God's Politics

God's Politics


Save Souls or Feed the Poor? (by Jim Wallis)

posted by God's Politics

In honor of the publication 100 years ago of Christianity and the Social Crisis, the classic book by social gospel founder Walter Rauschenbusch, his great-grandson Paul Raushenbush published Christianity and the Social Crisis in the 21st century, the text of the original book with a contemporary response to each chapter. This week on Beliefnet, Raushenbush debates the issues his great-grandfather raised with Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.



Yet this isn’t a debate. It’s a lovely dialogue between two people who show the significant new convergence occurring between traditions that have been at war for too long—the evangelical and the social gospel. I know both Bill Hybels and Paul Raushenbush and they are breaking out of the old dualisms. God is personal, but never private. The gospel is both personal and social. Without the personal, a life of faith and commitment to social justice is very difficult to sustain, as some streams of the social gospel eventually demonstrated. And without the social, a personal gospel becomes completely private and loses its integrity, as modern evangelicalism has too often shown. But many Christians, like Bill and Paul, are refusing to make those false choices anymore. Bill Hybels talks constantly about social justice, the urgency of racial reconciliation, and the message of peace. Lynne Hybels spoke at the Sojourners Pentecost conference this past spring, and she impressed us all with her passion for justice.


Bill Hybels wrote in the dialogue:




Usually within months of a person’s salvation experience, there is both a sincere desire to pass on the message of Christ to any and all, and an equally intense desire to do whatever is necessary in the name of Christ to eradicate injustice, relieve oppression, and alleviate suffering of any kind. Selfless service of this sort isn’t normal according to human nature; purely and simply, the desires are born out of the work of the Holy Spirit.



Paul Raushenbush speaks of the need for a vibrant personal faith to undergird the social gospel his great-grandfather espoused so eloquently. And both are critical of those in their respective traditions who are still stuck in the old separations. As he puts it:




Rauschenbusch in his time, and I today, feel that actions taken to carry out Jesus’ commandments in this life are equally important as faith statements accepting Jesus. That is, we should try to realize the promise of the kingdom of God in this world as much as we proclaim Jesus as our personal savior for the forgiveness of our individual sins. It is through concrete action in this life that we most clearly experience the salvation that Jesus offers both right now and eternally.


I find their coming together in this dialogue very encouraging indeed. My essay in the book says it this way:




I still like his clarity in linking personal and social religion. “In personal religion,” he says, “the first requirement is to repent and believe the gospel.” But then, “Social religion, too, demands repentance and faith: repentance for our social sins.” Faith requires, he said, “a revaluation of social values.” He says there are “two great entities in human life—the human soul and the human race—and religion is to save both.”



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neuro_nurse

posted September 21, 2007 at 4:51 pm


This statement, from Deus Caritas Est, the first encyclical letter from Pope Benedict XVI, speaks directly to who I am as a Christian, particularly in light of the career path the Lord has chosen for me:
“Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism. Love is free; it is not practised as a way of achieving other ends. But this does not mean that charitable activity must somehow leave God and Christ aside. For it is always concerned with the whole man. Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God. Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak.”



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kevin s.

posted September 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm


Curious question. The latter is part and parcel of the former.



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Moderatelad

posted September 21, 2007 at 9:18 pm


He says there are “two great entities in human life—the human soul and the human race—and religion is to save both.”
I find this statement interesting. The human soul…don’t think that the ‘soul’ is human. Not sure how one can save a ‘race’ of people as faith in Christ in offered to the individual to accept or reject.
I also find the discussion/issue interesting. I have never in my denomination seen where they went to another country and offered medical treatment only to those who accepted Christ as Savior. The mission was to offer the cup of cold water to the person who is thirsty and then proclaim Christ as Savior to the person to explain why we do what we do. It is not the carrot that we hold out to get the donkey to move.
Kennedy’s EE was to share the Gospel – not to promote how they should think in order to become a believer in Christ.
I still am interested in what ‘evangelical denomination’ Wallis has wittnessed to cause him to write the way he does. Not one that I know of. If you take care of the person and they understand that they are a new creation in Christ – the ‘race’ will come together and take care of itself.
Blessings -
.



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Brent

posted September 21, 2007 at 10:18 pm


Although I was somewhat versed in the faith/works debate prior to my arrival in Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer some four decades ago, I was singularly unprepared for the starkly divergent ways both communists and Catholics waged their cold war of words. Many priests, faced with a dysfunctional social and political system, preached forbearance with worldly injustices. For their flocks the reward was the light to come in the next world in which their tribulations would be rewarded with a life spiritual bliss. And many on the communist vanguard preached an opiate of the masses laden rebuttal that stressed the importance of a destabilizing praxis that would increase the misery in the short run that would be redeemed in the long run through a utopian workers state. The former discourse emphasized the saving of souls while ignoring the world and the latter the saving of a world while canceling all inner life through an economic determinism.
In this dichotomous world we Volunteers worked to disintemediate the coffee trade to rid it of unnecessary middle men and their absurd prices and to form consumer coops to offset a price gouging petit bourgeoisie. And we, along with the Peruvian Agrarian Reform, did this through a grounded social practice that worked from the felt needs of the population and through a democratic practice which was based on their perceptions of how they wanted things to be. In short, we neither cancelled their inner nor their outer worlds, but worked with both.
Translated back into an evangelical (soul saving) or a social gospel (world saving) context, one could argue much like Merleau-Ponti did in a somewhat different context that the acts of faith and of works are deeply entwined and mutually implicating. Both the self and the world arise together and it is only in our abstractions that we sunder that which is a primordial unity in human life.



