No Power? No Problem: Reflections on Evangelicals and Influence

In the midst of this mainly gloomy picture of the Church lies a hopeful point: it is precisely because of its guilt, its transience, its negative instrumentality that the church plays a central role in God's economy of revelation, salvation, and reconciliation in the world. The way forward is to give obedient witness to the paradoxical reality of God's grace as manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

It is not for us in the North to surmise what Christians in the Global South should make of the optimism of their leaders toward the future of their evangelical movements and their influence in society. But here in the United States, perhaps we should embrace the apparent impending decline in social influence as an opportunity to follow Jesus to the margins of society. Furthermore, perhaps we should embrace an increasing diversity within evangelicalism itself as a fruitful development toward serving a complex, variegated world.

North America sits at the center of a shift from modernism to postmodernism to whatever comes after that (if that hasn't already come). Ours is a world shot through with plurality and difference, fragmentation and fissure, indeterminacy and openness. How can we speak the gospel into a world bereft of unity, stability, meaning, and hope? Only through the posture of witness and "faithful presence," a presence that is self-consciously fragile enough to engage the world without breaking it further. We are pots of clay. We are witnesses to the Gospel of grace.

That's all.

The Church is vastly bigger than evangelicalism. And the kingdom of God is bigger than the Church. This means that any decline in evangelicalism's power and influence does not signal the end of God's work. But it may be that through recognition of our declining influence and by the practice of witness we can find God at work in us and through us in greater ways than we could have imagined.

6/28/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Kyle Roberts
    About Kyle Roberts
    Kyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN). He researches and writes on issues related to the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture. Follow Kyle Roberts' reflections on faith and culture at his blog or via Twitter.