An Evangelical Reject Who Refuses to Reject Evangelicals

An Evangelical Reject Who Refuses to Reject Evangelicals June 14, 2011

Last week I posted an article called “You Might Be an Evangelical Reject If…”  Many of you read with laughs, perhaps at the picture I created in PowerPoint (as I know zilch about graphic design) or at the clearly tongue-in-cheek nature of the article as a whole.  Yet some folks resonated on a deeper level.  For you, it spoke into a deep part of your encounters with many evangelicals in local churches.  You know rejection and as fun as it is to poke fun at this, much hurt remains.  Sometimes church-ianity within evangelicalism can be brutal.

One theme that comes through the comments is that “its not that we sought to be alienated from the evangelicals in our faith community, but that they rejected us.”  This certainly demonstrates where I come from on this issue.  Some of you have lost jobs within the church or leadership positions because of some of the “ifs” that I listed or some that fit on your own unique list.  Fear gives birth to this rejection.

Many in our evangelical churches are afraid.  Afraid to explore.  Afraid to disrupt the status quo. Afraid to have congregations turn on them because what is accepted as the Truth in the pew.  This reflects the sad state of evangelical discipleship.  For us rejects, “easy answers” fluster our souls and present an intellectual gap for missional dialogues.  Postmodern culture won’t settle for the so-called right answers and neither should the people of God!

A second theme in the comments of the first post was “what kind of evangelicalism are you hanging around because this doesn’t reflect my experiences?”  To answer this, I have a bit of a theory.  In the evangelical academy, there’s more freedom to explore than in the average church.  Radio preachers and pop-theology influenced the average congregation.  Anything that poses a threat to the hyper-literal box conservative modernism put God into relinquishes trepidation for many church attendees.  Evangelicalism of this form looks oddly similar to its fundamentalist roots.

A final theme that came through was “yes! Let’s reject evangelicalism!”  May I kindly say: no, no, no, NO!  I understand this impulse, but in my own journey of becoming a reject, I’m now convinced that an essential truth of Scripture is that God is reconciling all things.  Consider this passage in 2 Corinthians 5:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

I want to draw out three levels of this passage as it pertains to reconciliation.

  1. The new creation has been kick started in Christ’s accomplishment of resurrection.  This began the process of God reconciling all of created reality.  God is redeeming the cosmos and will return one day to make this process complete.  Heaven’s justice will purge earth’s corruption!
  2. From out of the cosmic healing we’re invited into personal reconciliation as well.  Any person who chooses to walk into the relationship that God offers all people, leaves behind alienation and discovers a life made whole as image bearer of the Divine.
  3. Finally, reconciliation is a reality between humans.  If God is reclaiming ever square inch of the cosmos and if this includes every individual open to the opportunity, then it follows that we be reconciled to each other.  And this includes those who would reject us!  This is our message!

Therefore, may those of us who know rejection refuse to reject those in the evangelical church who alienate themselves from us.  May we open up our arms to those who would reject us, in order to seek reconciliation to them as much as it depends on us.  And may we rejects reject anything that appears to reject the reconciling nature of the Gospel of Jesus, including rejecting those who reject us.

I end with a final “if” to consider: You might be an evangelical reject if… you refuse to reject evangelicals.


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  • Anonymous

    Kurt, as much as I feel like a “closet evangelical reject” simply because I have a tendency to hold my cards a little close in certain settings, I do not ever want to reject Evangelicalism. I appreciate this post just as much, if not even more than the original. 😉
    I think it is very easy to get bitter and defensive as “rejects” but I very deeply do not want to live in that place. 

  • Kurt, just for clarity’s sake:  isn’t there a difference between rejecting “-isms” and rejecting people who subscribe to whatever ideology?  I would argue that faithfulness to the revelation of God as love and as reconciler of all creation HAS to reject any system of thought that pushes away people on the grounds of what they think to be true.
    I’m not saying evangelical identity (understood from its earliest historical roots) is about rejecting people.  But as you well know (and as Roger Olson has demonstrated)  much of current evangelicalism has been hijacked by fumdamentalist tendencies to apply litmus tests of all kinds to determine who is “in” and who is “out”.   And this type of  THINKING (not the people who are caught in it) needs to be rejected IMO if we apply consequently what you’ve just written.

    • @jshmueller:disqus , I think the distinction you make is a good one Josh.  Secretly, in my writing process, I almost went the angle that you describe here… and may write something to this effect in the near future.  But yes, in the same way that Roger Olson has distinguished Evangelical ‘ethos’ from ‘movement,’ I think we are free to see ‘evangelical’ distinct from its “ism.”  Excellent observation…

      • Does there not come a time, though, in which the label is too freighted and must, itself, be rejected because it’s out of our hands to recapture the definition?  Rather in the same way many have chosen to adopt the label “follower of Jesus” to avoid the baggage that “Christian” has gathered over the years?