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Timbuktoo

posted September 21, 2007 at 10:31 pm


“The human soul…don’t think that the ‘soul’ is human.”
Keep trying to sound intelligent, witty and intellectual. Someday you might actually succeed.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 22, 2007 at 1:12 am


If you take care of the person and they understand that they are a new creation in Christ – the ‘race’ will come together and take care of itself.
Were that the case. But then they need to be accepted in a therapeutic community, and some churches and parishioners have their noses so far up in the air they can’t see anything else. Polls have shown consistently that evangelical Christians are the most racist, just to give an example, of any group in this country, and you get that way only when you have something you want to keep (such as class status). We often forget that the early church comprised the “dregs” of society, in some cases rejects.



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Donny

posted September 22, 2007 at 8:03 am


If the Leftist/Liberal/Progressive that claims Christian identity were not exactly the same kind of person they were before they claimed Christian identity, it would not be so difficult to believe them that they are truly Christian. But alas, it looks as if the Leftist is simply using Christian words to look like they are Christian to just impart the same old non-Christian ways of life on a group of people that desired to leave it.
A quick look at groups like Sojouners, Christian Alliance for Progress, Soulforce, or the Institute for Progressive Christianity and you see that the people that claim to be Christian “on the Left” are just the same people “on the Left” that they always were. They are just more clever in their sales pitch.
This is why you never hear of the ACLU or Americans United having any problem with “Progressives” of any stripe. You would think a tern like “God’s politics” would have been lambasted by the ACLU the moment it was ever uttered or written. But guess what?



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kevin s.

posted September 22, 2007 at 3:05 pm


“Polls have shown consistently that evangelical Christians are the most racist”
Can you provide a link to a poll surveying the racism of evangelical Christians compared to other demographic groups?



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Jeff

posted September 22, 2007 at 3:30 pm


Save souls or feed the poor?
Answer is both.
The group I pastor for has done this from the beginning (1914). Though in the early days they did not broadcast the social aspect because they didn’t want to be lumped into the social gospel group. Now after nearly 95 years we are still preaching the gospel and serving the poor. While many of the social gospel groups of 1914 are no longer in existence.
I would also be interested in seeing these polls that consistently show evangelicals as the most racist.
I agree that the early church was made up of the “dregs”. Praise God, every evangelical church I have been involved with also is made up of a mixture of the rich and poor.
Jeff



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Moderatelad

posted September 22, 2007 at 3:40 pm


Posted by: Timbuktoo | September 21, 2007 10:31 PM
Keep trying to sound intelligent, witty and intellectual. Someday you might actually succeed.
Timbuktoo steps back – he shoots – he scores!
Another king of the one liners heard from – wow.
Later -
.



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jesse

posted September 22, 2007 at 4:58 pm


“Can you provide a link to a poll surveying the racism of evangelical Christians compared to other demographic groups?”
–There’s actually a story in the NY Times yesterday (“The World Comes to Georgia, and an Old Church Adapts”) which had this to say about evangelical churches:
“A recent study by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam underscored the practical complications of diversity. In interviews with 30,000 Americans, the study found that residents of more diverse communities “tend to withdraw from collective life,” voting less and volunteering less than those in more homogeneous communities.
The study noted a conspicuous exception.
“In many large evangelical congregations,” the researchers wrote, “the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed.””
–I’ve brought up the fact that evangelical churches are the most diverse with Rick before, yet he chooses to ignore this fact and likes to make sweeping negative generalizations about evangelicals, conservatives, and everyone else he has grievances against. I’m not going to try and argue with him now, as there is too much good football on.



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Joseph

posted September 22, 2007 at 9:20 pm


There is no social-gospel. There is only the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Good works happen as a result of the life changign results of the Gospel. Any Gospel that denies the doctrine of the penal-substionary atonment is false. They shall be Anathema…



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Dick

posted September 22, 2007 at 11:08 pm


I don’t understand this idea of “Being Saved”.
How is it possible to not be saved?
Everyone is saved, because that is our basic nature. Our job is to awaken, not buy into a belief system that gives the ego some sense of moral superiority. Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, and many others awakened, and that is what thier message was about. There is nobody unsaved. There is no satan or hell. Those are just made up by religions to control the flock.



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kevin s.

posted September 23, 2007 at 12:08 am


“Keep trying to sound intelligent, witty and intellectual. Someday you might actually succeed.”
Pith and brevity are not synonymous.



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kevin s.

posted September 23, 2007 at 12:55 pm


“Everyone is saved, because that is our basic nature. Our job is to awaken, not buy into a belief system that gives the ego some sense of moral superiority”
Is it human nature to awaken, or do we awaken from human nature? My mother is a Buddhist, and describes Buddhism as the rejection of worldly values. Those are the values that we instinctively embrace, and so to reject them constitutes enlightenment.
I understand that is an exceedingly incomplete definition of Buddhism as a philosophy, but it speaks to the one resonant theme throughout all religions, which is that man is required to awaken to a new reality.
I agree that, at our rudiments, there is an awareness of what is lacking in our physical life. Hence, man-made religion in general. Operating under this principle, however, it is easy to see where some refuse to wake up. The awakening you describe confounds human nature.



