And Down We Go . . .
Russell Moore, the head of the SBC's ERLC, recently tweeted that American evangelicalism is in peril, citing a Christianity Today article about sexual misconduct allegations regarding Bill Hybels, the long-time pastor of megachurch Willow Creek Community Church. It was also revealed last week that the leader of the SBC, Frank Page, stepped down over an excessively intimate relationship. The Washington Post just did an article about the spate of sexual scandals in American evangelicalism.
You already know that I think that American Christianity is in decline. The sexual exploits of high-ranking clergy are not the cause; they are a symptom. In the last generation, evangelicals have made faith into a business instead of a relationship with Jesus. Megachurches had the chance to make running a church more efficient, but instead they made pastors into celebrities. And made covering up scandal a cottage industry. Think Sovereign Grace, HIghpoint Church, and The Village Church.
Evangelicalism is off the rails. We don't know how to love people anymore. We've held onto theology that is clearly pathological and unbiblical (e.g. patriarchalism and heterosexism) while maintaining isolated and unjust social structures (e.g. racism). And we've been running around after celebrities instead of focusing our lives on Jesus. (Believe me, I've been guilty of this, too. I have my favorite authors and would have followed them to conferences if I had the money. Forgive me, Jesus!)
The evangelicalism that's being burned away can go. We don't need anymore pretend piety. Fancy buildings and cool worship songs (however much I enjoy them) are unnecessary. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" Love God and love others. Add to this the Great Commission, in which Jesus instructs us to tell others about his love, and we can't go wrong.
Evangelicalism is in peril. Let it go. Cling to Jesus. Love each other.