        I hear two good things in both @kurtwillems:disqus  and @jshmueller:disqus ‘s comments…first that we need to be careful not to reject the people along with rejecting the mindset, and second that we ought to hold onto what is good in the label.  The first, I affirm; the second, I’m not so sure.

        Beyond this, though, may there not be a time when, as in Matt. 10:14, you just have to shake the dust off your feet and go elsewhere?  I think there may be…

        • @dwmtractor:disqus , (and @jshmueller:disqus ), I agree with this.  I have had to shake the dust off my feet on multiple occasions.  This is key in my article: “May we open up our arms to those who would reject us, in order to seek reconciliation to them as much as it depends on us.”  Sometimes, “as much as it depends on us” (the willingness to open our arms to borrow an image from Miroslav Volf) means that we will be rejected and abused yet again.  There comes a point where enduring abuse must find its end.  Just as jesus kicked off the dust, we may have to do the same.  Yet, reconciliation should always be the aim as it will be the ultimate telos of new creation.

  • Flexiwrists222

    Awesome post!

  • Great post, Kurt. Continue reconciling, my friend!

    BTW, I think there’s another dynamic at work in Evangelicalism. Evangelicals WITHIN mainline churches rarely experience what evangelicals within Conservative/Fundamentalist churches do. In other words, my fellow evangelicals within the SBC will have a very different experience than my fellow UMC evangelicals. This is why evangelicalism will never be found in a denomination or encapsulated in a single tradition…and that’s a good thing!

    • @facebook-837625581:disqus , This is an excellent disctinction as well.  Having never attended any mainline churches, this is certainly outside of my experience.  I could see how mainline evangelicals may be less prone to the reject impulse (yet not immune to it).  Thanks for that thought…

      • Fundamental Evangelicals–at least those I have known–would for the most part deny the right to use the term “Evangelical,” to those of mainline denominations.  Consequently, what the term means depends a great deal on where one hears it.

  • David Warkentin

    I think reconciliation is one of the most under-utilized theological terms. It’s easy to make reconciliation first a relational term – we all just need to get along! But as you helpfully outline, reconciliation is a richly theological term describing the salvific work of God in our lives and in the world (Col. 1:20). To limit reconciliation to something we create through structures and strategies, to echo the OT sage, is “meaningless, meaningless…a chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 1).

    • @google-81d584bb7ed45f3889eaa0635a46e889:disqus , Let me simply give ya an AMEN!!!!

  • An Episcopal priest friend of mine suggested that I find a congregation that is more welcoming to my particular ideological bent. While I realize that she suggested this out of concern for my emotional and mental well-being, i am somewhat unwilling to take that step.


    Because, even though I have been hurt deeply from fellow evangelicals, I have also come to experience the radical grace and mercy and love of God through other evangelicals.

    I stay because I love the evangelicals I come in contact with and I desire with every part of my being that they too find someone in the Evangelical church that can point them to the freedom that Christ offers. Freedom from the constrictions that come from the more fundamental wing, freedom to know that they are loved by God regardless of how good or bad they are. Freedom to know that God is never angry with them again because of Jesus.

    That is the Gospel message and I want so badly to see the Evangelical church experience a new reformation that takes us back to Jesus and to the grace of God freeing us to become what God has intended each of us to become.   

  • There has been a trend towards the rejection of the intellectual pursuit of the Bible as well as reformed theology in my home church in the past year or so. It has certainly left some of our congregation feeling rejected by the greater church as well. I have seen a few groups of believers leave our church for this reason.

    Personally, I have pushed a few to reconsider the decision to leave the church. I feel like those who are leaving the church are choosing to reject the church when they embody what this church needs the most. I greatly appreciate your push for reconciliation in this topic because it is what we really need in this day and age. After reading your previous article, I came away with the impression that you were drawing a line in the sand. Glad to see that wasn’t the case.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely relate to what you’re saying. I refuse to self-identify as anything other than evangelical. To me, the term “evangelical” signifies that I don’t think Christ is one way among many possibilities; I think He is the way and the truth and the life (though to be fair, Jesus wasn’t telling Philip not to be a Buddhist or Hindu when He responded to Philip’s question with this often misrepresented passage).