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N.M. Rod

posted September 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm


Alienation from God divided us from Him and pitted us not only against Him, but against ourselves and others.
Reconciation with God, if it is real, results in the other relationships being healed as well, else we would not have been placed into this world of communal existence.
I will note, however, that there has been a certain unfortunate tendency of the organised church to quickly try to make stale what John Bunyan called the wonderful spiritual aroma likened to that of freshly baked bread of the newly saved.
People get pilloried for acting out their innocent new faith and suffer appropation and quickly learn to sit meekly and take direction and only do what’s been pre-approved.
Most end up from this regimen being effectively confined to pew quarters on a weekly basis.



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 23, 2007 at 4:10 pm


I’m not going to try and argue with him now, as there is too much good football on.
jesse
Save your breath Jesse , too many owies in his past . Racism is hard to deal with and hard to see in oneself when rationalized by trespases seen or unseen .
Faith and Hope come from the Bibical undertanding come from Knowing that God is no repecter of persons
The secularist left takes that religious Truth and uses politics to distort it . Interesting that teaching people we are no different in God’s eyes , cause some to call it bigotry in the name of political expediency .



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Mick Sheldon

posted September 23, 2007 at 4:42 pm


Good point about the “Human Soul “Moderatelad . I wonder if that was a mistake or a belief on his part .
The book Of James has more to say on this . Plus Paul wrote some very good teachings on how to treat your brother and sister in the Lord when they do not share your culture or religious dos and don’ts.
Neuro ,
God has chosen you to do great things for the Kingdom . But people are different , and some are called to spread the word also , but I believe we are all called not to Hide the Light of Christ from the world . It does seem like it hurts the eyes of some people , unlike you , my problem is I am not bold enough because of self intimidation some times to share the word . My church promotes us sprweading th word and sharing Help for those in need .
The humanistic culture of the day, no right , no wrong , all gods lead to heaven , has a problem with Evangelsim also , it appears to many to be a statement by the Believer that their own values or life is being ridiculed or judged by the Believer .
I think TV Evangelizing and people using religion to make their politics better then anothers has worsened this . Interesting you have this concept but you don’t mind Wallis presching his Social Gospel in the name of Jesus .
I don’t get that .
But I don’t get out the Mariners were one game out two weeks ago and we just fell apart to 9 games out . Hope all is well .



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Garth Matthewson

posted September 23, 2007 at 5:07 pm


Donny, you have got to be the bravest person posting on Beliefnet. I understand your positions, though they sometimes need to be toned down a bit. Most of the people you counter, love to play the victim. Don’t feed them. They know they’re wrong.
Evangelicals are the missionaries that have been going out into the world for centuries and literally doing something about the poor and the hurting. Liberal Christians by and large mirror their liberal non-Christian counterparts in society and just dwell comfortably in cities. I agree that Sojouners needs to distant itself, from the incessant drone of the rabble that only desire to argue and yell.
Christianity is soemthing you do just as much as something you believe.



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neuro_nurse

posted September 23, 2007 at 8:29 pm


Mick Sheldon,
Thanks.
Paul wrote about our different gifts and not only the value, but the necessity of our gifts to the body of Christ.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
For that reason, we need Donny just as much as he needs us.
Garth Matthewson,
I see very little evidence that anyone who posts on Sojourners, liberal or conservative, or for that matter, most people who call themselves Christians – liberal or conservative – do much more than talk and warm the pews on Sunday.
That’s not to say that the people who participate in this dialog don’t serve God by using the gifts that He has given us. I have enough faith to believe that each of us does.
I lot of people on this blog consider Donny a troll not to be fed – notice how your post was the first to address Donny so far on this thread. I frequently disagree with many people who post here, but I’ve learned to respect their points of view, including Donny’s.
Finger pointing doesn’t get anything done – nothing.
It certainly does not glorify God, and is not what our Savior intended us to do while we wait for His return.
Seek peace and pursue it.



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canucklehead

posted September 24, 2007 at 12:37 am


>>>”Evangelicals are the missionaries that have been going out into the world for centuries and literally doing something about the poor and the hurting. Liberal Christians by and large mirror their liberal non-Christian counterparts in society and just dwell comfortably in cities.”
Garth Matthewson
A simplistic generalization and overstatement. Read, as just one example, the history of foreign missions in early 20th century, pre-Communist mainland China for evidence of the inaccuracy of this assertion.



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Amazon Creek

posted September 24, 2007 at 1:52 am


Neuronurse,
Yesterday, we had a big event here in town. But….
Can’t speak for anyone else – but some of us do a lot of stuff, and we just don’t advertise it a lot. Because, Jesus told us not to do that. He told us to do what we do – and not to blow our horns, but to let our kudos come from God who sees what we did – quietly.
And so…I’m willing to bet that’s why you don’t read more posts on this board about what people do.
Of course…ahem….snicker….that IS why I don’t spend MORE time on this board. I’m often off doing something else that I deem infinitely more important that yacking on this board on-and-on-and-on-and-on. Get me? Smiles….and a chuckle or two or three.



