Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Can We Adapt Without Moving Ancient Scriptural Boundaries?

Written by: on January 13, 2020

“God has established boundary stones in his word. They are primarily found in the Law but are elaborated on and repeated throughout the entire Bible. Our spiritual ancestors, through the history of the Church, have set a pattern for living by these ancient landmarks. These may be our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living, or deeply held spiritual convictions.”[1]

Our text, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s written by David W. Bebbington provides an extremely helpful analysis of Evangelicalism that covers almost the entire history of Evangelicalism. Bebbington argues that Evangelicalism had its roots in the Enlightenment and was a product of Enlightenment.[2] He describes how core orthodoxy and orthodoxy evolved from the Enlightenment. New ancient boundaries seemed to be developing and adapting to cultural influences.

The basic questions in the evolution of looking at the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of Evangelicalism were 1) What influence has Evangelicalism had on society and 2) In what ways has “Evangelical religion been moulded by its environment.”[3] A consideration of influencers that change our orthodoxy and orthopraxy is a key theme within our text.

Bebbington wrote about “the four qualities that have been the special marks of Evangelical religion: conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism.”[4] The lessons from these qualities is that ‘a converted character’ differed totally from all others.

His discussion of the role of the assurance of one’s salvation played in Evangelicalism was one of the ancient boundaries that should not be moved. Bebbington notes that Puritans throughout the 1600s had conversion experiences, but that they were highly scrutinized by their community.[5] This scrutiny may have gone too far, yet it seems that our western culture is evolving into such a high degree of individualism that I fear what a Christian and does according to scripture and tradition from the earliest apostles Christianity is moving into another social experiment not critical world view.

The research showed that the conversion of Whitefield and Wesley the assurance of one’s salvation was a highly influential factor bringing the Evangelical experience to the forefront of history. As the movement gained momentum and adapted itself to new pressures, the possibility of conversion was held out to larger and larger audiences, and the process called revivalism was a byproduct born through evangelist like Charles Finney. However, without a community of believers willing to observe and disciple new believers, revivalism seems to be a system rather than propagating relationships with Jesus Christ and His Church.

Bebbington focused on the movement as a whole rather than particular denominations because Evangelicalism a philosophy of ecclesiology rather than being owned by one group. However, it was challenged with the impression that solitary individuals become the representatives of Evangelicals as a whole. Evangelical religion is a famous Protestant movement that has existed in Britain since the 1730s. It is not to be equated with any single Christian denomination, for it influenced the existing churches during the eighteenth century and generated many more in subsequent years.[6]

We seem to live in a time where the problem and an opportunity converge for a new awakening. We live in a time when the Christian message is often muted, ignored, and mocked. The author seems to agree by asking us the question throughout the text, “How does the gospel get a fair hearing in this day and age?” The answer might lie in practicing cultural apologetics, which he defines our Christian voice, conscience, and imagination within a culture so that Christianity is seen as the true and satisfying amongst the plurality of options.

I have heard that students studying in Church of the Nazarene educational institutions which teach pastoral ministry are less interested in assuming pastorates of existing congregations when they graduate than pastoring new social experiments. Also, the ancient boundaries of Christianity are being reconsidered by younger aspiring pastors, and at times, and in my opinion, too critically because discussions are diverting from the believers of the truth of God have depended upon since the beginning conveyed to us in Scripture. Scripture and tradition tell us that a person must come to understand that one can only be saved for the life they were meant to experience if they are dependent upon Christ as Savior and surrendered to God as their Lord.[7]

Like the Enlightenment period creating a culture of looking deeply into long-held beliefs and what heroes like Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and that others promulgated, it appears that pastorate being remodeled. My concern is that the ancient boundaries of this call should not be moved.[8]

Having my own pseudo enlightenment period, I am persuaded to consider remodeling the archetype of the pastorate without pushing ancient boundaries. My research focus started with the inspiration for learning how to support the covocational pastor. Like the beginning of what we call Evangelicalism, my interviews are refining my attention to see that my research must include the covocationally led congregation. Unlike the individualistic salvific approach like I caught from the text and only finding research on the covocational (bi-vocational) pastor, I am compelled to revision my research towards the covocationally led community of faith from a leadership team perspective.

