By Timothy Dalrymple
Recently I described the vision of the Evangelical Portal at Patheos. As I wrote, if the Portal is "truly successful in the things that truly matter, it will not be because we have sought to create a snazzy website. It will be successful, if it is, because we have been faithful to follow our calling." That calling is twofold. First, to present the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and compellingly within Patheos' unique multireligious marketplace of ideas. And second, to form the center of a collective project of reforming a church that retains what is essential and invaluable in its Christian heritage and yet repents of its failings and refashions itself into an ever-truer witness to Christ and the kingdom of God in the 21st-century context.
I explained, as a first approximation, five points of an emerging consensus concerning the church and what it should be: fruitfully rooted in Christian scriptures, teachings, and history; radically global; multi-ethnic and multi-political; culturally relevant and socially engaged; and integrated in life and faith. If we remain focused in the pursuit of our twofold calling, then we will, I believe, form a dynamic source of content and community along the way.
How will this vision translate into action? I want to explain the ways in which, right now, we plan to pursue our vision concretely.
Before I do, however, as a technical note, you should know that the Portal is undergoing an extensive redesign that will dramatically improve the way it produces, gathers, and displays content. Articles will be presented in a more clear and visually compelling manner (no more clicking through tabs in search of the right article). A group blog will stand at the center of the new Portal, and its contributors will form a cross section of the Christian community. Different sections will aggregate headlines of interest to believers, display videos and podcasts, link to blogs and partner sites, and improve our community functionality. (It is also our expectation that the name "Evangelical Portal" will be dropped in favor of "Cross and Culture.")
Concerning the pursuit of our vision, however, in the weeks and months to come we will offer the following features:
- A series called The Basics of the Gospel. These articles will examine the best ways to understand and explain the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The goal will be to equip believers and to serve as a standing witness for non-Christian readers.
- Evangelicalism 101 and Evangelical Perspectives on Other Faiths. Since evangelical faith is often distorted in popular media, we will gather together the best resources, lectures, and articles to explain the history and confessions of evangelical churches. We will also continue the YEV series that explores how and why individuals become evangelical Christians - and we will outline an accurate and charitable understanding of other faiths and how the gospel might engage them.
- Stronger integration with other Christian blogs and websites, publishers, and ministries. Already we have content-sharing arrangements with numerous blogs and organizations such as the Veritas Forum, and strong relationships with publishers such as InterVarsity Press. As we continue to develop our network of partners and contributors, we will be better able to keep our readers apprised of developments in the worlds of Christian thought and ministry. Although we are proud of the quality of the content we have already offered, it will only grow stronger as we proceed.
- Patheos' Directory of Services will continue to grow in scope and power, and we hope to develop new ways of networking churches, coordinating their efforts, and matching donors and volunteers with needs and ministries. It is my hope that evangelicals will lead the way in employing these resources to work for justice and compassion.
- A community of inquiry and commentary called Cross Examination. A list of scholars, pastors, and bloggers will receive a weekly question, such as "How can evangelical churches better educate their members in the basics of Christian history and theology?" or "How should evangelicals respond to the Haiti disaster?" As individuals are inspired to respond, their responses will be posted in the group blog, and each week the responses will be gathered together into an article.
- Monthly Consultations. These are extended conversations on timely and difficult subjects. In the coming months we will address the relationship between evangelicals and the gay community, comprehensive immigration reform, what more established churches have to learn from immigrant churches, and how Christians in medicine and the law can give expression to their faith in the workplace.
- Several other series of articles will begin soon on The Men Behind the Megachurches and Evangelicals in the Public Arena. Whatever one might think of them, megachurches are a prominent part of the landscape of evangelicalism in America. How does a pastor respond to such dramatic church growth without losing focus or falling in love with fame? Similarly, how do evangelicals who have achieved positions of power and prominence continue to imitate the powerless, despised Jesus?