Evangelical Leadership Archives

Passing the evangelical torch: Embracing the diversity of the new Christian world

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenges of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; Creating CultureReturning to Virtue, Bridging to Everyday Relevance, Resisting the Seduction of the New Social Gospel and Learning to Communicate Again. Now this challenge:

Embracing the Diversity of the New Christian World

Ask Americans what faith group they belong to and the vast majority—some 75 to 85 percent—will say they are Christian. About 37 percent will say they are evangelical or born again. Non-Christian religions (including Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism), collectively make up about 4% to 5% of the adult population. The rest say they have no religious belief or affiliation. Those statistics probably surprise most people because of the efforts of media and others to be sensitive to the increasing number of non-Americans among us and to the vast diversity of faiths that they bring with them.

(A Barna poll, by the way, showed that born-again Christians are increasingly well-educated, well-off and from a variety of cultural backgrounds, perhaps most surprisingly, Asian-American.)

The greatest threat to American Christianity is not other faith groups but faithlessness, spiritual vacuity. Although individuals identify themselves as more Christian than non-Christian, the sad reality is that for far too many of those supposedly adherents, there is no “there” there.  

While in the U.S. evangelicalism is the only part of Christianity that is growing, it is growing slowly and that growth is among independent groups, not denominations (for the most part), while a conservative strain of Christianity—both Protestant and Catholic—is surging in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Orthodox or evangelicals Christian believers in America will increasingly find their strongest and most numerous allies and spiritual partners not in the western mainline Christian denominations, but in the conservative Christian—both Protestant and Catholic—in the global south.   

Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State and author of The Next Christendom (2002) wrote about the shifts in the global church:

If we look beyond the liberal West, we see that another Christian revolution, quite different from the one being called for in affluent American suburbs and upscale urban parishes, is already in progress. Worldwide, Christianity is actually moving toward supernaturalism and neo-orthodoxy, and in many ways toward the ancient world view expressed in the New Testament: a vision of Jesus as the embodiment of divine power, who overcomes the evil forces that inflict calamity and sickness upon the human race. In the global South (the areas that we often think of primarily as the Third World) huge and growing Christian populations—currently 480 million in Latin America, 360 million in Africa, and 313 million in Asia, compared with 260 million in North America—now make up what the Catholic scholar Walbert Buhlmann has called the Third Church, a form of Christianity as distinct as Protestantism or Orthodoxy, and one that is likely to become dominant in the faith. The revolution taking place in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is far more sweeping in its implications than any current shifts in North American religion, whether Catholic or Protestant.

The growth in Africa has been relentless. In 1900 Africa had just 10 million Christians out of a continental population of 107 million—about nine percent. Today the Christian total stands at 360 million out of 784 million, or 46 percent. And that percentage is likely to continue rising, because Christian African countries have some of the world’s most dramatic rates of population growth. Meanwhile, the advanced industrial countries are experiencing a dramatic birth dearth. Within the next twenty-five years the population of the world’s Christians is expected to grow to 2.6 billion (making Christianity by far the world’s largest faith). By 2025, 50 percent of the Christian population will be in Africa and Latin America, and another 17 percent will be in Asia. Those proportions will grow steadily. By about 2050 the United States will still have the largest single contingent of Christians, but all the other leading nations will be Southern: Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. By then the proportion of non-Latino whites among the world’s Christians will have fallen to perhaps one in five.


Perhaps the most remarkable point [is that the trends have] registered so little on the consciousness of even well-informed Northern observers. What, after all, do most Americans know about the distribution of Christians worldwide? I suspect that most see Christianity very much as it was a century ago—a predominantly European and North American faith.
As the media have striven in recent years to present Islam in a more sympathetic light, they have tended to suggest that Islam, not Christianity, is the rising faith of Africa and Asia, the authentic or default religion of the world’s huddled masses. But Christianity is not only surviving in the global South, it is enjoying a radical revival, a return to scriptural roots. We are living in revolutionary times.

Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York writes:

The demographic center of Christian gravity has already shifted from the West to Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The rising urban churches of China may be particularly influential in the future. But the West still has the educational institutions, the money, and a great deal of power. What should the relationship of the older Western churches be to the new non-Western church? How can we use our assets to serve them in ways that are not paternalistic? How can we learn from them in more than perfunctory ways?

Evangelical leaders of the next generation will be looking at a very different evangelical church, likely to be more diverse and stagnant in America and soaring in the global south. Their challenge will be to grasp new opportunities to serve and support the growing yet needy church communities, and to learn all they can from the fresh new perspectives from vibrant New Testament expressions of the Body of Christ around the world.

Passing the evangelical torch: Learning to communicate again

 Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenges of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; Creating CultureReturning to Virtue, Bridging to Everyday Relevance, and Resisting the Seduction of the New Social Gospel. Now this challenge:

Learning to Communicate Again

John Maxwell tells the story, presumably true, about a denominational meeting on June 19, 1908, at which the following minutes were recorded:

Mr. Grueber introduced the following to be discussed: Nine reasons not to introduce the typewriter into our church.

1. The paper must be put into the machine and aligned properly, tabs must be set. This is not easy. When writing by hand, one simply begins, exactly where you want with no restrictions. 

2. With a typewriter, you have to constantly remember to capitalize and put in punctuation. It is easy to forget, and to go back and change things is hard. When writing by hand, such things are automatic. 

3. With the typewriter, you have to have been trained to find the proper keys. This takes time. We already know how to write. 

