Global Evangelicalism is a collection of essays that paint an international portrait of the contemporary Evangelical Church movement. Authors Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard declare a two-fold purpose for the book. First, they want to present a summary of the history of Evangelicalism with a special focus on its beliefs and practices. Secondly, they want to “offer a worldwide survey of where evangelical movements have come to exist and of the greatly varying conditions under which evangelicals now carry on their work.” The contributing authors represent different parts of the globe, writing insightfully about the unique regional issues that have shaped the many faces of the evangelical church.
Contemporary Evangelicalism is described as a decentralized popular movement of Christians who, since the pietistic revivals of the 1600s, grew out of a reaction against the politicized and institutionalized Christianity with the goal of pursuing a Christian life that was born “from the heart.” Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, or the Church of England, the diversity of churches within Evangelicalism do not share a central ecclesiastic leader. Rather, they share a set of convictions that are at the core of what it means to be evangelical. These convictions are summarized by author David Bebbington in four essential beliefs: (1) Crucicentrism, the conviction that Jesus died as the atonement for sin and resurrected to provide salvation by grace alone, (2) Conversion, the conviction that a person is only a true Christian when born again through the spiritual transformation of the Holy Spirit, (3) Biblicism, the conviction that the Bible in its entirety is the ultimate authority for life; (4) Activism, the conviction that the gospel must be preached to all nations and that Christians must be engaged in caring for the poor, which has historically led to many social reforms.
According to the authors, two important factors that have contributed to the growth of the evangelical church around the globe is the ability to distinguish between essential and non-essential beliefs as well as the ability to adapt to different cultures. From all the evangelical denominations that exist today, the Pentecostal church movement is the fastest growing church. Even though evangelicals in different parts of the world may share the same core beliefs, they have been shaped by different cultural and political forces, which have produced a diversity of flavors within Evangelicalism. It is in light of this diversity that evangelicals face two key challenges: Learning how to work across denominational divides and how to define the role of gender in ecclesiastic leadership.
Throughout this doctoral program I have learned different dimensions of what constitutes leadership intelligence. For instance, emotional intelligence is obtained when I grow in awareness about my psychological makeup. Through this process I discover that not everybody is like me and I am able to refine my skills to work with a diversity of personalities. Cultural intelligence is obtained when I become aware of my cultural glasses. Through this process I discover that not everybody is like me and I am able to refine my skills to work with people from a diversity of cultures. Ethical intelligence, as coined by Claire Appiah, results from discerning the intersection between scientific research and theology. After reading Lewis and Pierard, I discovered a new dimension that I call Ecclesiastical Intelligence. This is obtained when I grow in awareness of my theological makeup. Through this process I discover that there are essential and non-essential beliefs, and I am able to refine my skills to work with a diversity of people across the many flavors found in Evangelicalism around the world.
The opposite of emotional intelligence is arrogance, the opposite of cultural intelligence is ethnic arrogance, and the opposite of ecclesiastical intelligence is denominational arrogance. The lack of ecclesiastical intelligence can keep a person from becoming aware of theological blind spots, and can also keep the person in a bubble of distrust and isolation. This attitude can prevent the church from establishing strategic partnerships in order to join efforts for the cause of Christ. I know what denominational arrogance looks like, because I was born in it. I came to know the Lord in a Baptist Church at age six. I grew up with the impression that true Christianity was only found in my circle of Baptist churches. However, through years of theological education and international ministry, I now can look back and realize that my inherited arrogance (which can be experienced in any denomination) was rooted in ignorance.
In order to dissipate ignorance, Lewis and Pierard remind me that Evangelicalism has been a movement for centuries and it has taken many forms around the globe. They remind me that each church has been shaped by different social issues in many religious and political contexts, therefore the expression and the pressing needs of the church vary in light of those factors. This diversity can be confusing and surprising.
