The Supposed Evangelical Crackup, and New Areas of Focus and Ministry

A recent New York Times article explores the changing public face of the evangelical political and social movement. I don’t agree with all of the article’s points, and I’m not sure evangelicalism is quite as divided and defeated as the author claims, especially because there is yet a good deal of time for Christians to sift out which presidential candidate they like and will support. (Good grief, we’re still a year away!) With the unnecessarily alarmist (and celebratory?) tone of the article pointed out, it does show how some evangelicals are turning to different social causes than those of previous generations. This shift in interest draws my attention because it reveals that Christians are devoting time to less traditional causes, and pouring effort and energy into climate change and the defeat of global poverty.

I have no personal ax to grind on either of these issues–they’re complex, they take time to sort out, and I am quite happy for Christians who know more than me to do so and to inform me as to a suggested course of action. However, I do have an ax to grind when it comes to the shape of the family. A recent book by Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, published in June 2007 by the Southern Baptist pastor and speaker, re-started a whole line of thinking in my mind about the absolute necessity of evangelizing and discipling our children. Now here is an area that every evangelical can recognize that they need to address. A staggering number of people who profess to believe evangelical Christianity do so because they were raised in a Christian home. The Christian home that holds out the gospel and that does not subcontract with a youth pastor, a Christian summer camp, and an FCA group to lead their children to the Lord is doing the right thing. Baucham, a reformed author, an excellent speaker, and a good writer, makes this case quite convincingly in his book, which I encourage everyone interested in this subject (or not interested) to buy. The Christian faith is meant to be driven by families, not by the parachurch, not by “experts,” and not by strangers.

But I have an even stronger burden than this. I would re-suggest a model of evangelization that is itself focused on the family. I would encourage Christians to befriend young, inner-city boys and girls and evangelize and disciple them. I would encourage whole churches to target troubled areas and to “adopt” children who come from broken homes. There is little hope of reaching troubled youth (who teem in our nation’s cities) without a strong, family-based model. I would in particular suggest that men should target boys and teach them how to be the cornerstone for a family. I was reminded of this need this morning as I spoke to an inner-city FCA group. As I walked through the halls of the school in search of the classroom where I would speak (I do this on a regular basis in the Louisville area–I speak and briefly rap in order to connect with students and share the gospel), I was surrounded by testosterone-filled boys, many of whom have no dad in their home, and many of whom will grow up to vacate the home just like dad did. I’m not sure we grasp the magnitude of this problem. If we do not teach boys to be responsible, godly dads and fathers, the cycle of suffering and death will only continue in the American inner-city. So long as many inner-city children have no evangelistic family structure, they will reject the gospel, and produce more children who will only do the same. If we want to evangelize these youths, then, and if we want to see their children saved, we must reach them through the Bible’s primary evangelistic model, the family. This is a social emphasis that could use great attention from evangelicals.

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One response to “The Supposed Evangelical Crackup, and New Areas of Focus and Ministry

  1. Mary Mc

    Totally agree with you, Owen. Some folks from my former church in Richmond, VA are doing just what you described: http://www.chatrichmond.org/

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