Category Archives: evangelical

A Caution About Big Evangelical Churches and Popular Ministers

Author Dan Pink, in an Intelligence Squared podcast (about something completely different from church-related stuff), responded to a question at the end of his presentation with this:

“Power ends up corrupting people’s ability to see another person’s perspective…. The more power someone has, the less acute their perspective-taking skills are. If you look at high-status people in organizations, in general, high-status people in society, they’re not very good at taking other people’s perspective.”


To the Manufacturers of Mark Driscoll

A friend posted this Monday article from The Daily Beast on my Facebook page. It begins:

“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants.

“The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.

“Former members have been threatening to file such a lawsuit for months to find out just where the members’ tithes—some $30 million yearly, according to church reports—actually went.”

I don’t know whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act really applies in this case, and I have no idea if pursuing that particular approach is a good idea — although of course someone needs to answer for the $30 million annually and any misappropriation of funds.

My reaction to the article, posted on Facebook, was aimed at those who helped Driscoll become a celebrity and a monster:

“He said Reformed things with boldness and strong emotions. That was enough to hide a multitude of sins. And while his influence and income increased, we were told that the mainline churches were dead, but it was purer, holier Driscoll who was dead inside. Sure, people don’t want to go to those old churches with their old facades and old ways, but the rotten wood was found inside new buildings in Seattle.”


How liturgy reflects the Incarnation

In the liturgy of the Church we approach that perfect harmony between the outward and the inward.  We celebrate Redemption, which has begun to knit things back together.  We anticipate the final Redemption of all things when that restoration will be completed.  We recall the Incarnation, in which we find the perfect uniting of form and matter, that is, of perfect wholeness and purity with human flesh.  We see in the Second Adam the perfection that was to have been exhibited in the first.

The ceremonies of the liturgy answer to all of this.  For in the liturgy we step into redemption, in faith, and bespeak the perfect uniting of the outer and the inner that will be unfurled in the new heavens and the new earth.  We renounce the divided world where body wars against heart and where gesture struggles with thought.  By enacting what is true, we learn what is true.  By bowing our heads as well as our hearts, we testify to the restored seamlessness of outer and inner.  By bowing with the knee we teach our reluctant hearts to bow.  By making the sign of the cross with our hands we signal to heaven, earth, hell, and to our innermost beings that we are indeed under this sign — that we are crucified with Christ.  No longer do we refuse the outer gesture in the name of the inner faith.  Buddhism, Platonism, and Manichaeanism may do so, but Christian faith cries out to be shaped.

-from Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament, by Thomas Howard

Evangelicals, Progressives burying the hatchet?

WASHINGTON – The line dividing evangelicals from progressives blurred Wednesday as members from both parties joined in a new mission to erase long-held stereotypes of one another and seek commonality on polarizing issues such as abortion, gay rights, and the role of religion in public life.

Both sides agreed the “civil war” between evangelicals and progressives needs to end and common ground pursued in order for the nation to make significant progress on divisive issues.

“I think the way we have been dealing with differences in this country simply doesn’t work,” said the Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of the 10,000-member Northland Church in Florida.

The evangelical leader contends arguments between some evangelical leaders and liberals have not only blocked progress but also isolated a lot of evangelicals who are looking for “reasonable” leadership that allows for development while maintaining values.

From The Christian Post. Read the full article here.

Evangelical leaders seek to establish communications with Muslim clerics

The following press release was released by Howie Gardner and distributed via the Religion News Service’s Religion Press Release Services. It is copied here because it provides a window into an interesting moment in interfaith relations. Neither nor the Religion News Service are responsible for the accuracy of the release. Gardner has sole responsiblity for the accuracy of the release.

Contact: Howie Gardner

Evangelical Christian Leaders Seek to Establish Communications with Muslim Clerics

In September of ’06, author Howie Gardner, Pastor of Bel Air Assembly of God in Maryland, composed a letter to the Muslim World league in Saudi Arabia.  The letter has been revised a number of times at the suggestions of various missionaries and theologians.  It can be seen in its present form at

The following January, PrimeStar Publicity head, Helen Cook published an article about the book which went out over the Christian Newswire.  The response was far greater than anticipated.  Letters came in from Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.  Three Bible Colleges asked permission to use the letter in their curriculum.  Even the chaplaincy of the United States Pentagon responded. 

Ultimately Gardner came in contact with Kamal Nawash, President of the “Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism” (FMCAT), in Washington D. C.  Nawash invited Pastor Gardner and Evangelist Angel Berrios to a Muslim service in Anandale, Virginia and then on to address a group of clerics at a luncheon that afternoon.  Gardner reported “we had a very positive and encouraging exchange.”

“We did not take the usual evangelical approach of trying to convince them that the Bible is superior to the Quran. Certainly as Evangelical Christians we believe that and it would make for an interesting dialogue on another occasion.  However in this forum we have attempted to stress the concept that one can denounce terrorism with denouncing Islam.  There are a number of verses in the Quran which call for Muslims to take arms against ‘infidels’ and today many Muslims understand the verses to be a call to arms against Christians and Jews with the latter seeing them as an affront against themselves.  In reality though, Muhammad did not regard either Christians or Jews to be infidels, quite the contrary.  Rather these verses are aimed at two groups who were contemporaries of Muhammad-the Quraishi and the Collyridians.  Muhammad actually makes direct reference to the latter group twice in Surah 5.  Both of these groups apparently advocated not only the worship of multiple gods but also the sacrifice of innocent human beings as part of their worship.”

 Our main goal has been to convince Muslim leaders, particularly those from the Muslim World League, to declare a fatwa against school curriculum being used in Saudi Arabia, Palestine and elsewhere which encourage small children to pursue the life of a terrorist.