One of those confusing experiences in my life was to discover the Pentecostal flavor of Baptist churches in Mexico, the political flavor of American Evangelicals and the protestant flavor of Catholicism in the United States. As the book describes, the evangelical movement in Latin America took place against the backdrop of a highly political Roman Catholic institution. Thus, the majority of Latin American Evangelicals grew up as Catholics, yet without the Savior. At the same time, Latin American Catholicism thinks of Evangelicalism as a false Christianity populated by a group of sects. However, in the United States I discovered a Catholic religion that appeared less pagan and more protestant. In fact, the book tells us that “13 percent of Americans and 25 percent of Canadian Catholics identify themselves as evangelical.” Having Catholics consider themselves evangelical or having evangelicals consider themselves political would both be considered an oxymoron in Chile.
Christian leaders working internationally constantly face the different flavors of Evangelicalism, and Ecclesiastical intelligence requires that we exercise discernment in each context. While it is important to defend the core beliefs, at the same time we must determine to what degree secondary beliefs are simply secondary.
In the book, Leading Across Cultures, former international director of SIM Dr. James Plueddemann recalls how a church he was visiting in South Korea would not let him preach because he was not ordained, even though he had a PhD and was the director of an international mission. The only way they allowed him to preach was by finding an interpreter who was ordained. Because Dr. Plueddemann had ecclesiastical, cultural, and emotional intelligence, he was able to adjust and lead well. He concludes, “A bad theology of leadership will inevitably result in bad leaders. Leadership grounded in God’s glory and driven by a scriptural worldview is the hope of the global church.”
As I continue to grow as a leader, may I be driven by a scriptural worldview that is not functioning with an attitude of denominational arrogance. May my leadership at Ethnos Bible Church be characterized by emotional, cultural, ethical, and ecclesiastic intelligence as we make Christ known among the nations and invest in the pursuit of His glory.
 Global Evangelicalism, 14.
 Global Evangelicalism, 25.
 Leading Across Cultures, 165.
15 responses to “Ecclesiastical Intelligence”
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Thanks Pablo. I hear what you are saying about denominational arrogance. For me, a way to combat that is to refocus on the Missio Dei. What is God’s mission in this city, regardless of denomination? When we can get leaders on board with mission then we can lesson the arrogance. Did this book help you with your project at all?
As you point out, it is helpful to have the Mission Dei at the forefront as a strategy to avoid denominational arrogance. A common issue that prevents interdenominational cooperation is that we can make secondary issues the primary ones. Some people say about other areas of life “don’t major in the minors!” and the same attitude seems to apply here.
The focus of my research is learning the components of a multiethnic church model in a multiethnic society. The book helped me in my research to some degree. The authors discuss the problem with racism that plagues the history of Christianity in Europe and the United States. It helped me understand the background of the ecclesiastic mindset that still permeates the majority of the churches in this country. People are used to having monocultural and monoracial churches as the norm, even though the society that surrounds the church is not like it. Consequently, having a church model that intentionally embraces diversity is seen by many as a novelty and also as undesirable. This country prefers keeping Sunday morning as the most segregated time of the week. We may not consciously say so, but we now know that most of our decisions are done unconsciously. This book brought light to this phenomenon.
Interesting blog, sharing your learning process. When I think of what Ecclesiastic means … the clergy or church leadership. Now to fine-tune that a bit, it is the authority by which the church leaders, acting for the Church, exercise their power over the members or laity of the church. But when you speak of “Ecclesiastic Intelligence and how “This is obtained when I grow in awareness of my theological makeup”. Can you elaborate on this a little more?
You have written a very detail, an excellent blog, I must say. Thanks Rose Maria
Thank you for your observation. Your question helped me realize that I had used a noun as an adjective throughout my blog, so I updated it. I was using the word “ecclesiastic” instead of “ecclesiastical.”
As you requested, let me elaborate more about what I mean by “Ecclesiastical Intelligence.” I define it like this: A humble attitude that allows us to interact and cooperate with Christians from different circles, which results from the realization that our secondary beliefs are not essential, as well as that our church experience has been shaped by our social/cultural context and it is not meant to be the standard for all churches across the globe.
As it is the case with emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence, most of us grow up unaware of our emotional and cultural makeup. We are like fish unaware of the water we are swimming in. Therefore we tend to approach people and evaluate others as if we were the standard. An analytical person may judge another as being “too emotional” and the emotional person may judge the analytical as being “too cold.” That’s why I say that the opposite of emotional or cultural intelligence is arrogance. We can see ourselves as the norm and consider everybody else to some degree as “inferior” or “weird.”
