Friday, 20 March 2009

What purpose does the Evangelical Church serve?

Given the nature of these posts we can only speak in broad, sweeping terms and yet even this may give us some insights...
Do you consider yourself an evangelical Christian? Have you ever been to an evangelical Church, or have friends who are evangelical?
If so, what purpose do you think this 'arm' of the Church serves? Dave Tomlinson once memorably said that the evangelical Church was excellent for new believers but really poor once they had 'grown up' spiritually/theologically - then they needed to move to a 'proper' Church. Is this true?
I would love to hear your opinions - have you become an evangelical from another tradition or have you perhaps left the evangelical fold? Please tell us your story and perspective on this intriguing, beguiling, frustrating and energetic branch of Christianity...


  1. Hello Martyn, I've been following your blog for a little while now, but this is my first time dropping a comment. You've had some good stuff here. I appreciate these questions as well, and I think it's important we discuss it. So let me offer my two cents.

    I think one of the biggest things to talk about first is what the term "evangelical" actually means. Thirty years ago, that was a whole lot easier than it is now. I stumble over it; sometimes I'm reading to call myself one, other times I want to avoid it. There are branches of evangelicalism I certainly do not want to identify with, while there are others that I'm much more comfortable being around. Sometimes I even just use evangelical as a sort of "cop out" description (ie., not Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or strict-subscription confessionalist).

    What Tomlinson says is a very important observation, I think, especially with the evangelical churches here in North America. Someone once told me that the faith of many evangelicals is a mile wide, but only an inch deep. I think there's some truth to that, at least on the level of the average parishioner. I don't want to point fingers, though--I know there are a lot of evangelical churches doing great things. But there is something to be said for aligning yourself with a tradition instead of either avoiding all traditions or trying to create a melting pot of many different traditions. That may be a little vague, but hopefully it's somewhat clear...I can expand on it if you want.

    Anyway, just some initial thoughts to hopefully get some discussion going here. Good questions!

  2. Thanks for popping by Jake - you're VERY welcome and I am gratified by your kind comments. Yes, its always a rather difficult thing to adequately define a whole movement - arguably, even our very best attempts will still remain generic and sweeping. Nonetheless, IMHO that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to engage with some of the broader issues that pertain to that broad, broad evangelical conglomeration.
    I couldn't agree more when you note that sometimes you feel like you're in with evangelicalism and sometimes you'd rather not be! That's life and 'families' I 'spose ;)
    I kind of like the idea of 'post-evangelicalism' and yet this too soon becomes a constricting term and all the problems that plague evangelicalism will arguably attach themselves to it with the same inevitability. Maybe this is just cos we're finite, proud, fallen, humans trying to reach out and define/engage with/enjoy the transcendent...

    Again, this DOESN'T mean we have to give up - rather that we just need to embrace some humility and the ability to put ... after our prounouncements...

    Best wishes with your studies Jake - hope you drop by again...