4. With the typewriter, you are limited to the size and spacing of the type. When writing by hand, you can use any size letters or style you want. 

5. With the typewriter, centering and setting margins is [sic] not easy; when writing, it is no problem. 

6. A typewriter breaks down and costs to be fixed. Writing does not. 

7. Correcting a mistake after something has been typed is a problem; when writing by hand, it is not. 

8. The church has gotten along for over 1900 years without a typewriter; why do we need this now? 

9. Instead of learning a machine with all the above drawbacks, time should be spent on penmanship (Maxwell, J. in Galloway, D. ed., 2001, p. 23-24) 

As one writer mused: “Debating the use of typewriters in 1908 proved just about as fruitful as the research devoted to perfecting the manufacture and sale of the buggy whip when the automobile was accelerating into the lifestyles of an increasingly mobile population in First World Countries. And no doubt future generations will derive a certain humorous pleasure in reviewing the record of our debates over technologies that will one day be deemed completely obsolete.”

The urgency of God’s message for our world has throughout history been a prime mover of communication and communications technologies. At times, people of faith have led the drive for new communications methods, and occasionally they have struggled to stay current with the available means of communications.

We take for granted the technologies and methods that have, one by one, been enormous contributors to the work of the church:

Printing:  The printing press revolutionized the Church, serving as a major catalyst for the Reformation. It was in 1450 that Johann Gutenberg developed a technique for commercial printing using movable type. The process became known as letterpress, and enabled Gutenberg to produce printed books of high quality. Most notable of these was the Gutenberg Bible of 1455. In a breathtakingly short period of time, roughly 50 years, more than eight million volumes had been printed, estimated to be more books than all the combined scribes of prior human history had produced. Throughout the years, Christian activists have tried to master the art of getting positive mention in newspapers and magazines, two media products that are heading (I fear) toward extinction.

Telephone: It was the manipulation of electrical current that created the first telegraph, opening the era of immediate long-distance communication. In 1837 British scientists Charles Wheatsone and William Cooke were inventing an electric telegraph system right at the same time as Samuel Morse, working with Alfred Vail, was also inventing a workable system. Just 39 years later Alexander Graham Bell invented the first practical telephone.

Until the invention of the telegraph, long-distance communication required people to move messages physically from place to place, a time-consuming activity involving travel by horse, boat, stagecoach, or other vehicle. Because of the difficulty of this type of one-way communication, messages were simple and utilitarian. The telegraph, and later the telephone, helped decrease the dependence of communication on transportation, making the space between people less important and their messages longer but often less consequential. Today the cell phone has made instantaneous long-distance communication portable. 

Radio: In 1915 a former telegraph operator by the name of David Sarnoff suggested to a Vice-President of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America that he had an idea to produce a “Radio Music Box” that would be capable of receiving radio signals on several different wave lengths. In a memo he wrote: “If only one million families thought well of the idea, it would…yield considerable revenue.” That idea was rejected and about a decade later Sarnoff’s company, RCA, was selling enough radio sets to establish it as a world leader among industrial firms.

In the early days of radio, some church leaders were wary of radio waves because they feared that it was a medium controlled by Satan, the “prince of the air.” An early radio preacher marveled when people came to Christ listening to a broadcast. “Unction can be transmitted,” he exclaimed.

Radio has been used mightily by the church for evangelism, preaching to the faithful, discussing Christian engagement, and broadcasting the music of the faith. This is true in this country, and it continues to be used for multiple purposes, especially in areas more difficult to reach with the Gospel through traditional means.

Television:  The television has had powerful influence on the church. Indeed, millions of viewers each week find their spiritual education, conviction, and nurture on the television. For huge numbers of people, both the infirmed and the healthy, their preacher is the television preacher. However, the use of television by evangelicals is mixed.  The evangelistic message of Billy Graham’s televised crusades is unmistakable, including the offer of counselors that can be reached by toll-free numbers on the telephone. But many of the “televangelists” have misused the medium. “Television evangelism,” Christian fundraising guru Russ Reid said, “is bad television and bad evangelism.”

The Internet:  Thomas Jefferson advanced the concept of the free library system in which information in printed form could be transferred and made accessible to large numbers of people. What would Mr. Jefferson think of the information superhighway available today on computers via the Internet? He’d probably love it and its power to equalize. The church is learning how to use the new media along with everyone else. With smart phones that access the Web, dynamic websites with flash graphics and webcam, churches have global access and reach, and the power to create a kind of digitally-based holiness for members and non-members alike.

Last week, a friend who pastors a Christian church in India, extended his visit to our area, which made it necessary for him to preach Sunday morning services in India from here in Atlanta.  He stood on the kitchen counter, preached vigorously into a Webcam on a laptop in the middle of the night (12 hour time difference), a broadcast to the church via Skype. Except for the relatively low cost of the laptop and a Skype fee, it was virtually free. That’s just amazing!

Christian churches, organizations, writers, and just about everyone else are learning along with the rest of the world how to establish and embellish an Internet presence. Church web sites and Internet blogs are increasingly being seen as opportunities to engage the culture with the message of Jesus Christ.

New Technologies

Today’s communication is a blur. How do you communicate spiritual depth in digital bytes or in 140 characters? We are moving from the immediacy of television and radio to the blinding speed of 4G and an almost completely mobile world.  Just how do you communicate the deep truths of faith and purpose in the constantly attention-compromised, distracted time bits afforded to you by a generation on the run?

That brings us to the challenges that will be faced by the Christian leaders of the rising generation. There seems to be a new device or communications system every day, and many of the next-generation technological developments are not yet on the horizon.