When we take the same concept to our church life, we discover that just as we can be unaware of our emotional or cultural makeup, we can also be unaware of our theological makeup. Therefore, we can think that people who are not from our type of church are “wrong” or “weird” or “inferior.” In order to grow in emotional and cultural intelligence, we first have to realize that we are not the standard; rather we are just all different. Like everybody else, we grew up in a category that experiences the world differently because of our psychological and cultural makeup. When we realize that we are just one of the many expressions of how humanity is experienced, we develop humility and are able to work with people from other personalities and cultures more effectively.
In the same way, in order to develop “Ecclesiastical Intelligence” we first have to realize that there are essential and non-essential beliefs. The essential beliefs separate Christianity from sects, while the secondary beliefs separate denomination from denomination. The problem is when we do not distinguish between these two categories, and we treat all of the beliefs of our Christian heritage as essential. In contrast, ecclesiastical intelligence makes a clear distinction between the two, being able to navigate the waters of denominational differences effectively.
When ministering internationally, the differences among churches can be even more magnified because of the social context that has shaped each church. Therefore, leaders working internationally can make the mistake of judging local situations without exercising ecclesiastical intelligence. The book helps us understand the core beliefs of Evangelicalism and it also opens our eyes to understanding how each local context has shaped the evangelical church differently in each part of the globe. This understanding contributes to our ability to exercise ecclesiastical intelligence.
It is late Sunday night and i just saw your answer. I will read it again, and i will share with you on it later, because i am very tired. As you may know we had tornado in our area this week-end. I just got home from Hattiesburg,Ms, where God keep some of friends safe,they have awesome testimonies.
God is good and faithful and most people are caught up in the political arena.
Thank you kindly for taking the time to answer my question. I appreciate you sharing with me., Rose Maria
Your listing of multiple “Qs” is very helpful. (Maybe I’ll call you the “Q source.”) It provides a common theme or thread to connect the many arenas in which we are reading. It is particularly helpful to me, as I think about creating a type of “third space” which will be a multi-cultural learning community.
As the underlying cultural and theological support for my learning community I have been thinking about cultural intelligence, but when I add to that the emotional intelligence and leadership intelligence, these categories help me focus what I want to accomplish. I am thinking primarily in the arenas of culture, hermeneutics, and leadership; and the goal is to raise the level of “intelligence” in all three arenas in order to have a proper and healthy environment for students from many nations. In addition, Claire’s “ethical intelligence” directly addresses the important leadership discussion regarding character.
You have also demonstrated your own intelligence increase by saying several times, “not everybody is like me…” Your studies show both scholastic and personal growth.
No question in this response, unless you have further comment about these things.
With all the thinking you are investing in creating your leadership program it seems that you will be able to produce something very relevant and powerful. As I think about your list, I imagine that a program that seeks to provide leadership intelligence for effective ministry will need to consider all four areas: Emotional intelligence (how to work with different personalities), Cultural Intelligence (how to work with different cultures), Ethical intelligence (how to exercise good judgment), and Ecclesiastical intelligence (how to work with different Christian groups). They all seem to intersect with the three arenas you suggested of culture, hermeneutics, and leadership. Are you still trying to decide how to approach the content of your dissertation or are these ideas for something in addition to the dissertation?
Another home run on your post. I have posted about the vagary that is found in the word “evangelical”. You, in just a few paragraphs made more sense out of the distinctions than Bebbington, Lewis, and Pierard.
Your “distinctions” portion has great insight that I may steal from you. Question: In the midst of seeking clarification, are we really struggling with semantics? Semantics has divided the church for hundreds of years. If so, why?
Phil, I am glad you found my post helpful. We all learn from each other as we engage with our reflections. From my point of view, I do believe semantics are important when it is about relevant issues. In theology, most of the times semantics are important. It helps us differentiate what we say from what we mean. So, if emphasizing semantics leads to clarity, then it is a good thing. If it leads to confusion or irrelevance, then it may be a good idea to avoid it.
I should have read your post before I posted mine. This is a very enlightened post about this subject. I have written from what you would describe as a denominational perspective. Really not my denomination as much as from a pentecostal perspective. From your writing I know that I must have intelligence on so many levels to be able to navigate the world that we live in.