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Amazon Creek

posted September 24, 2007 at 3:04 am


And now for my thoughts on the article…
That was great! Thank you, thank you, for not letting the discussion degenerate into a debate. Someone once said “Arguments are dialogues of the deaf.” And that’s true – debates often just polarize people. And people joust and vie for top-honors. Screaming-matches proceed, doors slam. And maybe they walk away feeling they won some trophy with bragging-rights for thinking they won the argument.
But…then what?
Somebody gets a trophy and bragging-rights.
But…then what?
No consensus was reached. Because everyone debated – but NOBODY WAS LISTENING. No problems were solved. Congress and state legislatures often gridlock due to this very thing.
Sooooo….thank you, gentlemen – for a very wise discussion.
I’ve usually met this whole issue of “Jesus or the Sandwich” with a totally stupid-looking stare of pure bewilderment. Like someone was showing me a freshly-baked cake, and quizzing me which would you choose:
a. the flour
b. the salt
c. the yeast, or
d. the eggs
And I stare quite stupidly at the cake, and say, “Hmmmmm…..well, if it’s baked right, they all kind of blend together! They’re no longer separate ingredients. They are now a package-deal.”
Bravo, gentlemen! And yeah, that’s an oversimplification. In everyday situations, there would be a need for much more decision-making. How many sandwiches? How many is too many? When are we over-preaching?
But…that’s good.
God purposely didn’t give those kinds of specific, day-to-day instructions in His written Word. That was what He gave the Holy Spirit for. And our uncertainty is intended to lead us to seek out God and His wisdom as to how to handle individual situations. God left those kind of ambiguities and questions – so we’d be forced to get on our knees and seek Him for answers.



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Donny

posted September 24, 2007 at 8:49 am


Finger pointing saves lives. And also saves souls. Jesus employed the method many, many, many times.



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Donny

posted September 24, 2007 at 9:04 am


Garth,
Don’t mention my name in any of your responses. The only thing that lefties hate more than the writings of the New Testament are those that desire to live by them.
Where for example, am I wrong here?
>>>This is why you never hear of the ACLU or Americans United having any problem with “Progressives” of any stripe. You would think a term like “God’s politics” would have been lambasted by the ACLU (and especially AU.org) the moment it was ever uttered or written. But guess what?>>”If the Leftist/Liberal/Progressive that claims Christian identity were not exactly the same kind of person they were before they claimed Christian identity, it would not be so difficult to believe them that they are truly Christian. But alas, it looks as if the Leftist is simply using Christian words to look like they are Christian to just impart the same old non-Christian ways of life on a group of people that desired to leave it.
A quick look at groups like Sojouners, Christian Alliance for Progress, Soulforce, or the Institute for Progressive Christianity and you see that the people that claim to be Christian “on the Left” are just the same people “on the Left” that they always were. They are just more clever in their sales pitch.
Posted by: Donny | September 22, 2007 8:03 AM



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 24, 2007 at 12:12 pm


Can you provide a link to a poll surveying the racism of evangelical Christians compared to other demographic groups?
It was (I believe) a Barna poll, the results of which were published in Ron Sider’s book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.”
I’ve brought up the fact that evangelical churches are the most diverse with Rick before…
And you did so in misleading fashion. The only diverse evangelical churches have been the large, independent megachurches, and even that’s a recent development (they tend to be impersonal, keeping real “integration” to a minumum anyway — which is one reason people go there). Established evangelical denominations (and I should know, because I grew up in one and today attend a church in another) and specific evangelical churches that are part of or have broken off from mainline denominations, on the other hand, are as a rule NOT diverse. Go to a smaller, “tighter” evangelical church, and THEN tell us about “diversity.” You’ll find you don’t know what you’re talking about.



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neuro_nurse

posted September 24, 2007 at 1:08 pm


Amazon Creek,
As I said, I have enough faith to believe that the people who post here are using their gifts to serve the Lord. My point was I don’t see any evidence to support Garth’s insinuation that liberal Christians as any more of a droning rabble than conservative Christians.
Donny,
At whom did Jesus ‘point his finger?’
“They are just more clever in their sales pitch.”
You’ve bought into a sales pitch that liberals are the source of all evil, and that liberalism and Christianity are mutually exclusive. You generalize the behaviors of some people who call themselve liberals to all liberals.
The evidence to the contrary is right in front of you, but you won’t allow yourself to see it, because that would mean that the world isn’t as black and white as you want to believe.
You’d have to start thinking for yourself.
Seek peace and pursue it.



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kevin s.

posted September 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm


“And you did so in misleading fashion. The only diverse evangelical churches have been the large, independent megachurches,”
So? These are the largest churches, which contain the most members. So if they are the most diverse, then what he is saying isn’t misleading at all.
“and even that’s a recent development”
So?
“(they tend to be impersonal, keeping real “integration” to a minumum anyway — which is one reason people go there).”
Bologna. Most mega-churches are based on a model of utilizing cell groups, wherein small groups of people in a home or elsewhere. In many churches, participation in these groups is a requirement for church membership.
“Established evangelical denominations (and I should know, because I grew up in one and today attend a church in another) and specific evangelical churches that are part of or have broken off from mainline denominations, on the other hand, are as a rule NOT diverse.”
They are also, as a rule, shrinking into oblivion.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 24, 2007 at 2:33 pm


So? These are the largest churches, which contain the most members. So if they are the most diverse, then what he is saying isn’t misleading at all.
I submit that a majority of evangelical Christians attend smaller churches, which usually have traditional denominational structures or draw from the immediate community and as such have no motivation to diversify. Just check the Yellow Pages under “churches” sometime and you’ll find out just how many there smaller ones there are in comparison to the mega-churches. There are, for openers, half a dozen conservative Presbyterian denominations, none of which are diverse, plus the Christian & Missionary Alliance, where I attend today; mine is one of the few churches in it that is. And then you have the Southern Baptist Convention, which only fairly recently has begun to diversify (and some people don’t like even that, as evidenced by a comment in the Times story that appeared on Saturday).
Most mega-churches are based on a model of utilizing cell groups, wherein small groups of people in a home or elsewhere. In many churches, participation in these groups is a requirement for church membership.
Oh, I won’t say most or even many, though I know Saddleback (Rick Warren) does; none of the dozen or so megachurches in my area has that requirement. My own church functions like one because of its size, and I’ve been in two cell groups, but there’s no requirement.
They are also, as a rule, shrinking into oblivion.
I don’t think that the CMA, the Presbyterian Church in America (D. James Kennedy) or the Church of the Nazarene (James Dobson) are “shrinking into oblivion.”
Pending further information, my comments stand.