FMCAT posted Gardner’s letter on their web site and allowed for a free exchange between him and other Muslims as well as Christians and Jews.  “Much of the response was hostile” Gardner says.  But there were positive signs as well. “One Muslim woman wrote saying ‘Most of us agree with you but we do not have the courage to speak up'” he says. 

Perhaps they are beginning to gain that courage though.  In Saudi Arabia the Interior Ministry near the provincial capital of Al Janderea has begun organizing deprogramming classes for jihadists seeking a change of lifestyle.  Their 12 step program includes art, sports and religion classes.  Dr. Ahmad Hamad Jilan states “We tell them that they should give the right picture of Islam.  They should not kill or bomb.”  Sociologist Hameed Kahaleel notes that many of the students now have jobs, are studying in the universities and are raising families.           

Still further, in Pakistan award winning director Waseem Mahmood has composed a song entitled “This is NOT Us” stressing the incompatibility between terrorism and Islam.  Reportedly the song is a best-seller. 

Nawash has expressed interest in inviting Evangelist Franklin Graham to Saudi Arabia to meet with Muslim clerics in a similar setting.

“Thus far the response from Christians has been slow” Gardner says.  “Two denominational leaders have called me to voice their support but one of them asked not to be named as it might endanger missionaries on the field.  I have received either emails or phone calls from Focus on the Family, The Martin Luther King Center, Trinity Broadcasting, John McArthur Ministries, Oral Roberts University, the offices of former Congressmen J. C. Watts, author Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and even from Muhammad Ali Enterprises- the public relations arm of the former heavyweight champ.  I should note though that NONE of these groups have given us any official endorsement as yet and both Warren and Charles Stanley have since declined their support.” 

Currently Gardner, who has authored two previous books, is in the process of compiling the thoughts of local Christian and Muslim leaders on 26 different topics for a proposed third book. This one may not become a reality though as he reports “So far one Christian publisher has informed me that they have no interest in publishing a book of which 50% is written by Muslims.  Stay tuned and let’s see what God will do.”

Webber’s ancient-future faith

From the Albuquerque Tribune:

Terry Mattingly: Webber knew history is the heart of evangelism

During one of his early visits to London, Billy Graham was confronted by an Anglican leader who casually dismissed the entire crusade effort. 

“Young man,” said the priest, “I do not approve of your style of evangelism.”

“I’m sure that what I’m doing isn’t perfect,” replied Graham. “But I like the evangelism that I’m doing better than the evangelism that you’re not doing.”

Robert E. Webber knew that collision of styles inside out.

The theologian spent most of his career working with people on both sides of the cultural divide captured in that familiar anecdote about the world’s most famous evangelist. It helped that Webber – who died April 27, after an eight-month struggle with cancer – had lived and worshipped in both camps.

As a graduate of the proudly fundamentalist Bob Jones University, Webber knew all about the style of evangelism that many believers can condense into a single blunt question: “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” Yet, as an convert to the Episcopal Church, he also knew how to talk to those who are offended by any discussion of evangelism or, as unsophisticated folks call it, “saving souls.”

“The problem with evangelism is that churches either do it or they don’t,” Webber told me, before a Denver speaking engagement in the mid-1980s. This was about the time that he began to emerge as an influence on progressive evangelicals, in large part because of his strategic years teaching at Wheaton College, home of the Billy Graham Center.

“I think every church that is alive has within it people who are gifted at evangelism,” he added. “If a church doesn’t have these people, then there are some tough questions that have to be asked. . . . You may be dealing with a dead church.”

Media tributes to Webber this past week have focused on his trailblazing work encouraging evangelicals – through his writings, both popular and academic – to begin weaving strands of ancient rites and prayers into the fabric of contemporary Protestant worship. An ecumenical document rooted in his work, titled “A Call to An Ancient Evangelical Future” (, challenged its readers to “strengthen their witness through a recovery of the faith articulated by the consensus of the ancient Church and its guardians in the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation and the Evangelical awakenings.”

Webber’s convictions can also be seen in the titles of his books, such as “Worship Is a Verb,” “Ancient-Future Faith,” “Worship Old and New” and the once-scandalous “Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail.” In 1998, he founded the Institute for Worship Studies (now known as the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies), a high-tech global graduate school at Grace Episcopal Church of Orange Park, Fla.

But this liturgical approach was a hard sell, especially in the age of media-driven megachurches offering services tuned to fit the fast-paced lifestyles of suburbia.

“The truth is that we Americans are a-historical,” Webber wrote in “The New Worship Awakening,” a book rereleased several times during the past dozen years. “Most of us know very little about history and probably care even less. What we are interested in is the now, the moment, the existential experience. Unfortunately, most churches in this country have the same mentality.”

However, there was a flip side to his tough message targeting evangelicals.

Webber was convinced that far too many liturgical Christians – Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and the Orthodox – have abandoned the task of evangelizing nonbelievers and those estranged from the faith. In their rush to reject what Webber called a “Lone Ranger,” “hit-and-run” style of evangelism, the leaders of these flocks have veered into apathy and silence.

There is also a chance that many of them no longer want to discuss sin, evil, repentance, grace, death and, horror of horrors, heaven and hell.

These eternal concerns are not going to fade away, said Webber.

“What lies behind the views of people who see these doctrines as negative, as subjects to be avoided, is probably an embarrassment about the historic Christian faith,” he explained. “Until a church is ready to reckon with historic Christianity, it is not going to be interested in evangelism. . . .So I am probably not even talking to what you could call the average, mainline, liberal church.”

Mattingly ( directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.