Here’s Forbes’ guess at the coolest communications devices of the future. They include:

  1. Empathetic Communication
  2. The Phone Glove
  3. Micromedia Paper: a book on one sheet
  4. $100 laptop
  5. Ubik Concept Mobile Phone
  6. Haptics: touchy-feely
  7. VOWI-FI:  hot spots become home phone lines
  8. 802.16 Phones: huge band width for phones
  9. VVT Finish Walking Bio Identification Phone
  10. Qualcomm IMOD Phone: revolution in screen lighting

Throughout the decades we have certainly learned that modernizations and technologies are spiritually inert and must be evaluated not simply by their modernity but by the impact they will have on individual character, communion with God, meaningful community, authentic communication of the Gospel, depth of knowledge, the quality of family and community life, and service to those in need.


Passing the evangelical torch: Resisting the seduction of the new social gospel

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenges of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; Creating CultureReturning to Virtue, and Bridging to Everyday Relevance.  Now a seventh challenge:

Resisting the Seduction of a New Social Gospel

I have been in the vanguard of the evangelical effort to minister to the personal physical needs and societal injustices as part of our public ministry, and I remain convinced that ministries of compassion and justice are as clearly required by scripture as anything else we do. I have worked for and consulted with hundreds of organizations and Christian leaders over the last 30 years–some of whom wouldn’t pick up a shovel to plant crops for a hungry family if a gospel tract wasn’t handed out; many whom have demonstrated a refreshing, authentic blend of ministry to the whole person; and a few who have become so tied up in correcting systemic injustices that they’ve forgotten endemic spiritual depravity and the promise of redemption and transformation.

 Today, I am impressed with the creative and heartfelt work of so many young evangelicals in ministries to feed the hungry, limit the impact of AIDS, provide clean water, make urban neighborhood better places to live, stop global warming, and stop human trafficking. And so much more. I must caution, however, that a grave danger for the rising generation is yielding to the seduction of compassion—ministering to the body, but neglecting the hard work of dealing with the soul. The failure by many in the mid-20th century to blend social and spiritual ministry is what created the rift between fundamentalists and purveyors of the “social gospel.” The rising generation of evangelicals must take care not to remake history’s mistakes by thinking that they cannot also stray from the gospel of spiritual regeneration and find themselves meeting only physical needs rather than also physical needs. Check yourself; evaluate your, and don’t’ think this can’t happen to you! It is already occurring in too many ministries that began fully involved in holistic ministry but today have little evidence of evangelistic fervor in their programming.

Meeting physical needs and correcting societal injustices are important and satisfying. As Christian outreach, it is simply incomplete and insufficient.

Passing the evangelical torch: Bridging to everyday relevance

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; Creating Culture; and now a fifth challenge: and Returning to Virtue; now a sixth challenge:

Bridging to Everyday Relevance

As those of us who are Christians consider the needs of the world around us, we are wise and faithful to address first the deep spiritual needs of individuals, that they may be transformed by Christ. While the people we encounter will openly verbalize their concerns about external situations and crises—the ones that effect them personally and others that touch their hearts–the deep cry of the soul is often the most difficult to express.

But to be fully human and to identify with the humanity of our neighbors, we must address both the societal crises and conundrums and the spiritual hunger that seizes every human heart. Because of this dual responsibility we can meet physical and social needs as both urgent ministration and as a means to address spiritual needs. While this breadth of ministry has been common for the neo-evangelicals of the last generation, it is not as publicly known as their work fighting the culture wars. This is a serious identity challenge for young evangelicals as they engage in the issues that are of greatest concern to the rising generation. Often this will require bridging to issues of concern such as environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation, and persistent poverty.

Simply, to connect with those who are now coming of age, evangelicals need to overcome the blurred image of orthodox Christianity caused by controversial political involvement–by working alongside their contemporaries on often new issues of common concern.

Just what are those concerns?

Beyond the ongoing concerns of relationships and social connections, multiple polls about the most important current concerns and worries about the future surface two major issues for Americans ages 18-29:

  1. Will I have a job and be able to pay the bills in the near future, and will world and national economies be sound enough to provide stability throughout my life?
  2. Will our quest for energy and the damage it does to the world’s environment allow for a healthy and productive lifestyle today and in the distant future?

Typically, the environment and the economy figure prominently when Americans predict what the nation’s top problem will be 25 years from now. One of those two issues has been the most commonly mentioned in 7 of the 10 years Gallup has asked this question. Social Security topped the list in 2005 and 2006. In 2010 the top concerns about the future (for all Americans) were the economy, the federal deficit, and the environment. In other polls, terrorism, healthcare costs, war, and illegal immigration were also of great concern in 2010. 

A poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that six out of 10 young adult Americans are financially anxious, worried that they cannot meet their educational, housing and health care needs. More than eight out of 10 said they expect difficulty finding a job after graduation. Fewer than half said they believe they would be better off than their parents when they reach their parents’ age.

In another survey of young adults, 24 percent of the respondents consider the breakdown of the family to be the most pressing issue facing their generation today, followed by violence in neighborhoods and communities, and then poverty and global warming. Personal finances and school ranked as high stressors

Jason Hayes wrote that in a Lifeway Research national poll almost 90 percent of unchurched 20–29 year olds said they would be willing to listen if someone wanted to tell them about Christianity. About 60 percent would be willing to study the Bible if a friend asked them to do so. However, while they agree that Christianity is a relevant and viable religion, they are harsh in their judgment that Christianity is more about organized religion than about loving God and people. In fact, only 17 percent (1 in 6) would first go to church if seeking spiritual guidance. They prefer going to trusted individuals.