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Hali

posted September 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm


“Selfless service of this sort isn’t normal according to human nature; purely and simply, the desires are born out of the work of the Holy Spirit.”
We were all created in God’s image. That is our nature; everything else is distraction. Faith and its associated spiritual practices clear away the distractions. When that happens and we experience the presence of God, everything else flows naturally.



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kevin s.

posted September 24, 2007 at 3:43 pm


“I submit that a majority of evangelical Christians attend smaller churches, which usually have traditional denominational structures or draw from the immediate community and as such have no motivation to diversify.”
Well, a number of people attend smaller churches who aren’t evangelical Christians at all. They simply go to church to go to church. But yes, these churches are shrinking, and have been for quite some time. PCUS has shrunk 50% since 1960. The Episcopal church has (thankfully) shrunk about 60% in that time. The Methodist church has shrunk by a similar amount.
Churches that are shrinking don’t diversify, by definition.
” Just check the Yellow Pages under “churches” sometime and you’ll find out just how many there smaller ones there are in comparison to the mega-churches.”
And evangelicals are going away from them and to the mega-churches, which are more diverse.
“(and some people don’t like even that, as evidenced by a comment in the Times story that appeared on Saturday).”
Which comment?
“Oh, I won’t say most or even many, though I know Saddleback (Rick Warren) does; none of the dozen or so megachurches in my area has that requirement.”
I sincerely doubt that you are familiar with the membership requirements of all twelve of the churches, but I can tell you that many of the growing mega-churches are based on the philosophies of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, who place cell groups (or small groups, or Bible studies) at the center of their strategy. Lakewood and Second Baptist employ this strategy, as do the largest churches in Minnesota.
At my church, membership in a small group is not required for church membership, but is required for participation in many ministries, and is strongly encouraged of regular members.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 24, 2007 at 4:13 pm


Well, a number of people attend smaller churches who aren’t evangelical Christians at all. They simply go to church to go to church. But yes, these churches are shrinking, and have been for quite some time. PCUSA has shrunk 50% since 1960. The Episcopal church has (thankfully) shrunk about 60% in that time. The Methodist church has shrunk by a similar amount.
But that’s not what I’m talking about. The large, “liberal” mainline denominations are indeed losing members per capita, but the evangelical churches regardless within those denominations, which are actually less diverse than the “liberals,” certainly aren’t –or, at least, not as much. People leave those churches only because of their affiliation with the mainline denomination regardless of the church’s own orientation.
And evangelicals are going away from them and to the mega-churches, which are more diverse.
Not necessarily, because your evangelical denominations actually are quite critical of the Warren/Hybels paradigm. And in fact, most of the people going to the megachurches were, in fact, either unchurched in the first place or just returned to church after years away — they generally did not leave an established evangelical church. Also, virtually no leadership in the “religious right” is affiliated with any modern megachurch.
I sincerely doubt that you are familiar with the membership requirements of all twelve of the churches…
I have attended some, known people that do belong to them and written stories on a few as well. So, yeah, I have a good idea.



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kevin s.

posted September 24, 2007 at 4:45 pm


” And in fact, most of the people going to the megachurches were, in fact, either unchurched in the first place or just returned to church after years away — they generally did not leave an established evangelical church. ”
Not directly. Usually, they drop out of those churches for lack of interest, and find a home at the larger churches. If you do not recognize a trend among evangelicals toward attending non-denominational churches, then you are denying reality.
You made the claim that evangelicals are racist. You have created a mythical narrative wherein evangelicals are choosing churches simply to avoid interracting with people of other races because of that racism. There is no evidence whatsoever, to support your narrative, which is 100% assertion on your part.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 24, 2007 at 5:27 pm


You have created a mythical narrative wherein evangelicals are choosing churches simply to avoid interracting with people of other races because of that racism.
That’s not what I said. In fact, the poll I quoted, at 28 percent, rated white evangelicals highest (over Roman Catholics, political liberals and those with no religion) as far as objecting to having black or other color neighbors. You mistakenly equate “evangelical” with “megachurch,” when in fact (if you crunch the numbers) that only a minority of evangelicals attend megachurches, at least by the classic definition of evangelical. Your racist evangelicals can be found mostly in, say, lily-white Southern Baptist, conservative Presbyterian or other smaller assemblies resistant to change. And other studies have demonstrated that, in fact, only about three percent of churches in this country are truly numerically integrated, and many of those are mainline churches in transition from white to something else.
Also, from the NYT article:
They renamed their church the Clarkston International Bible Church.
That change was too much for many of the older members, like Brenda and Robert White. They left after more than 20 years as members.
“I really resented that,” Mrs. White said of the name change. “I know it’s the 21st century and we have to change and do things differently. But I don’t think it’s fair that we had to cater to the foreign people rather than them trying to change to our way of doing things.”
“It just wasn’t Baptist church anymore,” she said.



