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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Are Evangelicals More Than Your Newsfeeds Talking Points?

Written by: on January 25, 2019

In some circles the descriptor Evangelical is a derogatory term. With churches like westboro baptist church (left in lowercase on purpose) calling themselves evangelicals and the rise of the alt right in defiance of the alt left and calling themselves evangelicals it is easy to see why. Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture in Regional Perspective edited by Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard is a collection of essays from around the world on what evangelicalism actually is outside of a talking point on some news show.

The first subject to be discussed was a definition of Evangelicalism. For most people when they hear the name evangelical, the first thing they think of is a republican whose religion and politics are intermixed. Most would be surprised to find out that evangelicals go much farther back in history. Mark Noll, in his essay, first gives the hallmarks of an evangelical. He does this by giving Bebbington’s four key ingredients “Conversion, Biblicism, Activism, and Crucicentrism”[1] Noll goes on to discuss the thing that makes evangelicalism so easily taken to other parts of the world. “evangelicals are often flexible about nonessentials.” [2] Where Catholicism, or even other religions such as Islam have tenets that must be adhered to, evangelicals are not tied to a certain central church. There are pros and cons to each way of thinking. For example, without a central authority Baptists can have many different offshoots of the denomination and each makes their own doctrine they follow. So you have megachurches like Saddleback Church in California who have great outreach and do a good job of taking the love of God to the world. On the flip side, you have your westboro baptist (lower case on purpose) who is known as the “god hates fags” church who bring shame to the name of Christ. In Catholicism, you can go to any parish and be assured the theology and teachings will always be the same. The downside is, every church is very similar, it is more difficult for these churches to be indigenized. 

The International Mission Board (IMB), the missions sending arm of the SBC, began about 20 years ago to understand the necessity of allowing indigenous peoples to use their own culture in planting a church. The missionaries began to not use English hymns translated into local language for worship, but to encourage new songs of worship to be written in native tongue and styles. While in South Africa I witnessed the beauty of  their worship in their style and it was clear the Holy Spirit was moving in the hearts of those who were worshiping. While in Hong Kong and attending the Baptist church, they sang the same hymns as American Baptists but translated and although they were worshiping, it seemed to me to be missing something. I could have been in any little SBC church in Texas and heard the same thing. As a throw in, I was shocked to find out the number of evangelicals in “Africa, Latin America, and Asia exceeds the total in Europe and North America combined” [3] Most would call evangelicals a product of the U.S. but they are world wide under the definition given by this book. 

Next, I concentrated on the essay by Donald Lewis  called Globalization, Religion and Evangelicalism. Most evangelicals I know are against globalism, or as they call it “one world government” but globalism is so much more than just the governing body. Lewis gives us a list of common features. “It is a cultural and economic phenomenon…rooted in the expansion of European nations, it is linked to the rise of capitalism, for better or ill most agree that international capitalism has triumphed, and it involves these things. A process of contraction of the importance of barriers, the dimembedding of people from their traditions, a reorienting of people, companies and nations to a wider world and the undermining of universal claims and identities. Next the identity of the nation state is at debate, globalism does away with the need for this identity, and finally academic analysis needs to operate on a global level.” [4] There is a reaction against globalism that has popped up, the rise of nationalism vs. globalism gave rise to the Brexit discussion, and the election of Donald Trump. Both movements pushed back on the aligning of governance by a single organization in favor of self rule. There are dangers in both directions though, in the idea of a one world system lies the ability to put all the same groups under one way of government, but to do so destroys what makes cultures unique. To give rise to nationalism can reorient a people to who they are culturally but can also give rise to what we saw in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and even what happened in the Soviet Union. The us versus them mentality gives rise to hatred and war, the all are the same mentality gives rise to one moral code being raised above all others and can lead to the death toll seen under Communistic rule. 

So where does the Christian lay in all of this? As a believer, I have hope in the love of Christ bringing all together, but as a pragmatic person I understand that both sides of the coin seem to be immovable from their stance. I would argue as a Christian that having a “smaller” world opens up the possibility of missions from home, I can interact with those who are around the world and talk about belief and what it means as a Christ follower. I can also argue that the loss of culture and identity is a terrible thing, just look at the crimes committed against people groups in the name of colonialism and “making the world a smaller place”.  We must, as believers fight for all, a smaller planet than was once imagined all needing the love of God no matter their identity.

[1] Lewis, Donald M., and Richard V. Pierard, eds. Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History and Culture In Regional Perspective. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2014. 20.

[2] Ibid. 23.

[3] Ibid. 17.

[4] Ibid 63-65.

About the Author

mm

Jason Turbeville

A pastor, husband and father who loves to be around others. These are the things that describe me. I was a youth minister for 15 years but God changed the calling on my life. I love to travel and see where God takes me in my life.

16 responses to “Are Evangelicals More Than Your Newsfeeds Talking Points?”

  1. Great post, Jason!

    Evangelicalism has been overshadowed by pharisaical religion. This is why those who are unchurched have a poor view of Christianity. They see Christ through the lens of the media, alt right segregationist and homophobic leaders and come to the false conclusion that this represents ALL believers. This is why the majority of evangelism has to begin by dismantling false prophets before presenting truth.

    You observed, “Where Catholicism, or even other religions such as Islam have tenets that must be adhered to, evangelicals are not tied to a certain central church. There are pros and cons to each way of thinking.” Does this lack of accountability provide more freedom or more liability? Do you think that it would be advantageous for there to be greater unity and collaboration amongst the denominations? How has diversity in definition caused Christ to be overshadowed by legalism or poor theology?