    I don’t just happen to go along with the story of the human condition that I was raised with. My identity is derived entirely from my sense of belonging to the Kingdom, and I want everyone I meet to belong to the Kingdom too. I live to help others discover the joy that I’ve found. I do reject the litmus tests that propositional modernist Christianity uses, but I have other litmus tests. Those who know God’s mercy exude the fruit of mercy in how they treat others. Orthodoxy receives its confirmation in the orthopraxis of mercy. Galatians 5:22-23 is my litmus test. If I don’t have that fruit, my tree has rotted and needs to have a few branches hacked off.

    Our problem in evangelical Christianity today is that we are suffering from an epidemic of doctrinal Pelagianism. The Pelagianism that Luther and Calvin rejected in 15th century Catholicism was a works-righteousness based on sacramental observance. Today’s Pelagianism is based in believing the right things about Jesus rather than trusting in the justification of Christ’s blood. The difference between those two in my view is the difference between living in hell and living in freedom. I don’t just refuse to reject the evangelicals who are caught in doctrinal Pelagianism; I want to participate in God’s evangelism of them so they too can discover their salvation.

    • wow…”doctrinal Pelagianism.”  You know, you have a great point here, though it might cause apoplexy among the “orthodox” who see their belief structure as diametrically opposed to Pelagius.  I tend to agree with you!

  • I have certainly experienced rejection by fellow Evangelicals both theologically (post-modern, reformed) and socially (divorce). And of course, I believe it was unwarranted and wrong. However, given the momentum of the comments, I wonder what various people believe Evangelicalism to mean. For me at its core, it is about Jesus and the Good News of His Kingdom. While I wouldn’t reject a person, I will openly confront anyone who teaches anything contrary to that core. For example with respect to divorce; I have confronted people for being quick to judge, and I have also confronted people for considering divorce as an “easy out”.

  • I’m a recovering evangelical who like most wayward children went through a period of disengaging myself completely from any connection to the evangelical tribe. But, and this is my story, I came back round to realizing with deep gratitude that I am the woman of faith and soul I am today because of the many good people and church communities I shared life with. I’m a bit effed up as well, but who isn’t? People make constructs wherever we go and wherever we go, it gets wonky.

    I like your tone here, reconcilatory, which is exactly where I landed. Doesn’t mean I accept all the wonkiness – like the unequal treatment of women…grrrr… don’t even get me started…. but like family reunions where love and tension coexist so it is with my evangelical past.  Not bitter, just grateful for the good and willing to keep letting go of of the not so good.

  • Ian

    Amen bro. To reject someone because they rejected you is to return evil for evil, which the Bible clearly commands us not to do. Consider Romans 12:20-21 in light of this. “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; fir in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
    I love how in verse 21 it DOESNT say “do not overcome evil with evil”. That isnt even an option. If your trying to overcome evil with evil then evil has overcome you. The only way out of that cycle is to do good.
    Anyway thats my little rant. Haha

  • LightByGrace

    I am sooo with you! I lOVE my evangelical heritage and my brothers and sisters who still adhere to the things that I have reconsidered…LETS BE BRIDGE BUILDERS!! Let’s honor one another. It’s OK to poke fun at each other as family, but let’s not allow our differences to seperate us…We want to be known for our love of one another. That is how people will know we belong to Jesus!

  • Kurt, I would only disagree with one thing.  The reconciliation didn’t get kick started at the cross.  It began before time when God knew we would talk away and become trapped by the lie that God couldn’t love us in spite of our brokenness. 

    • @jonathanbrink:disqus , I agree with that.  I guess the “new creation” idea was “inaugurated” is what I meant behind that statement.  What happened in the empty tomb did something cosmically that is in process of finding its ultimate consummation… the ultimate reconciliation of everything.

      • Someday we should talk about the “cosmically” part because I would argue otherwise.

        • Interesting… you dont hold to the renewal of all creation at the second coming?  I thought you were a Tom Wright -esque guy on that stuff…

          • I absolutely hold to the renewal of all creation.  But what I’ve come to see differently is that the problem is not in the cosmos, but in us. So what changes is our perception of reality, not reality. 

          • I can follow that, but then why does the cosmos need to be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God?”

          • Because humanity is in bondage.  Our bodies are broken. And when humanity is in bondage, everything is affected by our perception.

            They key for me is seeing what is changed.  When we say “cosmos” we think of God being changed. And I would argue that this is not what is happening.  Creation is being restored.  And we are being restored.

          • Again friend… I agree except that perception is not the only problem.  Creation is not what it is meant to be… this is because humanity chose alienation from creation / God / others / and self (which I know you are passionate about).  Yet, I’d say that God did also “subject creation to frustration…” because of human (and angelic???) rebellion.  It will be liberated in some way too, which will ultimately be part of changing our perception I think 🙂  Good thoughts brotha!