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Susannah

posted September 24, 2007 at 8:12 pm


I find this thread interesting. I’ve come from a line of churches that, although not all would not call them evangelical, have placed ‘souls’ above ‘social’ issues – and on one level have found them to be very inwardly focused when my heart cries out for the church to be the salt in the community.
Currently I attend a small church affliated with a ‘mega church’ with evangelical roots while working for a methodist/social organisation. For the first few months my head was saddened by the thought that perhaps I should change to a social church, but my heart is convinced that I AM in the right place. Through discussions with my pastors I have found that our group of churches is starting to move towards social issues and that my own desire to be involved with society as more then getting ‘butts on seats during services’.
I am in the right place… there are people like me, helping a surge of social consciousness within the evangelical churches. Like the analogy of the cake – we’re a bit of egg in the flour (thank you, Amazon Creek for that illustration).



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kevin s.

posted September 24, 2007 at 9:46 pm


“That’s not what I said.”
That is precisely what you said. You said that people attend evangelical mega-churches because they are allowed to avoid integrated racial communities. I rightly pointed out that this is ridiculous.
” In fact, the poll I quoted, at 28 percent, rated white evangelicals highest (over Roman Catholics, political liberals and those with no religion) as far as objecting to having black or other color neighbors.”
I see you have found the poll. Can you provide a link, so that I can see the data?
“You mistakenly equate “evangelical” with “megachurch,”"
This is the trend, and I noted as much.
“at least by the classic definition of evangelical.”
Is the classic definition of an evangelical simply one who attends a certain denomination of church? Why should I be forced to apologize for fake Christians any more than you? I can guarantee you that, among those whose faith in Christ is authentic (Evangelical in the real sense), racism is not nearly so prevalent.
The problem with Barna’s statistics is that he tends to include the broadest possible definition of Christian when he is releasing his gloom and doom pronouncements. And I am certainly not the only one to note this fact.
“Your racist evangelicals can be found mostly in, say, lily-white Southern Baptist, conservative Presbyterian or other smaller assemblies resistant to change.”
I agree. Your racists will typically be found in small, aging, dying churches.
“And other studies have demonstrated that, in fact, only about three percent of churches in this country are truly numerically integrated, and many of those are mainline churches in transition from white to something else.”
Which studies?



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Anonymous

posted September 24, 2007 at 10:06 pm


brent; what?????????????????
“both the self and the world arise together and it is only in our abstractions that we sunder that which is a primordial unity in human life.”
i need help here. i’m trying to tie this in with the statement about coffee buying and ugly coffee buyers and….inner and outer worlds.
…..therapuetic community???? evangelicals are the most racist…..the early church comprised the dregs of society. fishermen, carpenters, doctors, rabbis, etc. where are you on the list rick? or does your CMA, “big shot” pastor screen his followers?” rick you are a grumpy arrogant old man. your comments about evangelicals may be your experience but i suggest you accept the fact that some of us have different experiences which are totally opposite yours. and….as you can see wallis, in this post is pushing his “new convergence” and social christianity. i suggest we stick to the job Jesus gave us and let the Spirit and God guide us with the social work. you are obsessed with the idea that you know what we should be doing. get over it, dude.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 24, 2007 at 11:07 pm


That is precisely what you said. You said that people attend evangelical mega-churches because they are allowed to avoid integrated racial communities.
No, that’s not even close to what I said, so quit distorting my words. First, it is my contention that most evangelicals do NOT attend independent megachurches — I would put the figure that does at maybe 20 percent. The 80 percent of evangelicals I’m referring to attend the other kinds of churches I described earlier, and those are often racist — but they don’t have celebrity pastors, are not on TV and radio and don’t make the news.
your comments about evangelicals may be your experience but i suggest you accept the fact that some of us have different experiences which are totally opposite yours.
They’re not just my experience, BTW. It is your job to understand that we have weaknesses and I can tell you what they are precisely because of my different perspective. That’s the kind of statement that sabotages reconciliation.



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Amazon Creek

posted September 24, 2007 at 11:55 pm


Not sure how we got onto the topic of evangelical racism all the way from the gospel with social action….but -
I have many, many complaints about evangelical Christianity….but I can’t honestly say that racism would be one. Years ago – back East in the 70′s and 80′s, I would have said “yes”. I heard racism remarks being made.
But…I don’t know if the passing of the decades have changed people, or maybe it’s my geographical change to out West – but I can’t say I hear a lot of racist comments from evangelicals.
As to why most churches are pre-dominantly white or black or Latino or Asian? Here’s a thought I’ll bounce out there for ya’s all…
Have you thought about the cultural difference in worship styles each group has? Could that explain some of this?
And of course, that is changing, too. Today, Caucasian churches are a lot more open and free in their worship.
But…I have known a lot of white people whose preferred style of worship was rather on the reserved side – and I could never have imagined them in a black church – and it would have had nothing to do with how they felt about African Americans – but because of their total abandon in worship.
And conversely, I suspect a lot of African Americans would have been put off by the reserve of most Caucasian services until recently.
Just a thought…. Try it on for size, and bounce it around.
But…I can’t honestly say I’ve heard a lot of racist comments from evangelicals. I’ve heard anti-poor comments. Anti-illegal immigrant comments.
And maybe those kind of “touch” the borders of racism…. But no direct ones – where years ago, I did.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 25, 2007 at 9:03 am


Have you thought about the cultural difference in worship styles each group has? Could that explain some of this? And of course, that is changing, too. Today, Caucasian churches are a lot more open and free in their worship.
Culture doesn’t really have that much to do with it, truth be told. In the case of African-Americans, they were basically pushed out and had to form their own churches because they were treated so shabbily — the church I attend now did that consistently until the 1980s. With others, there was a language barrier. That separateness created the cultural differences.
That said, “contemporary worship” certainly has bridged the gap a bit. Until fairly recently we used to do some black gospel — the worship pastor came from that background — and it fit nicely.
And this does have more to do with social action than you realize, if for no other reason than the necessary process of reconciliation. We don’t see “the poor” in our own church because so many evangelicals live in the ‘burbs and went to keep what they have but don’t consider how they got it in the first place. Another issue is that too many of us think that “getting saved” is the issue, when the Bible speaks mostly about what happens afterwards — God calls us to live differently than the rest of the world.