    • mm Jason Turbeville says:

      Colleen,
      I wish there was more collaboration between denominations, we are all supposed to be children of God under the salvation through Christ, I think the biggest road block that we run into is that all denominations hold onto their non negotiables as a stumbling block. Whether it is infant baptism, speaking in tongues, refusing to see others as saved if they are not part of your denomination, etc. We have to get away from these things and come together for God’s glory.

      Jason

  2. mm M Webb says:

    Jason,
    Great introduction and good points made about how “everyone” is calling themselves evangelical. For example, the Church of Latter Day Saints by Joseph Smith calls themselves evangelicals. What do you think it means, as a Pastor, about being “flexible about nonessentials?”
    I think that is a nice way of saying something unifying, but a very slippery slope when played out in real theological contexts.
    I agree with you, it seems all sides of our global context are struggling against something. While they think they are pushing, pulling, solving, or confounding their world around them I think it is safe to say they are being influenced and often controlled by the “world forces” of evil in high places. We read a lot of books, and most authors know what is safe to explore. They will write a lot about God and what he should or should not be doing, but very few scholarly authors write about Satan and what he should or should not be doing. Amazing as it sounds, authors take on God (all power, presence, and knowledge) over taking on the devil (a fallen angel and created being).
    So, I’m not sure about the “small” world theology you are discussing, but agree with you that no matter what, we must know God and reflect Christ.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • mm Jason Turbeville says:

      Mike,
      The nonessentials I was speaking about have to do more with how we do church (high church vs low), infant baptism vs believers baptism, things along that line. There are always the non negotiable things, belief in the work of Christ on the cross to save, the work of the Holy Spirit, etc. There are to many things people get riled up about that can be set aside, like music style, how we do church etc.

      Jason

  3. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Jason!

    Are we talking about the same thing? You said “small world” and I said,

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Oops, I hit the wrong button. At least you will get another comment in your total tally (grin).

      I continue…

      …”shrink and compress” the world. If so, yes I believe the world is getting smaller. We have instant communication worldwide. We can get on a plane in North America and end up in Africa later in the same day (and we did).

      However, the smaller the world seems, it still appears to be very divided. Agree? Your thought about “identity” seemed to me to be a critical view. Well done!

      • mm Jason Turbeville says:

        Jay,
        Yes we are thinking the same thing, we are all so connected, the world seems smaller, and yet the more connected we get the angrier we seem to be at each other.

        Jason

  4. Hi Jason,

    The politics of evangelicals is an interesting rabbit trail to fall down!! 🙂 The footnote on page 24 describes the Angus Reid survey from 1996 that surveyed American and Canadian evangelicals. While the American evangelicals were largely Republican in their politics, the Canadians were split evenly three ways between our three main parties Conservative, Liberal, and NDP (Socialist). This often became a talking point for evangelical leaders when lobbying government that our churches didn’t represent only one perspective.

    • mm Jason Turbeville says:

      Mark,
      It is interesting how the two groups can go in such divergent directions. I know the heart of many who fall on both sides of the fence and they are all good people who love God and love their neighbors. And yet believe in such different things. Most that I know fall somewhere in the middle. You have the alt right and the alt left who yell the loudest but are the smaller groups of each side.

      Jason

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for your post. Your position in the SBC, and especially since you are located in the conservative South (Texas even!) might suggest to some that you are bigoted, narrow minded, and arrogant. People that assume that about you would be completely wrong yet that is the rhetoric and stereotyping often associated with the SBC and even TX. Maybe the stereotypes are there because it is sometimes true. So, how do you use your position as pastor of a SBC church to promote broader thinking and encourage open dialogue within your church? What influence do you hope to have in changing these stereotypes? How has this doctoral program helped you in this endeavor?

    • mm Jason Turbeville says:

      Dan,
      The problem with allowing others to shape what you think of a group of people is you only usually get half the story. My guess is if you were to meet the majority of pastors I know you would have the same reaction. They are great people who love others no matter what. There are those who are just as bad as advertised and they make all the noise unfortunately. As a pastor it is my job to call out nonsense but also to help to teach the people God puts in my life to love others and not judge. They have to learn to love others plain and simple.

      Jaosn

  6. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Hi Jason!
    I think you and I ended up with the same conclusion even though we began in different ways (I am guilty of being disparaging of evangelicals). For some reason I never remember you are baptist…?! I’m so curious how (or if) you challenge your denomination in their attitudes/beliefs towards globalism?

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    You do a fine job giving the book a fair treatment and offering clarification regarding the breadth of evangelicalism. How do you think it’s important for folks in your congregation that you’re studying this?

  8. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks for this post, Jason,
    You are my favorite Southern Baptist ever. Seriously. I appreciate the way that you critically asses your own denominational identity, and the terms that often come with it (like, “evangelical”), and how you warmly engage with your colleagues and the readings/studies we are doing together. I think your church is blessed to have you as their pastor, my bro.

  9. Shawn Hart says:

    Jason, you hit a similar point that I did, though perhaps from a different perspective. You demonstrated that as those professing to be Christians, we are not learning to grow closer together as one true church of Jesus Christ; but rather, we seem to be further distancing and individualizing our worship practices.

    I know there seems to be a point of rejoicing in regard to the freedom that may have in their separate worship practices, but do you see this kind of division as fruitful or harmful?

  10. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Nice work Jason. I think that your point about the west boro church is on point, and its unfortunate how regular evangelicalism gets roped into all that reputation. Wouldnt it be something if we saw in our lifetime the repentance of the west boro baptist church?

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