God has established boundary stones in his Word, beginning with primeval and patriarchal relationships. Our spiritual ancestors, through the history of the Church, have set a pattern for living by these ancient landmarks. The ancient boundaries most likely related to land and property. And, yet, it seems probable to me that we could transfer these fundamentals to doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living, or deeply held spiritual convictions, and for the course of research: pastoral remodeling applications of what Scripture holds for the pastor.

[1] Dr. Ken Baker, May 31, 2010, https://tithebarn.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/dont-move-boundary-stones/, accessed December 30, 2019.

[2] D.W., Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, New ed, (Routledge, 2005), Adobe Digital Editions, 96.

[3] Ibid., 8-9.

[4] Ibid., 16.

[5] Ibid., 108.

[6] Ibid., 50.

[7] Luke 2:11, Hebrews 12:14.

[8] 1st Timothy 3:1-7, 1st Peter 5:1,

About the Author

Steve Wingate

8 responses to “Can We Adapt Without Moving Ancient Scriptural Boundaries?”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:


    Than you for this thoughtful reflection. I’m wondering what specific boundaries around “our fundamental doctrines, our Biblical pattern for living, or deeply held spiritual convictions” do you believe should not be moved? What scriptural boundaries adhered to by the apostles and applied to pastorate are to be maintained, or are in danger of being lost? Can you give more specifics, please? To me, the spectrum of beliefs, doctrine, and spiritual convictions is vast among Christians, even in the beginning (think of the agreement and time needed for the canon of scripture, which all do not agree upon, as well as the creeds, which also happened in response to challenges, yet are not necessarily used by all Christians today). So which ones are we to consider to be true and immovable?

  2. Shawn Cramer says:

    RE: I am compelled to revision my research towards the covocationally led community of faith from a leadership team perspective.

    Steve, this is very intriguing. You are certainly right, though I am just now considering it, that congregations themselves will have unique needs and take on a unique form as led by covocational ministers. My hypothesis would be that congregations ministered to by an integrated person would have many unintended positive consequences of people integrating other parts of life. In other words, as the minister models the dismantling of the sacred and secular divide, others will follow suit, but in different areas.

  3. Greg Reich says:

    Though some of your statements are broad and a bit vague I can appreciate your concern. I often struggle with these same concerns. Part of the challenge I see is in Christendom today is the lack of unity in what we consider the essentials of the Christian faith are and what others expect them to look like in the lives of Christ followers. Is there a way of preserving the beautiful diversity of the church while still being true to the gospel message? Is it possible to stand for biblical convictions and fit into the culture? Is the call of the church to be counter culture in love or to look like and advocate the culture? Is it possible for the church to steer culture when we struggle to steer ourselves well? In a country whose culture preaches tolerance and love there appears to be no tolerance from those outside the church for biblical standards and moral absolutes. Yet inside the church there is often an attitude of superiority and entitlement, as well as, little empathy for those who are outside the church struggling with life. Could it be that we are all beggars and a Christian is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find the bread of life?

  4. John McLarty says:

    I appreciate the image of boundary stones and what they represent in your post, but I still wonder. If we could transport some of the giants of the Reformation and Enlightenment and early Evangelical movement, assuming we could get them up to speed on how we share information today and how culture is constantly being shaped and re-shaped, what might Luther, Calvin, Wesley and the like see? Would they merely lament the current state and long for the former days or would they see opportunities?

  5. Dylan Branson says:

    “The author seems to agree by asking us the question throughout the text, ‘How does the gospel get a fair hearing in this day and age?'”

    I think this is a valid question, one that reminds me of a passage from C.S. Lewis’s “God in the Docks”:

    “The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin… The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes, or Pagans, a sense of guilt. (That this was common among Pagans is shown by the fact that both Epicureanism and the mystery religions both claimed, though in different ways, to assuage it.) Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.

    The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”

    I tend to lean toward Lewis’s explanation here, that our current world simply doesn’t understand the state that it’s in. Whether it be from an optimistic mindset or a sense of “We know what’s best because we have a better understanding of technology and science”, the reality of the lack of understanding of sin keeps the Gospel from having relevance in many people’s lives. Of course, even if you tell them and try to explain that reality, I wonder if people would even be responsive to that.

  6. Simon Bulimo says:

    Boundaries exist in every day life. They try set limits in our dealings, look at the scriptural boundaries that need to be adapted.
    Thanks for the inspiring article

  7. Simon Bulimo says:

    Boundaries exist in our daily life. We need them.
    Thanks for the inspiring article that has blessed me

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