That’s probably because someone who is going to sit down and talk with them is going to listen to their concerns and hear their emotion and spend the time finding commonality.

Passing the evangelical torch: Returning to virtue

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; Creating Culture; and now a fifth challenge:

Returning to Virtue. 

The new generation must deal with the crisis of basic character that overwhelms the nation and has also inflicted the church–with temptations of self-interest, immediate gratification, and moral laziness sapping the strength of its leaders and the witness of its people. All of us who are honest with ourselves will grieve our own failures to consistently demonstrate Christian character and to rise above our self-interest and harmful attitudes. There is less and less encouragement from our culture to demonstrate the basic virtues called for in not only the Christian tradition but in most traditions of Western civilization. Our Christian leaders must be known not primarily for their power, their persuasiveness, or their cultural conformity, but by their virtue.

These are not new concepts; they are ancient. Effective Christian witness will be seen from believers who can consistently demonstrate virtue.  Here’s one list of virtues:


Abstaining from sexual conduct inappropriate for one’s state in life; the ability to refrain from being distracted and influenced by hostility, temptation,  or corruption.


Practicing self-control, moderation, and deferred gratification. Prudence to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. Proper moderation between self-interest, versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.


Charity and self-sacrifice. Spending time, money, or labour, for others, without being rewarded in return.


Decisive work ethic. Fortitude and the capability of not giving up. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching; integrity.


Forbearance and endurance. Resolving conflicts and injustice peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. The ability to forgive; to show mercy to others. Creating a sense of peaceful stability and community, rather than engendering suffering, hostility,  and antagonism.


Compassion and friendship for its own sake. Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. Unconditional love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. Having positive outlook and cheerful demeanor; to inspire kindness in others.


Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. The courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. Reverence for those who have wisdom. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self

That’s a good list for all of us. 

Bishop and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright makes a good case for believers to take seriously the formation of Christian character and the daily practice of virtues in his book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters.

This is an excerpt from the book:

“It is thus more or less impossible to speak of God with any conviction or effect if those who profess to follow Jesus are not exemplifying humility, charity, patience, and chastity. These are not optional extras for the especially keen, but the very clothes which the royal priesthood must ‘put on’ day by day. If the vocation of the royal priesthood is to reflect God to the world and the world back to God (the world, that is, as it was made to be and as, by God’s grace, it will be one day), that vocation must be sustained, and can only be sustained, by serious attention to ‘putting on’ these virtues, not for the sake of a self-centered holiness or pride in one’s own moral achievement, but for the sake of revealing to the world who its true God really is. The church has been divided between those who cultivate their own personal holiness but do nothing about working for justice in the world and those who are passionate for justice but regard personal holiness as an unnecessary distraction from that task. This division has been solidified by the church’s unfortunate habit of adopting from our surrounding culture the unhelpful packages of ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ prejudices, the former speaking of ‘justice’ and meaning ‘libertarianism’ and the latter speaking of ‘holiness’ and meaning ‘dualism.’ All this must be firmly pushed to one side. What we need is integration.

Passing the evangelical torch: Creating culture

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound AuthorityWaging a New Bloodless Revolution, Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality; and now a fourth challenge:

Creating Culture. 

New leaders will be faced with the challenge of combating what has become transcendent societal secularism. The culture gives no one– young believers, newlyweds, young parents, mid-lifers, or the aging–help in dealing withthe hard work and hard choices that are necessary to live godly lives in a secularized environment. 

 Who teaches us values? Who leads the celebration for what is right and good? Who establishes the boundaries of decency? Who paints the living portraits of beauty?

Today, the answer to all of those questions is usually someone who is not guided by the biblical view of life or the Creator’s definitions of goodness and human flourishing. A rising generation of Christians seems to be attuned to cultural trends, but will the leaders among them influence the cultural waves or be carried along by them to an unknown destination?

 Chuck Colson writes:

“We bear children, plant crops, build cities, form governments, and create works of art. While sin introduced a destructive power into God’s created order, it did not obliterate that order. And when we are redeemed, we are both freed from sin and restored to do what God designed us to do: create culture.”

 In How Now Shall we Live, Colson and Nancy Pearcey called this the cultural commission:

 “God cares not only about redeeming souls but also about restoring his creation. He calls us to be agents not only of his saving grace, but also of his common grace. Our job is not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God. As agents of God’s common grace, we are called to help sustain and renew his creation, to uphold the created institutions of family and society, to pursue science and scholarship, to create works of art and beauty, and to heal and help those suffering from the results of the Fall.”

 Os Guinness pins the blame not on the culture, but on the church: 

Much of the opposition to Christians has been brought down on our own heads through our sub-Christian behavior, as in the failure of Christians demonstrating love for their enemies in obedience to the call of Jesus,” Guinness writes in The Last Christian on Earth. “We’ve lost a tough-minded understanding of ‘worldliness.’ Though we’re getting better at recognizing and resisting philosophies and ideologies –secularism, humanism, postmodernism– we are often naïve about the shaping power of culture. But the real menace of the modern world comes in its philosophies – in things such as ‘consumerism’ and ‘secularization.’”

Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, writes on his blog:

 “Cultural transformation is something that a lot of Christians talk about and aspire to. We want to be a part of transforming the culture. The question is, how is culture transformed? Does it happen just because we think more about culture, or because we pay more attention to culture? As I was thinking about cultural transformation I became convinced that culture changes when people actually make more and better culture. If we want to transform culture, what we actually have to do is to get into the midst of the human cultural project and create some new cultural goods that reshape the way people imagine and experience their world. So culture-making answers the “how” question rather than just “what” we are about. We seek the transformation of every culture but how we do it is by actually making culture.”

In an interview, sociologist Peter Berger observed that in the U.S. evangelicals are shifting from being largely a blue-collar constituency to becoming a college educated population. His question is, will Christians going into the arts, business, government, the media, and film

  • assimilate to the existing baseline cultural narratives so they become in their views and values the same as other secular professionals and elites?
  • seal off and privatize their faith from their work so that, effectively, they do not do their work in any distinctive way?
  • or will they do enough new Christian ‘culture-making’ in their fields to change things?

That’s a primary question for the next generation of evangelical leaders.

Seven of the most interesting stories on Mon. morning: climate collapse, Moore on Beck, Jim Wallis apologizes, and more

1.    Crisis in the Environmental Community: The climate lobby has declined dramatically from its days of high confidence after the 2008 election and it is scrambling to determine the next steps:  

A year ago, these groups seemed to be at the peak of their influence, needing only the Senate’s approval for a landmark climate-change bill. But they lost that fight, done in by the sluggish economy and opposition from business and fossil-fuel interests.

2.    God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck:  Southern Seminary’s Russ Moore writes about relying on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads.

It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

3.    Advertising Parasites: Ads that follow you from site to site.

“For days or weeks, every site I went to seemed to be showing me ads for those shoes,” said Ms. Matlin, a mother of two from Montreal. “It is a pretty clever marketing tool. But it’s a little creepy, especially if you don’t know what’s going on.”

4.    Jim Wallis Apologizes: Sojourners’ Jim Wallis apologizes to World’s Marvin Olasky.

“I was wrong, out of anger at the insinuation about the dependence on these foundations, I was wrong to imply that like Beck, Marvin lies for a living,” Wallis said. “Glenn Beck does lie for a living. Marvin Olasky doesn’t lie for a living; that’s not something I should say about a brother in Christ.”


5.    Crooked Afghan Partner?: Another Diem? Karazi fires his corruption fighter.

“What he was doing was very important,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of Mr. Faqiryar. “Those charged with pursuing corruption need to continue their work without political interference. It’s something we are watching to make sure the Afghan government lives up to the pledges it has made in battling corruption.”

6.    America’s Creativity Crisis?:  For the first time, research shows American creativity declining.

What’s driving the drop? According to Newsweek, technology and education are particularly nefarious culprits. At home, kids are spending more time watching television and playing video games; at school, our educational system is evaporating the creative juices. Neither of these criticisms is particularly new, but they are informative within the context of the creativity discussion.

7.    Baseball Replay Confirms Walk-off Homer:  For the first time, the limited replay rule is used on a play that ends game.

McCann capped a stunning comeback with a replay-assisted homer that gave Atlanta a 7-6 victory over the Marlins on Sunday – the first time a game ended on a call using video. Without it, McCann might have only gotten credit for a double and the game would have continued on. Instead, he was jumping into the arms of his teammates after the umps took a second look, taking advantage of a limited replay rule that went into effect two years earlier almost to the day – Aug. 28, 2008 – to make sure they got these sort of calls right.

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges. We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound Authority and Waging a New Bloodless Revolution; now a third challenge:

Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality

In the wake of megachurch-building success and a new ability to be culture-cool, the pews are filled with biblical illiterates who may be ill-equipped for the next personal or national crisis. In many cases spiritual depth has been sacrificed in the interest of growth and new church models are designed to multiply conversions but fall short in assuring spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding.”

The fear that theological lessons will bore and drive away new converts and a generation with a miniscule attention span, churches are not guiding their members through the fundamentals of the faith and the dangers of popular theological perversions such as:

  • universalism (that what God did for humans in Christ will redeem all humans, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, or atheists, all will eventually be saved),
  • pluralism (the belief that no religion offers superiority in the process of redemption; that all religions lead us to the same god and the same ends), and
  •  modalism (a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms.  Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times.  At the incarnation, the mode was the Son.  After Jesus’ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit.)

Scot McKnight of North Park University and the Jesus Creed blog told Margaret Feinberg:

The biggest challenge facing American evangelicals is Christian universalism– the belief that everyone will eventually be saved because of what Christ has done….I think many young evangelical adults who have been reared in the church have imbibed pluralism and tolerance from their years in the public educational system.”

Norman Geisler, Christian apologist and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary said:

“The evangelical church in America is about 3,000 miles wide and an inch deep. Doctrinally, we are very shallow. We have enough religion to makes us susceptible, but not enough doctrine to make us discerning. You can’t recognize error until you can recognize the truth. I’m told that when government experts want to train people to recognize counterfeit currency, they study genuine currency. The same is true with doctrine.”

Some are recognizing the weaknesses. Bill Hybels, pastor of megachurch granddaddy Willowcreek, said after a study of the church’s ministry:

“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

And that’s a key charge for the new evangelical generation: pair great growth, engaging entertainment, and compassionate service with the teaching of theological truth. Build strong and knowledgeable believers who will have the ability to dismiss error and to maintain their faith through difficult days.

Passing the evangelical torch: Waging a new bloodless revolution

Evangelical leaders of previous generations are in the process of passing the torch to younger leaders, for whom there are at least 10 fresh challenges.

