There are serious errors in Evangelical exegesis and theological assumptions. The worst actions though are not about any of these areas. It’s the bait and switch aspect of Evangelical church growth methods. They are often deceitful. As a young student minister from an evangelical church, I engaged in recruitment campaigns that were designed to look like something other than what they were. We knocked on people’s doors and claimed we were there “to take a survey.” We ended the survey by offering a “Bible study” program. It was not a study of the Bible at all. The study was a guided cherry-picking of texts designed to “prove” our denomination’s doctrines. We did a classic “bait and switch” twice during the interactions. It was very “jehovah’s witness” of us. We were “doing the Lord’s work” by lying.
Hiding Who They Are
I have ranted before about lying in the name of God. The worst lie evangelical church leaders tell is that they are “not fundamentalist.” Where I live that term has, unfortunately, become synonymous with “baptist.” When fundamentalists claim they are “non-denominational” they are viewed as baptists without the name. A friend who attended such a church claimed they weren’t “like the baptists” of our youth. When she no longer fit their standard, she realized her error.
Many believers seek churches that remedy the bad experiences of their childhood churches. One acquaintance explained that her church was “progressive.” I asked, “How so?” Her reply had to do with the types of instruments used during worship. I explained the word progressive meant far more than that.
Church leaders, who attempt to avoid the impression of staid traditionalism, will try to prove they are different and exciting. Later, the would be member learns that the leaders claim some connection to “classic Christian doctrine” or “Christian moral laws.” The very traditionalism they wished to avoid.
Movements For Bait And Switch
Spare us, dear Creator, from another revival movement. Amen.
Historically, mass movements bring about major changes. It is academically fashionable to claim the early Christian churches were really an ambiguous “Jesus movement.” Worse yet, the pastors of the Churches of Saints Bait And Switch co-opt that movement talk. Many unsuspecting people want to be part of a “movement” of some kind. The term is ubiquitous. Many are convinced by that fact to be part of a movement. There are many kinds to choose from. There are movements for alternative health, politics, educational reform, and religious reform or revivalism. None of these secular examples are true movements either. Historical mass movements are revolutions.
Characterizing Christian belief as something other than religious, other than communal gatherings, and other than a two thousand year old tradition that centers on the Godhead does a disservice to people who are true saints.
The Quest For Honesty
Christian fundamentalists have become adept at lying. They are so used to lying that they are ready to believe anything but truth. The problem is that so many young people raised in such churches see through it. The majority of such churches are dying. The believers in those churches are grasping at straw movements to revive them.
Mainline seminary trained pastors find themselves locked in battle with good ‘ole boy fundamentalists who know the secret to keeping fundamentalist lay people. Keep stroking egos and upholding their prejudices. It works. But it won’t work forever.
Being honest about our faith according to the legacy of Harry Emerson Fosdick, the Niebuhr brothers, and other pastors and theologians who opposed the absurd in defense of faith can keep Christianity continuing in the West.