Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eleven Signs the Tide is Turning

God will sanctify his Church. He will present a spotless bride to the bridegroom.

There is cause to be concerned about the state of evangelicalism and lots of room for constructive criticism, prophetic calls to reformation, and even harsh rebukes, but there is no cause and no room for hopelessness. Jesus is Lord and the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church.

Heck, I'm one of those weirdos who still likes the term "evangelical" and the camp "evangelicalism." I'm one of those weirdos who thinks for all that's wrong with the discipleship culture of the evangelical Church, it is absolutely exciting to live in a time when the gospel message is a scandal to even confessing Christians!

I may be in a large minority of people who think there's quite a bit wrong with the Church, but I fear I'm in a small minority of people who think the tide is turning. We are on the cusp of change, and while I don't foresee any insta-morphing taking place, I believe we are ripe for gospel revolution. And here's 10 things that warm my heart and give me hope:

1. The emergence of the "young, restless, and reformed."

2. Matt Chandler speaking at Catalyst. Ed Stetzer speaking to everybody.

3. The relatively quick flame-out of the emerging church movement, and the relatively quick emergence of the missional conversation and movement, which is more theologically grounded and so sensible even the Southern Baptists have found room in the inn for it.

4. Mark Driscoll and Acts 29's influence on the pastorpreneurial class. I have serious concerns about, for instance, the video venue multi-site concept, but the rise of this system as a bona fide phenomenon has brought infectious Jesus-preaching, gospel-centered guys like Driscoll into the same room with . . . well, other guys. :-)

5. The last several months of Craig Groeschel's preaching at LifeChurch and his blog posts from the same time period. I have no idea how the LifeChurch campuses are receiving things like "Some of you don't know what I'm talking about and it's because you think you're a Christian but you're not," but I'm prayerfully thankful it's being said.

6. I'm probably the only one who thinks this way, but I think the proliferation of God-centered worship songs on CCM radio and the CCM charts is a good thing.

7. The increasing culture of service in the Church, particularly among younger evangelicals. Maybe it's the marketing, but service and missions has become hip. I hope it's not a fad, and I have concerns about high passion/low commitment, but the near ubiquity of Compassion, Blood:Water Mission, The One Campaign, Soles4Souls, etc. means service and mission is more on the mind of the local church these days than it has been in the last 50 years.

8. The Christian blogosphere seems to have become kinder and gentler, and it appears to be talking about Jesus more often.

9. The disillusionment younger Christians are experiencing with the attractional machine appears to be spreading to their older brothers and sisters. The "burnout" appears to be taking place sooner than it used to. Those are negative things, obviously, but they are positive towards reformation of the status quo.

10. Willow Creek admitting they screwed up and many of its REVEAL-utilizing model churches discovering they had too.

11. The renewed interest in expository or passage-driven preaching.


Ben Eige said...

Go on with your bad self! Not sure I agree with the CCM thing, but other than that, I'm with you. I've said to a few people that I think we're on the verge of a resurgence (no pun...) for the reasons you state. Good stuff!

Bob said...

Man, I hope you're right. I really hope you're right. And I'm beginning to think perhaps you are!

PS. Since I gave up on CCM a long time ago, I wasn't aware of this trend you mention. Dare I risk giving it another chance!

Bill said...

Heh - funny that your CCM comment got the most run thus far (I agree w you, btw).

Just last week I was telling a very discouraged bro that things aren't as bad as they look, that the "tide is turning". So I'm with you in your optimism.

Justin said...

I agree there are rays of hope in Evangelicalism, although I'm a little leery about trading in one hangup for another.

I'll try to be succinct:

1 - This is good if there's a good process to help these types to seek grace and peace. My experience (online and real-life) with the "Young Reformed" movement is that they have a low tolerance for anything they perceive as anti-Calvinistic. I wonder if they'll be able to work with the Lutheran and the Pentecostal for a greater good.

2 - I'll take your word for it, I don't know who they are :P

3 - I agree, there is a "missional" feel out there, and it seems to be coming from those burning out from the culture wars (IMO).

4 - Again I'll take your word for it (ITYW4I) My opinion of Driscoll is mixed, thanks in part to his "macho" motif and his rather obtuse rants on "The Shack."

5 - ITYW4I, but LifeChurch represents of the things that bugs me about Evangelicalism -- "Church" means people showing up to watch a pastor thousands of miles. Even if it's a great preacher, and the solid Evangelical Covenant Church is behind them.

6 - I agree, you're the only one :P Seriously, I think it's about the same as it was 10 years ago: Some great artists and some other filler.

7 - I agree, service seems to be taking a central position. Good thing.

8 - ITYW4I -- I avoid blog wars these days.

9 - Agreed, as long as reformation occurs instead of cynicism. I see a lot of cynicism instead.

10 & 11 - Agreed and Amen.

Blendah Tom said...

I agree w/ this post 100%.. I started listening to Matt via Itunes almost 2.5 years ago while attending a Willow Creek Model Church and after awhile (take into consideration I am newcomer to my faith 4 years) of listening to the messages something started resonating in my soul and I started having a hunger for the word and closeness to God.

Along the way that I started respecting God so much more because I was finding out he was "Just" in everything he does and when I started to wrestle w/ that I then realized how much of impact his grace actually means.

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller yesterday where he was discussing Revivals and the way they have happened in the past and mentioned that it was an organic growth that started w/ nominal Christians and elders of churches that all of sudden "really" get it..and then truly allow God to manifest his glory through them.

With the this current economic enviorment and the "Health and Prosperity Gospel" finally dying out due to this economic climate there is a perfect storm brewing for a Christ Exalting Movement. This new movement will be more well rounded and not build a bridge to Jesus by saying "this + Jesus" = success.

Sorry for my rant.. :) Here is my list of the big players in this movement that I see that engage in numerous demographics.

Matt Chandler
Tim Keller
John Piper
Francis Chan
Mark Driscoll
John Macarthur

Andrew said...

Some anecdotal evidence on number 9: My experience at Baylor has been that the kids who come here with the intention to get involved in Church are going to either more traditional churches (the kind where they're the only people under 50) or seeking out the missional model. Part of the last point has to do with both Antioch and Church Under the Bridge's established success within Waco, but it's still encouraging to see that the attractional model seems to be losing its foothold among college students. At least, that's been my experience.

Rob said...

I'm with you on this. I would note, in re: Justin's comment on #6, that of course it's "some great artists and some other filler," because it's always that way; Sturgeon's Law always applies.

Fusion! said...

With this post, you've made it onto my official top ten "top ten lists" of 2008. I'll be posting it later on today. Feel free to check out what some of us are trying to do about number 1 on your list at