We’ve considered the challenge of Navigating Newfound Authority; now a second challenge:

Waging a New Bloodless Revolution:

There is a divide in the evangelical church that is roughly along generational lines, although not entirely. The Evangelical Generation that began in the 70s has dedicated an enormous amount of its time, energies and resources to fighting the cultural corrosion of two values: First, the protection of human life from conception to natural death, threatened by the normalization of abortion-on-demand and the calls for euthanasia.  Second, the protection of heterosexual marriage, seen as under fire by increasingly ambitious homosexual activism. Those who have championed these protections have often done so at the exclusion of other valuable causes, and at the cost of public popularity.

The Emerging Generation and others have identified pressing issues that deserve the attention of the church and are biblical values and imperatives that cannot be left to secular interests. These include care for the poor, stopping human trafficking, protection of God’s creation or environmental stewardship; nuclear non-proliferation; the dreadful crises of the African people, including AIDS; and clean water crises around the world. These are vital (and popular) causes.

Through my work with many organizations over the years, I have been involved in nearly all of these causes, and I have seen and felt the passion of people who commit their lives to the important missions to which God has called them. The most discouraging aspect of the Church’s work in all of these areas is that its leaders rarely speak to the importance of the followers of Jesus addressing both the traditional concerns and newer concerns.

I see two major challenges for young Christian leaders in public engagement: 

  1. Avoid the division on issues that is expected in politics. Recognize that God’s people must transcend this and cheer and support ministries that battle for unborn life and that battle against climate change. New leaders must be as bold in speaking out for more liveable conditions for those in the inner city as they are in speaking out for better conditions for those who preach the gospel in hostile nations. Leaders must share the living water as they dig for clean water.  The bifurcation of Christian public engagement is wrong and harmful to the Kingdom. 
  2. It is dangerous to get comfortable with the notion that Christian advocates taking difficult and unpopular positions on public issues should back away from these issues and find warmer and fuzzier social causes. Instead, new leaders need to remain engaged, but with greater attention to tone and posture. We don’t need to be popular, but we cannot demonstrate unchristian characteristics as we do battle. A new generation cannot abandon the revolution of values; let’s just make it a bloodless revolution; a revolution where the ends do not justify means unbecoming to the followers of the prince of peace. 

To the barricades!  Just don’t break anything.

Passing the torch: Who will lead the evangelicals?

Navigating Newfound Authority

During the last 50 years, neo-evangelicals have sought to break free from fundamentalist isolation and to give Christian orthodoxy a stronger voice than theological liberalism. They have gone far in achieving these goals, while also leaving the scars of the scorched earth strategy of the culture wars. A new generation of evangelicals will require the hand of God’s blessing to demonstrate the great wisdom, strength and grace that will needed to navigate current challenges and to be prepared to address the issues and crises that few of us can foresee or imagine. There are at least ten major challenges for young leaders; the first is identify these leaders.

We already know that there are many bright young leaders who can critique the church and analyze the actions of those who have preceded them. But can they lead? Will they be equipped to face fresh challenges?

Christian leaders for these times will need to be multi-dimensional and authentic; today there are few secrets and an alarming taste for exploitation of weaknesses. Leaders will need to be doctrinally sound, culturally relevant, publicly engaged, relationally winsome, attractively articulate, and morally consistent.

What young Christians may have what it takes to lead the church during the next generation and to be the face of American Christianity in the days ahead. I’m compiling a list of such potential leaders?

Here are three dozen on my list of candidates (with a hat tip to Brad Lomenick at Catalyst who has been thinking about these things). I’d like to hear for you: who do you think has the qualities and gifts to lead into the heart of the 21st century? Please let me know. 

  1. Jonathan Acuff, writer/blogger/consultant, creator of the Stuff Christians Like blog.
  2. Ben Arment,innovative author, trainer, church planter, creator of Story and the White Board Sessions.
  3. Leroy Barber, founder of Mission Year and author of New Neighbor, pastors in innercity Atlanta and guides young Christians into cross cultureal ministry in American cities.
  4. Mark Batterson author and pastor of National Community Church, which meets in theaters and coffee shops throughout the Washington, D.C. area.
  5. Francis Chan, popular speaker and author of Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
  6. Eugene Cho. pastor in Seattle of Quest Church. Also soon to launch a new organization focused on global poverty.
  7. Ryan Dobson, edgy son on Christian radio’s most famous name; founded Kor Ministries and now co-hosting new radio program with his Dad.  
  8. Mark Driscoll, author and pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle and leader of The Resurgence.
  9. Joshua Dubois, executive director of the White House office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

