Invariably, when I start one of my coaching FaceTime calls I hear this question from my client: “Where are you now?” This is because our house has wheels and Libby and I move around a lot! I think the next time the question is posed I might answer this way:
I find myself on the edges of Evangelicalism.
Let me explain.
I believe these two things are true:
- Not all Christ Followers are Evangelicals. (Some, for example, are Mainline Protestants, Catholic, and Orthodox, some are agnostic, some are deconstructing, some ex-vangelical, and some have always been tribe-less but are deeply in love with Jesus.)
- Not all Evangelicals are Christ Followers.
There was a time that, had I heard someone express these thoughts I would have taken them to task. You see I fell into the trance, I bought the lie that my sliver of Christian experience was the primary, if not the only way to do it. Growing up Evangelical, trained at one of the world’s great Evangelical seminaries, and leading an Evangelical church for almost 30 years, I believed that not only was Evangelicalism the ticket, but my specific nuanced theological subspace of Evangelicalism was the destination for weary travelers looking for their Christian version of Nirvana.
But now that I’m a business man living in an RV I’ve had the opportunity to take a few steps back to get a different perspective of the world I have been marinating in for as long as I can remember. As I tried to focus on what I was seeing, I found myself stepping farther and farther back. It was as though I needed to keep retreating in order to see clearly, like a 83 year old man holding the newspaper at arms length to read the small print. The more distant I am, the more comfortable I become. It is terrifying and peaceful… simultaneously. The cataclysmic shifts, binary us vs. them-ism, unfettered Twitter antagonism, pat answers, misdirected affection and worship, biblical arguments for the subjugation of women, racial blindspots, arguments for not taking empathy too far, and simplistic judgmentalism that trumps love, came into clearer focus. I backed up more… and more, and now have landed on the edges. And here I stand… still committed to the essence of what evangelical means (A good news person. The good news that Jesus loves everyone to distraction, gave himself to forge deep relationship and build intimate community, and lives to enliven us in love, compassion, and grace), but having to turn my face away from almost everything else.
I wonder if you find yourself disgruntled with the trajectory of Evangelicalism but fearful to critique it. Remember, Evangelicalism is a relatively recent movement, Christ Followers loved and followed Jesus for centuries before Denominations, The National Association of Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, Christianity Today, The Evangelical Theological Society, and The Gospel Coalition were “twinkles in their father’s eyes.” Movements come and movements go and, here from the edge, I see a movement trying desperately to go.
We’ll see, maybe we’ll wake up. Maybe we’ll remember the essence of God’s grace and what it looks like to be a conduit of that grace to a vulnerable, isolated, marginalized, and struggling world. If we can, I might find myself moving back from the edges. If not, I’ll find a new tribe to love with.