… uth-in-lo/ – Dr. Kim Riddlebarger

Some things in this article really spoke to me about my own sinful tendency toward cynicism concerning evangelicalism. I’m very discouraged with the movement and where things are headed. I made that clear in my recent post concerning Rick Warren. This discouragement isn’t bad in itself because it is rooted in a desire to have the Gospel be the thing for which we are known. It is what my heart does with that discouragement that is wrong. It can easily turn into bitterness.

Some people have totally left the evangelical movement, as the author of the article has, in favor of a confessionally Reformed church movement. At this point, I still consider myself an evangelical, and my desire is to stay within evangelicalisms’ circles in hopes the Lord will use any influence I might have (because of Him, not me) to help point people toward the Gospel, away from the pervasive self-helpism of our culture, and find their all in Christ alone, for both justification and sanctification. If anything I do is successful, this is to the Lord’s credit. If anything I do fails, this is my own wrong doing.

Regardless, I wanted to share a particular section of the above article because it really spoke to my heart about my own errors and tendencies toward error. It reminded me that maybe I need to spend a lot less time criticizing the evangelical movement and simply speak the truth in love, both on my blog and toward people.

“C. Criticism leads to cynicism

But the problem many of us face, as former evangelicals, is that our churches are not dominated by issues of ethnicity and problems of Americanization. As former evangelicals, we have been burned by shoddy and unbiblical theology. Many of us are like angry bears, wounded by years of perfectionistic sanctification, and muddled-headed theology. We are angry at those who taught us and we have every right to be! But it is very easy to react in a rage against what is wrong with evangelicalism, and to become overly cynical in the process. While rightly criticizing evangelical theology and its unbiblical Pelagianism, if we are not careful, we risk becoming critical, rude, proud and obnoxious. When that happens, ironically, we become a stumbling block to non-Christians who need to hear the gospel as well as to those dissatisfied evangelicals seeking a more biblical way of thinking and doing. If not careful, we have nothing good to say about anything or anybody. Too often, we are far more concerned with pointing out the errors of evangelicalism, than we are with seeing men and women come to faith in Christ. This is sin and we must repent of it!

It seems to me that one of the best ways to deal with this, is to make a concerted effort to go back to our own roots as Reformed Christians–the Scriptures and our confessions–and simply ask, what is Biblical evangelism? What are the necessary theological presuppositions we must have in place before we seek to tell others about Christ? How do we go about evangelizing others?

There is a difficult balancing act here. We need to be very clear that Biblical and Reformed evangelism will look much different than the Pelagian-inspired varieties of American evangelicalism. Yet, we as Reformed Christians also need to stop talking about evangelism and starting doing it!

D. Greater clarity and a prayerful desire to do better:

It seems to me that there are several issues about which we must be clear.

1. Let us be very clear about what we believe and why we believe it! We must be self-consciously Reformed without compromise. This means we cannot adopt unbiblical methods of evangelism. We cannot become functional Arminians because we earnestly desire to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

2. But as we are self-consciously Reformed, we must do so with great charity, and with an eye to the fact that people are watching us. This is not about winning an argument! It is about wrestling with eternity! This is why Reformed evangelism should be understood as “telling the truth in love.”

3. Let us also re-double our efforts to take the Biblical command to make disciples seriously once again. It is our Biblical duty to see to it that Jesus Christ is proclaimed throughout our sphere of influence. It is time to both talk about evangelism and to do evangelism.

4. We also need to make a concerted effort to pray for two things: one is a renewed desire to see men and women come to faith in Jesus Christ, and the other is that God will bless our efforts in doing so.

The presence of non-Christians in our midst, struggling with the claims of Christianity, will do much to keep us from spending our precious time and energy from needlessly criticizing evangelicals. The best way to get out of the overly-critical rut is to get back to the task of evangelizing. Let us candidly face facts. At present, our Biblical and valid criticism of evangelicalism sounds hollow and will not get much of a hearing if we are not putting our own theology into practice. But if we are making a concerted effort to actually engage in biblical evangelism, we will be faithful to our own confessions and theology, and our evangelical critics will be silenced.”