Summary: The Evangelical movement has been slipping from its moorings for many years. I believe the departure from orthodoxy is now complete and it is time to separate ourselves from much that is proclaimed under the banner of “Evangelical Christianity.”
Note carefully the indefinite article. This sermon will examine Evangelical the noun. I am not speaking about being evangelical. In that sense, the word evangelical is an adjective describing ones attitude toward sharing the gospel. I am not repudiating my Christian faith, but rather the identification associated with a particular group identified in our American culture as “Evangelical Christians.”
I once identified myself as an Evangelical Christian. However, the meaning of words change over time and through usage. The word “Fundamentalist” was once a positive term used to identify Bible believing Christians who held to the fundamentals of the faith and rejected the liberalizing trends occurring in main line denominations. R.A Torrey wrote a powerful series of books published in 1917 called “The Fundamentals.” His books encouraged many to stay true to the Word of God and led to opening of independent Bible churches and new Bible colleges and seminaries. However, by the 1970’s, the term “Fundamentalist” became associated with a more rigid and legalistic brand of Christians. Vitriolic name calling, accusations of being “too liberal,” debates over clothing and hair styles, led some Christians to shy away from being identified as a Fundamentalist. The new more appealing term was to be identified as an Evangelical.
Now, 30 years after my predecessors abandoned the “Fundamentalist” moniker, I am suggesting we abandon the Evangelical brand. The reasoning for this lies in the false message taught by the most visibly identified leaders of the current movement known as Evangelical Christians. Today, the term “Evangelical” is often associated with spiritual leaders who reject the truth of the Bible.
There is great confusion in America today concerning what it means to be a Christian. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Barna Research Group,42% of Americans claim to be born again. This is based upon their answers to two questions: 1) "have you ever made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?" and, 2) "when I die, I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior." Individuals who answered "yes" to the first question and select this statement as their belief about their own salvation are then categorized as "born again."
I seriously doubt that 42% of the population possess a genuine relationship with Christ through faith. Simply examine the wickedness in our society and the relatively few number of people who live in any accordance with the Word of God (1 John 2:3-6).
Perhaps more accurate is Barna’s question identifying whether or not a person could be considered an Evangelical Christian. The 2007 survey found 8% of population that could be identified as “Evangelical.” These individuals met the “born again” criteria, plus seven additional questions: 1) their faith is very important in their life today; 2) believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; 3) believing that Satan exists; 4) believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; 5) believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; 6) asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; 7) God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.
It is not the people who identify themselves as Evangelicals that concerns me. It is the leaders who claim to represent Christ, yet teach another gospel. In Paul’s letter to the church of Galatia we read, "If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:9, NIV).
Today, many key leaders who identify themselves as “EVANGELICAL” are teaching a false Christian message.
‒ These changes have been happening over the past 25 years, beginning with Bill Hybels “seeker” movement.
‒ Many of the theological problems today were born out of good intentions.
‒ During the past 25 years, leaders in the Evangelical movement emphasize methods over doctrine.
‒ At its core, this is a Theological issue.
We are seeing a replay of the liberalizing trends that took place in the main line denominations almost 100 years ago. Then, church leaders sought academic acceptance in the face of their peers in colleges and universities and in print through books and scholarly journals. Church leaders could not stand up to the critics who undermined the authority of Scriptures and the miracles of the Bible. Little by little, leaders sought academic relevance and accommodated their theology to satisfy the objections and insults of the academic world. Over several decades, denominations that once were solidly biblical rejected the teachings of the virgin birth, miracles of Christ, and the inspiration of Scripture. Missions and evangelism were replaced with a social gospel, and a new generation of church goers were raised hearing sermons devoid of Biblical truth.