In your writing I found this thought quite interesting… While it is important to defend the core beliefs, at the same time we must determine to what degree secondary beliefs are simply secondary.” I believe this is where I really have a struggle with this subject. What I thought was supposed to be our main objective was to tell the good news not defend our core beliefs. Breaking out of the box of denominationalism, which our local church has really struggled to do, requires putting the most important things first. Defending our denominational perspective has not made us effective in our community, but presenting the love of Christ (through tangible touches of love, days of hope, food distribution, and caring for those in need) and talking about Christ’s forgiveness of sins has led to life change.
I believe this is where I struggle.
I believe your writing is so much clearer on this subject and with your permission I would like to use your clarity to discuss this topic in the future.
What do you think of Christianity? Where does that word fit among all of these intelligences?
Kevin, wow. You asked several good questions.
Let me tackle them one at a time.
1. On the issue of defending core beliefs. Perhaps the struggle comes from confusing “defending” with “attacking” and also from confusing our “major objective” with “secondary objectives.” As you indicate, our major objective is to make disciples of all nations. In that case, as you have experienced, loving people is the most powerful tool. Like Paul says, we have to be wise as we live among the unbeliever, making sure that our words are full of grace and seasoned with salt. Then, we should make the most of every opportunity. We love the person to gain their trust, so we can gain their ears. However, some Christians adopt a militant attitude and become very ineffective in ministering to the unbelieving world because they attack others and send everybody to hell.
When I use the word “defend the core beliefs” I am not talking about this militant attitude.
A secondary objective that we share as pastors is the one of protecting the integrity of the doctrine. We protect it from false teachers from within as well as from worldly distortions from the outside. This attitude of “defending the core beliefs” is an essential ingredient of a healthy church, yet it is not militant because it is not attacking people but defending truth (or protecting it). Read what Paul says to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:2-5:
“2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” We are called to encourage, rebuke, and correct when Christians under our care are embracing error. This is what I mean when I say that it is important for us to “defend the core beliefs.”
However, when working across denominations, confusing secondary beliefs with core beliefs may lead us to have an attitude that lacks Ecclesiastical Intelligence. For instance, a core belief is the return of Christ. We must defend it from those who might deny it. We are called to rebuke and correct. However, a secondary issue is whether a group has a premileenial or an amillenial view. This is what you call “denominational perspectives.” A person with Ecclesiastical intelligence can distinguish between the core and secondary beliefs, which helps him interact well with Christians from different persuasions.
2. On the issue of where does Christianity fits within all the types of intelligence that I described: It seems to me that Christianity is the foundation of all of the categories that I mentioned because it provides with the worldview required to exercise such intelligence. Emotional intelligence without a Christian worldview would be distorted. The same is true of ethical, cultural, or ecclesiastical intelligence. They all operate under Christian convictions. So I would not add a separate “Christian intelligence” category. Rather, I may simply call it “spiritual maturity.”
I love the term ecclesiastical intelligence. I think you are spot on. What are some metrics or questions you ask in forming “EI?” In other words, what are some questions you ask to discern?
Jason, you asked an insightful question. I have not thought about it in detail before. Yet, these are my initial thoughts. First, we need to differentiate between what are essential beliefs and what are not. Perhaps the list of the 4 traits of Evangelicalism is a good starting point to make the distinction between core beliefs and secondary ones. Secondly, I believe that another factor in deciding whether or not to cooperate across denominational circles is determined by the type of project under consideration. Like Dr. Clark said in Oxford, sometimes working with other denominations feels like visiting a relative. You can be there for a few days but you are glad you don’t live there.
I love your title, “ECCLESIASTICAL INTELLIGENCE.” Thank you for this new understanding and new terminology; “the ability to refine one’s skills to work with a diversity of people across the many flavors found in evangelicalism around the world.” It is like Aaron Peterson stated, it’s all about the Missio Dei. It’s not about us.
Thank you for an excellent post in every respect. You have brought clarity to the subject of evangelicalism in a special way to make it meaningful and practical to us all. May God continue to bless your pastoral work and your writings for our cohort.
Thank you, Claire!