          • But it is the perception that causes all of those problem.  That’s all I’m saying.

          • Interesting… certainly something to reflect on.  Thanks bro!

  • Maisaak

    Kurt, this is gospel.  Difficult  AND life-giving when we choose to be open to the practice of reconciliation even in rejection.  Thanks for your personal pilgrimage and your exegesis.

  • Anonymous

    “its not that we sought to be alienated from the evangelicals in our faith community, but that they rejected us.”  Some of you have lost jobs within the church or leadership positions because of some of the “ifs” that I listed or some that fit on your own unique list.  Fear gives birth to this rejection.
    Many in our evangelical churches are afraid.  Afraid to explore.  Afraid to disrupt the status quo. Afraid to have congregations turn on them because what is accepted as the Truth in the pew.  For us rejects, “easy answers” fluster our souls and present an intellectual gap for missional dialogues.”
    Wow, what you’ve written resonates with me so deeply.  I just left a church where the second paragraph so perfectly describes what I experienced, not to mention some of the attitudes and ignorance that stemmed from lives lived in little enclaves.  While I have not rejected evangelicalism, I’m not ready to jump back into a church just yet.  I’m tired emotionally and still hurt, if I’m honest.  I need a break.  I would like to find a church that was more open, but I think after my experience whether I find that open church or not, I will go into the next church differently.  I will engage with those who are like-minded, online and elsewhere, as a way to keep my sanity rather than give in to culture of the church.  It’s important not to lose one’s identity and in some ways I feel like I did that and some of the anger I’ve experienced has been directed at myself.  
    In any event, thank you for what you’ve written.  It’s touched me in a deep place, particularly the part about not giving up on evangelicalism.  I know that you’re right; it’s just going to take me a while before I can enter back into the fold.  

  • urbanpilgrim2010

    Way to go! Ticked off most of the bullet points in your article and found I’m a strong candidate for evangelical reject (LOL)! Not that I never knew, but that I never quite put it in those terms. So thanks for describing it so aptly.

    A caveat though, as something meant for good can always get twisted when we’re not looking. I don’t deny the reality of being an “evangelical reject,” but I don’t want to live under that title either (even if it’s “evangelical reject who refuses to reject evangelicals”), like a pointy hat I’m made to wear, much like the label we tend to give others, which we may think are helpful, even funny at first but in the end box them in.

    If our desire is to be God’s instrument for reconciliation, then we need to speak against rejection in all its forms, including the names we give ourselves. To speak against it is not to deny that it exists, but to deny that it rules, or should rule, over us, because the reality is that, sin notwithstanding, Jesus is Lord. I guess this starts with myself discarding anything that reeks of the old and wearing my new Kingdom hats in Jesus (aren’t they just so many and varied and rich!) like second skin. Just a caveat, and actually it’s more for me than for anyone else, as I tend to get reified in the labels I give myself.

    So. Evangelical reject? Maybe. For a (painful) time. But, as your blog above explains it so well, I much prefer…The Bearer of Good News with Beautiful Feet and Wide Arms (Hands Up, Hands Off, Arms Wide Open as in the Cross).

    How’s that title for a hat? 🙂

    God bless you.

  • Great response to the original.  For me personally, I don’t care much for labels.  I just want to follow through in my own life as best I can on Ephesians 4:12, 13 and 2 Corinthians 3:18.  Thanks for the follow up post.  Good stuff!

    • Glad you read and got a broader picture of my heart on this issue.  Grace and peace to you @hskrzfan34:disqus !

  • Lew Curtiss

    Excellent balance Kurt.  I am reminded of something I heard in a well done documentary film about the life and influence of Martin Luther.  Like Christ, he didn’t set out to reject the Holy Roman Church, but to bring to light some errors she was living by. 

    His 99 Theses weren’t condemnations, but questions raised in a context of God’s truth, straight from scripture.  What resulted, of course, was more than the mere re-formation of the Church, but terrible battles between the new Protestants and the set & stayed Roman Catholics.

    I praise God and thank you for bringing to the discussion that last “if”: “I end with a final “if” to consider: You might be an evangelical reject if… you refuse to reject evangelicals.”

    Lastly, it is indeed painful to realize that you’ve been “lied to.”  The average peasant Roman Catholic of Luther’s age knew this and many struck out in a sort of revenge.  Many of us are indeed suffering rejection, or worse, at the hands of those who reject us.  Let us not strike out, but instead open out arms and hearts realizing that, as you said, God is reconciling all.