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Payshun

posted September 25, 2007 at 12:18 pm


I just read this thread and I could not help but laugh. One of the major lessons God is teaching me is to find joy in my evangelical brothers and sisters. This thread is making that difficult.
The level of discussion is juvenile. I mean it’s really silly. Being saved is only a first step in the journey. The end goal (even if I throw my contemplative leaning out) is to become a disciple of the most high.
The question of humanity being able to save anyone is a dumb question or statement or whatever. Since when can man do anything w/o God? He saves. We show people the door and either God and the person decide to become one or not. It’s that simple. It has to do w/ us being one w/ Him but not alone. The question of souls vs food is an age old question that the early church did by feeding both when possible.
If they could only do one they did one. I would also argue that those are not the only dimensions we need to consider when it comes to freeing people from oppression. We need to look at government structures and political paradigmns, ideas that keep people enslaved to death and end those. That’s what the Gospel is about. It is holistic.
p



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Payshun

posted September 25, 2007 at 12:42 pm


As for why the churches are so separated its because people want to be comfortable. They want to feel like their ideas and thoughts will be confirmed and from time to time challenged. I agree w/ Neuro on this one. Love is it’s own best witness.
The American church has become or always was lazy when it came to connecting outward (unless it involves evangelism outside of our country.) There are execptions but when it comes to American evangelical churches by and large people go where they feel comfortable.
They stopped dying to themselves and interacting w/ different people. There is no excuse (if you live in a major city) to avoid a church that is different from your ethnicity (well if you value God’s love for reconciliation.) I realize I am coming off harsh but at the same time this discussion is really frustrating.
p



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 25, 2007 at 12:58 pm


There is no excuse (if you live in a major city) to avoid a church that is different from your ethnicity (well if you value God’s love for reconciliation.) I realize I am coming off harsh but at the same time this discussion is really frustrating.
I hear ya. At the same time, “diversity” has been a part of my lifestyle for so long that I wouldn’t know what to do in a church where everyone were like me. In fact, I honestly don’t know what that means.



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kevin s.

posted September 25, 2007 at 1:34 pm


“No, that’s not even close to what I said, so quit distorting my words. ”
You said:
“they (megachurches) tend to be impersonal, keeping real “integration” to a minumum anyway — which is one reason people go there”
Which I interpreted to mean that people attend because they do not have to intergrate. I can see why you are running away from this comment, so I’ll simply assume you didn’t mean it.
“First, it is my contention that most evangelicals do NOT attend independent megachurches — I would put the figure that does at maybe 20 percent”
Perhaps, if you exclude churches that bave birthed churches with smaller congregations. I would put the number of evangelicals who attend churches smaller than 100 at about 20%.
I don’t know of any Christians who look to small churches within the mainline denominations as the future of Christianity in America. So to pretend that they somehow represent evangelicals is meaningless at best.



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neuro_nurse

posted September 25, 2007 at 1:39 pm


“There is no excuse (if you live in a major city) to avoid a church that is different from your ethnicity.”
Being the daughter of a Baptist pastor, my wife is not completely comfortable with Catholic theology, so we found a Baptist church where both of us appreciate the preaching (most of the time), but it’s very white.
When my wife is out of town, I go to a Catholic church where the congregation is much more representative of the population of New Orleans (Are you with me, C.C.?).
Of course I love the music at our Baptist church – seeing as how my wife is the piano player, but the music at my Catholic church rocks! (I swear the woman playing the piano throws some Ohio Players in there sometimes)
My wife will be out of town again the week after next…



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 25, 2007 at 2:14 pm


Which I interpreted to mean that people attend because they do not have to intergrate. I can see why you are running away from this comment, so I’ll simply assume you didn’t mean it.
Your interpretation was totally wrong — I was making no reference at all to race. Rather, people tend to slip in and out of those kind of churches basically to remain anonymous and avoid involvement with the lives of others; they are what one commentator referred to as “consumer Christians” out merely to catch the newest wave. In such a culture no one even gives a thought about race, so absorbed are they with themselves and their own needs. (I read many articles about this phenomenon on ChristianityToday.com.)
And even at that, I was talking only about independent megachurches, those outside of a denominational structure (and I was clear about that from the outset). Let me say again that the evangelical churches that have racist tendencies, even the larger ones, are generally in overtly evangelical denominations, plus the evangelical churches within mainline denominations (my city has plenty of those), because they are older and have plenty of tradition behind them. And, whether you like it or not, they represent mainstream evangelicalism as I write.
As I mentioned, no “religious right” figure to my knowledge pastors or even attends one of those independent megachurches. Charles Stanley pastors First Baptist in Atlanta; the late Jerry Falwell, Thomas Road Baptist in Lynchburg, Va. (and when he started the church he considered the Southern Baptists “too liberal,” though he eventually would join); the late D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church [in America]; and so on. The point is, denomiational churches have a longstanding traditional structure and orientation (that the independent megachurches don’t) on which they place great weight. It is that focus on “tradition” that opens such churches to racist thinking. And if you really looked at the numbers, you’ll find that they far outnumber the independents in numbers — because, as I said, the independents by design reach primarily the “unchurched.”
I don’t at all agree with your premise that evangelicals are moving from the conservative denominational churches to the independent ones because many of the denominational churches, which often pay attention to the finer points of theology and culture, have pretty much inoculated their parishioners against the “independents.” That’s why and from where Rick Warren has taken so much flak.