    Margaret Feinberg, author of Scouting the Divine


  • Margaret Feinberg, extremely gifted and poetic speaker and author of Scouting the Divine.
  • Cathleen Falsani, award winning Religion columnist for the Chicago Sun Times. Her recent book is  Sin Boldly
  • Jessica Flannery, co-founder of Kiva, a platform for micro-finance throughout the world.
  • Craig Groeschel, author and pastor of one of America’s largest and best churches, LifeChurchtv.
  • Chris Heuertz, international executive director of Word Made Flesh. Chris spends most of the year around the world serving the poorest of the poor.
  • Bethany Hoang, director of the International Justice Mission Institute, think tank for IJM, a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.
  • Rani Hong, founder of the Tronie Foundation, committed to fighting slavery and human trafficking through education and policy.
  • Skye Jethani,  managing editor of Leadership Journal and author of the recent book The Divine Commodity.
  • David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research Group and author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity .
  • Shaun King, pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta, and part of Hope Atlanta, an initiative dedicated to helping Atlanta flood victims.
  • Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America, an amazing organization that places recent college graduates as teachers in poor communities and underperforming schools across the country.
  • Kyle Korver, NBA player for the Utah Jazz, started a foundation to help inner-city kids, and also recently launched Seer Clothing.
  • Gabe Lyons, head of The Fermi Project, conducts the Q conference and projects for  new generation work towards long term, Gospel-centered cultural renewal.
  • Scott McClellan, editor of Collide Magazine, and also purveyor of the Collide blog.
  • Jonathan Merritt, a Southern Baptist insider who writes on culture and the church; he is  the founder of the Southern Baptist Climate and Environment Initiative and author of Green Like God.
  • Donald Miller, storyteller and author of the best-seller Blue Like Jazz.
  • Penny Young Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest conservative women’s organization.
  • Jena Lee Nardella, executive director of Blood:Water Mission since she was 22.
  • Lindsay Orr Tarquinio, founder with husband Gavin of LUO, an initiative focused on setting children free from poverty, sickness, and slavery and.
  • Kevin Palau, EVP of the Luis Palau Association and the force behind Palau’s innovative street festivals.
  • Hannah Song, executive director of Link Global, which aims to raise awareness regarding the North Korea crisis and helping to meet needs.
  • Cameron Strang, founder and publisher of the popular Christian magazine on progressive culture, Relevant.
  • Tyler Wigg Stevenson, a pastor and writer who leads the Two Futures Project, a movement of Christians for nuclear threat reduction and the global abolition of nuclear weapons 

    Tyler Wigg Stevenson, head of the Two Futures Project.

  • Zach Williams, singer/songwriter/recording artist in New York City.
  • Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, uber blogger, and author of Plan B.
  • Danny Wuerffel, former Heisman Trophy winner and now Visionary Leader of Desire Street Ministries.
  • Brian Wurzell, pastor, worship leader, blogger extraordinaire, and creative guru. On staff with Cornerstone Church in Chandler, AZ.
  • Jim Wallis should take it back (and other thoughts on Christians and the Mosque)

    As Christians, should our response to the mosque controversy be different than others? As I’ve written, I believe the Muslims seeking to build the mosque should demonstrate American instincts by building it down the road. That aside, how should Christians respond?

    Cross in the wreckage of Ground Zero

    I certainly believe that in dissent and argument Christians should demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Here are some thoughts in this case:

    Love (Your Enemies, Your Neighbors): We cannot hate Muslims because of their faith or even because of acts done in the name of Islam. We just can’t. Opposition to the placement of this mosque doesn’t mean we hate the individuals seeking the mosque or supporting it. Love for our neighbor does not mean we have to support everything they want to do. We’ve been down that road in other arguments.

    Blessed are the Peacemakers: We do need to be peacemakers. But part of keeping the peace is to avoid provocation. While the mosque shouldn’t be built in a grieving area, Christians also should not be burning Korans and putting up signs about Islam being of the devil.

    Kindness: Don’t portray these NYC neighbors worse than they may be. You don’t know them and I don’t either. Christians should not use hurtful language or false characterizations. There is enough ugliness in the media. Tone it down.

    Protect the Faith: There are plenty of efforts to restrict the religious liberty of Christians in America. Don’t give those who wish us ill any ammunition to use the next time a Christian church wants to express itself in the public square. I do find it interesting that the liberals who are so vocal about the religious liberty of those who are wanted to build this mosque are rarely seen in the defense of any Christian display, building, or expression.

    Jim Wallis Outrage

    Did you see the articles or appearances by Sojourners head Jim Wallis on this topic? He wrote that as Christian peacemakers, we should support our Muslim friends in their desire to build a house of worship near Ground Zero.

    While I don’t share Wallis’ politics, I share a Savior. But I’m troubled by what he wrote in his column. Not so much his arguments (although I disagree), but by his character assassination of his fellow Christians. He argues that peaceful Muslims should not judged because of the actions of Islamic 9/11 terrorists any more than he, as an evangelical Christian, should be “judged on the basis of fundamentalist Christians — some of whom have said and done terrible things.”

    Rev. Wallis, are you really equating the rhetoric of fundamentalist Christians with the actions of terrorists who murdered thousands of people?

    Over the years I have provided communications and public relations counsel and services to many Christian leaders (still do), both fundamentalists and (although not Wallis) evangelical liberals. I find this statement by Wallis as abhorrent as I did Jerry Falwell’s ill-timed assertion that Americans brought the 9/11 attacks upon themselves because of their sins.

    Wallis should retract this statement. And I’ll hear him out on the mosque issue and on reconciliation when he completes a Jerry Falwell statue at the Sojourners headquarters. To paraphrase Wallis: “What does it mean to love our enemies as Jesus instructed us? Wasn’t Jerry Falwell your brother and your neighbor?“

    Jim Wallis of Sojourners

    Passing the Evangelical Torch that Illuminated a Path and Scorched the Earth

    Two generations of evangelical leaders are beginning to step aside for a younger group of thinkers, doers, and potential leaders. Evangelicalism has been led by a group of remarkable social entrepreneurs that built new churches and organizations and movements beginning in the 1950s by familiar figures such as Graham, Schaeffer, Henry, Ockenga, and Engstrom; and then by those that splashed across the front pages and airwaves from the 1970s to today–such as Falwell, Dobson, Colson, Robertson, and Bright. The giants are passing or getting long in the tooth, and tomorrow will belong to the often brash and confident young Christians who are somewhat anxious to carry the torch. 

