Dallas Willard has an essay titled “The Failure of Evangelical Politics” in the book Renewing the Christian Mind. In it he lays out the failure of the evangelical church in the past several decades to live out what is truly the gospel.
- We’ve separated “conversion” and “character development” and hopped ourselves up on “conversion.” (Dallas didn’t say “hopped up.” I can’t even imagine him saying that… but now that I imagine it, it makes me smile.)
- There has been a disappearance of moral knowledge from the “institutions of knowledge” in our society. He really gets after Christian colleges in this piece. I am watching it happen in an “evangelical” institution that will inevitably lose sight of true mission. We decry “liberal” mainline colleges doing this a century ago. Guess what? Evangelicals are on that same path. Go figure.
- There is a general withering of professional ethos. There is no vision of having a vocation for public good.
This article is worth the read… and re-read. (It is Dallas Willard, after all, and I’ll get this figured out after about 3-4 passes on this thing. But, I’m a slow learner.)
The calling we have in culture, as believers, is still great. This is what we’re talking about in our church. We’re talking about transformed minds. We will then transition into talking about living in major culture shifts.
Our calling, friends, is NOT in an election. We have reduced our importance to a vote. And that “vote” has to do with the sound bytes we create.
Our importance is greater. And it is hard work.
As pastors and Christians leaders… we must lead the way. We do indeed have a high calling.
- We must get back to presenting basic biblical truths as knowledge of reality. Our “conversion” techniques have left us with “faith alone” and silly sayings like, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” There is so much more to life than preparing people for right answers, right prayers, and then a ticket to heaven! There is a biblical reality revealed that is to be lived out now. We need a learning that doesn’t build pride in having the “right answers” but humility in view of the incredible power of the Kingdom of God. “Faith” isn’t superior to “knowledge.” But we’ve treated it that way for over a century… and the price is being paid. We need a deep, relational knowledge of Christ that leads to act out of agape love.
- We must center again on spiritual disciplines. These are not laws. This is not legalism. It is simply wisdom.
- We must understand the idea, once again, that pastors can indeed be teachers to the nations. This is a tough understanding because we have separated out true spiritual knowledge from “saving souls.” Pastors have better training in business tactics these days than sound theology. It’s a both/and world, folks. Theology isn’t for the academics. As a matter of fact, it belongs in the pulpit once again. I watch academics make claims on pastoral theology and practice that are so ludicrous… but because they have “PhD” follow their name, everyone thinks they know what is going on “theologically.” This just simply needs to stop. Learning is ongoing and it doesn’t need “PhD” following a name to have the recognition you may actually know some things. But we need to get back, as pastors, to the study of the Word and not just the study of organizational DNA. Lead people in solid moral truth once again.
If the evangelical Church can somehow return to … well… being evangelical… (And Willard makes the case that evangelicals like Wesley and Wilberforce would look at what we call evangelical today and just shake their heads)… we would realize we have a HUGE impact on this culture. We would have a HUGE impact once again on politics… and we probably wouldn’t be saddled with our current political mess.