’t need to experience God? If so how do you have a non experiential relationship?

  6. Hi Andrew

    The central message of the entire Bible is the gospel and it is all about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, : the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.

    The great reformer Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are antithetical in every way……

    What new ways have been problematic, it’s hard to be brief and these are generalities but:

    Seeker movement – train crash – many pastors in this movement don’t preach Christ – just about themselves and neglect Jesus as saviour – Jesus is just a great example. No gospel

    Word-faith – man centred and destructive self centred doctrine – temporal focus

    Contemplative mysticism – dangerous – new mystics..by mysticism you are taught to bypass the cross to ‘experience’ God directly….by unbiblical means – ref later.

    Emergent – liberalism – again neglect Jesus as saviour – Jesus is just a great example (sentimentality)…its focus on the great commandment ‘love they neighbour’ over the great commission (Gospel). It’s the Gospel that changes hearts and minds through the power of the spirit, not sentimentality and new spirituality / disciplines.

    These were new innovative ways that have seen carnage in the church…and we want more new ways??!!

    Perhaps I was not clear in my earlier post – I am not suggesting we don’t need to experience God. Having a relationship is an experience. But when we try to ‘experience’ God through non-biblical means it is not what we are taught to do – so avoid it. Mormons have experiences, Buddhists have experiences and even satanists have religious experiences…as they too practice contemplative spiritual disciplines…try this …former Satan worshipper in his article entitled, Contemplative Prayer, Max Debono-De-Laurentis has written concerning his testimony of coming to Jesus Christ out of the world of the occult:

    “When I was heavily involved in the occult/new age, one of the most important forms of developing your communion with the spirits was through mantra chanting and emptying the mind to hear what the spirit has to say to you.”

    Jesus Christ our Lord never taught His disciples to practice “centering/contemplative prayer”, or repeat a mantra, a “sacred word”, etc. On the contrary, Jesus told His disciples to pray intimately to God and not use vain repetitions like the heathen do:

    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, USE NOT VAIN REPETITIONS, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:6-8)

    Thanks for your time.

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