     The evangelical torch that is being passed has illuminated a spiritual path for billions of people over the last 40 years. But that same flame has been wielded at times in a scorched earth policy that has left little good will for orthodox Christians, and insufficient cultural connections to the millions of people who still need to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Today’s warriors are left with the good, the bad, and the ugly results of the bold engagement of their predecessors. 

     New generations rarely recognize the magnitude of the accomplishments of those who precede them. Today’s norms seem, well, normal, although they have often been achieved at a heavy price over many years:  

    •  Certainly World Vision would not be the largest private provider of relief and development for the world’s poor if 1970’s president Stan Mooneyham hadn’t been a maverick neo-evangelical voice for the holistic gospel, even to the point of sacrificing his own health, marriage, and life.
    • Millions of quality, affordable homes would not havebeen built for the poor if Millard and Linda Fuller hadn’t dedicated their lives and fortune to that cause and launched massive Habitat for Humanity.
    • And yes, abortion rates certainly would have not dropped on their own in the last 40 years if it wasn’t for the unpopular actions of the leaders of the pro-life movement and millions of evangelical and Roman Catholic activists.

     Nonetheless, “we are seeing a head-snapping generational change,” contends Michael Gerson, who was a speech writer for both President George W. Bush and Chuck Colson. “The model of social engagement of the religious right is increasingly exhausted ” Gerson says. At the National Association of Evangelical’s 2010 convention, Gerson offered three reasons for the change: a recovery of scriptural emphasis, a revolt against the tone and style of the Religious Right, and the effects of short-term mission trips on young Christians. According to Gerson, young Americans return from short-term mission trips with a changed worldview. Their exposure to poverty, HIV/AIDS, and economic injustice make them concerned about these issues and want to improve the problems.

    To fresh minds, many of the standards of the status quo seem just the intellectual stubbornness of tired leaders. The need for change is obvious; it is the route and rate of change that will test these emerging leaders. There will be many opportunities to navigate turbulent times and to determine the wise use of a powerful torch. 

    Over the next two weeks I will introduce 10 challenges for the new generation of leaders.  These include:

    1. Navigating Newfound Authority
    2. Waging a Bloodless Revolution
    3. Overcoming Spiritual Superficiality
    4. Creating Culture
    5. Returning to Virtue
    6. Bridging to Everyday Relevance
    7. Resisting the Seduction of a New Social Gospel
    8. Learning to Communicate Again
    9. Embracing the Diversity of the New Christian World
    10. Responding to Militant Islam

    [I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]

     #2.  Billy Graham. The Godfather  b. 1918 

    Billy Graham has been the best known and most admired evangelical Christian in the world for decades. Through his early flamboyance, his clear and public Gospel preaching, his non-partisan access to the powerful, his move beyond fundamentalism, and his life of personal and ministry integrity, Billy Graham set the standard not only for evangelistic fidelity, but also as a figure admired all over the world, by believers and unbelievers alike.

    While most would recognize Graham as the most visible and influential evangelical of the modern era, his shaping of the movement came primarily in the mid-20th century. Together with Carl Henry and Harold J. Ockenga, Billy Graham was a 1950’s bridge from fundamentalist separatism to evangelical engagement. Henry rallied evangelicals to engage politics, academia, and other cultural spheres with The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947. He delivered a stinging rebuke to fundamentalists who had withdrawn from these public arenas. Billy Graham delivered the decisive break between evangelicals and fundamentalists in 1957. Graham turned down invitations to preach in New York City under the sponsorship of fundamentalist churches before accepting one from the liberal Protestant Council. [1]

    Graham’s actions were strategic, not careless:

    “For years, Billy Graham was lambasted for inviting theological liberals — as well as people unpopular in the Evangelical South, like Martin Luther King, Jr. — to his crusades. He invariably responded that the attendees were endorsing his cause, not the other way around. Graham knew that he would alienate some co-believers, but they were people he was happy to alienate. He was in the business of leading evangelicalism back into the American mainstream by distinguishing it from hard-core fundamentalism, one of whose most irritating characteristics was “second-degree separation,” a philosophy of ostracizing other Christians simply for dealing with people considered less spiritually pure. Graham’s national reputation flourished while that of his opponents suffered.” [2]

    To guard his personal life, Graham famously had a policy that he would never be alone with a woman, other than his wife Ruth. This has come to be known as the Billy Graham Rule. Rev. Rick Warren and NFL quarterback Kurt Warner have claimed to follow the rule. Warner wrote in his book that he first applied the Billy Graham Rule in his marriage by not driving the babysitter home alone.

    Graham has been a spiritual adviser to twelve United States presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama (some, such as Richard Nixon, more than others). He is number seven on Gallup’s list of admired people in the 20th century.[3] It is said that Graham has preached in person to more people around the world than any other preacher in history. As of 2008, Graham’s lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. More than 2.5 million people have come forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

    Although Graham has had little involvement in activities beyond his own for many years, his early accomplishments, his commitment to the singular cause of evangelism, and his long life (he has outlived most of his contemporaries and his wife, Ruth) have made him the face of evangelicals for more than a generation. Although now retired and nearly immobilized by Parkinson’s disease and other ailments, he remains the iconic figure of the movement.

    [1] http://www.theresurgence.com/blog/692


     [2] TIME, Dec. 1, 2006

     [3] http://www.pollingreport.com/20th.htm