I’ve been saying at this blog for five years that evangelicalism is in the midst of sea changes, and may well crack up. When I first started commenting on the future of the emerging movement, I was asked about its future. At that time I said three things seem like they will happen: (1) some will retreat back into evangelicalism, (2) some will keep on in an evangelical context and work for changes, and (3) some will morph into the mainline. This article, from Tony Campolo’s blog by Jimmy Spencer, suggests there are only two groups: the NeoReformed/NeoCalvinists/NeoPuritans and the Progressive evangelicals. He suggests that some in the Progressive camp will begin to move into the Mainlines. I totally agree with the direction of the progressives — and it’s already happening.
Do you think we are at a tipping point? Are you hearing of any who are morphing into mainline churches?
Here are some lines from Jimmy Spencer, and at the end I will offer one observation:
While this undercurrent has been happening for some time now…
We are reaching a tipping point.
You’ll see two sides soon with a fairly slim middle.
On one side you’ll have the Reformed Conservatives—entrenching and ‘expelling’ folks
On the other side you will see the Progressive Evangelicals—migrating toward work with mainline churches
This thing is going to split wide open.
I’m not saying it is a good or bad thing…but I can tell you it’s coming. It doesn’t have all the vocabulary put to it yet—but it is coming. It has been a bit under the radar for much of the Christian world—but it will spill out into the streets and the media and be a fullblown separation.
We have all felt tremors of this thing coming for a couple years now…
Rob Bell’s book will play a huge part in triggering this split.
This is not just about theology.
It’s about control of the story of Jesus.
It’s about the entire framing of God and The Gospel.
It’s gonna be something we mentally mark
It gonna start something big
It may not be nailing 95 theses on a door…
But it could mark a major shift in how Evangelical Christianity represents itself from this point forward. It could shift the way people think of Evangelicalism—putting young Progressive faces into the public stream that balance public perception. More importantly, it could give young people growing up Evangelical an option to explore. When I was young it never crossed my mind to switch to a mainline church—but had something like a Progressive Evangelicalism been around then— I would have sought it out and supported it.
This may be the future of Evangelicalism—and we may all be witnessing the tipping point
I do think the dispute over Rob Bell’s book will be a tipping point of sorts. The more conservative side and the progressive side are not interested in sitting down to work on a common understanding, a common theology, or a common mission. They are now too far apart.
There is a third way, in the middle, of moderates, who want to work with both sides … but this recent debate may be a huge line in the sand.
The progressives, friends, are morphing too much into what appears to me to be little more than unaffiliated mainline Protestants.