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kevin s.

posted September 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm


“Your interpretation was totally wrong — I was making no reference at all to race. ”
Then what did you mean by integration? And what was your point?
“In such a culture no one even gives a thought about race”
So, people are too self-absorbed to even be racist?
“As I mentioned, no “religious right” figure to my knowledge pastors or even attends one of those independent megachurches”
Two of your three examples are not deceased. Does that tell you anything? Things have changed since 1977. Besides, the NAE represents the conservative Christians as well, and many of their membership attend or lead the churches you describe. And if the NAE isn’t allowed to represent Evangelicalism, then you are really verring from reality.
The only movement within denominational churches that is growing is the reformed movement. But the “new reformers” tend to be young, highyl educated, and not at all racist either (albeit less diverse).



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 25, 2007 at 5:09 pm


Then what did you mean by integration? And what was your point?
In a broader sense — also culturally and socio-economically.
So, people are too self-absorbed to even be racist?
In some cases, yes. They don’t even think about the ramifications of Christianity on anything except their own immediate concerns.
Two of your three examples are not deceased.
Only one is still living — Stanley. And he still has a vital ministry, not to mention radio and TV.
Besides, the NAE represents the conservative Christians as well, and many of their membership attend or lead the churches you describe.
The NAE actually started out as a group of conservative denominations — the kind I was talking about — as a counter to the liberal National/World Council of Churches. And up until fairly recently it too struggled with issues of race, as there was another group, the National Association of Black Evangelicals, with which there has been limited rapproachment.



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Amazon Creek

posted September 26, 2007 at 12:27 am


Hi Rick and Payshun!
Yes, especially when you attempt to look at it from God’s point of view….God is not confined to “time” like we humans are. And so…He has always seen those who put their trust in Him as born of the Spirit. And He sees the finished product – already!
I’m thankful though that He places the verses in the Scripture that describe things more like us humans conceptualize them – a person has a definite point in time where they put their faith in Christ, they grow in degrees – over “time”.
We do need to be concerned about where a person is going to spend eternity. Very frankly, if you want to ask the source of any love and compassion I have – it stems from the knowledge of just how freely God loved me. That is what changes people – the Holy Spirit inside of them – to cause people to love and serve.
Okay…I’m bordering on brain-dead. Gotta sleep. Enough for tonight. I rise at 4 AM.



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Payshun

posted September 26, 2007 at 2:07 am


Rest well Amazon Creek,
I too have to be up at 4 am. Gotta love work. But I think it’s cool to start to have this discussion. I am not concerned about where someone spends eternity. It’s not because I don’t care. I know its not my responsibility to worry about that. My responsibilty is to love people and as my Father tells to tell others I will.
But it seems my mission is to call the church back to him and reveal his love to a world that doesn’t know it. I am not a evangelist in the current definition of the word. For me Hell is irrelevant. I don’t know how it exists or anything or even if it does. But I do know that I am commissioned to reveal Heaven to people.
p



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kevin s.

posted September 26, 2007 at 5:43 pm


“In a broader sense — also culturally and socio-economically.”
So why did you bring it up in a conversation about racism? The point is that these larger churches tend to be more racially diverse. That point stands.
“In some cases, yes. They don’t even think about the ramifications of Christianity on anything except their own immediate concerns.”
So, the reason these churches are more diverse is because their membership is so self-absorbed that they are colorblind. That is a hell of an assertion, I’ll give you that.
“Only one is still living — Stanley.”
Correct. I meant to say that two of your three examples are deceased.
“The NAE actually started out as a group of conservative denominations — the kind I was talking about”
But it isn’t anymore.



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Rick Nowlin

posted September 29, 2007 at 1:04 pm


So why did you bring it up in a conversation about racism? The point is that these larger churches tend to be more racially diverse. That point stands.
But they are much newer and less traditional — and still a minority in evangelicalism. My point stands.
So, the reason these churches are more diverse is because their membership is so self-absorbed that they are colorblind. That is a hell of an assertion, I’ll give you that.
Well, that’s the reality. People move out to exurbs for that very reason.
“The NAE actually started out as a group of conservative denominations — the kind I was talking about”
But it isn’t anymore.
Yeah, it still is — and many of those churches are dealing with their own racial issues, finally.



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DHFabian

posted October 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm


Question regarding America, race and attitudes: Of these two, who is it that Americans despise, treat with contempt, and to whom do they deny equal legal/human rights and protections: rich black people or poor people of any color? There is at least a significant amount of discussion concerning race, and some of gender, but very little of economic class. And in America, no matter how we try to phrase it, the value of a human life is determined by his income. Each week, our churches are filled with people who have collectively turned their backs on our poor, supporting a morally appalling welfare “reform” agenda. We have seen that America despises the poor regardless of color, and rewards the rich regardless of color.



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Rick Nowlin

posted October 3, 2007 at 9:01 pm


DHFabian — It’s important to remember that the Ku Klux Klan comprised primarily “white trash” and the original civil-rights demonstrators were actually rich blacks. So there’s part of your answer.
An “alien” culture has something to do with it as well. My church has occasionally incorporated hip-hop into worship services (it’s not my thing, but what the hey — God can use it). In some quarters people would be horrified.



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