I Want My Label Back

There has been much talk lately of “Is Evangelicalism dying?” “Is it already dead?” “Can it survive?” “Are we the last evangelicals?” etc. The subject is worthy of much more careful consideration than I can give here (read those linked posts for more), yet as a millennial “evangelical” pastor, here are my  brief thoughts:

If by “evangelical” you mean the mile-wide, inch-deep theological vacuum of moralistic therapeutic deism and American civil religion of the type that reigns across the Bible Belt (and elsewhere), then I say, “Let it die and be damned to hell where it belongs.”

If by “evangelical” you mean the prosperity-lite preachers that peddle a false gospel of national greatness, for whom discipleship and patriotism are synonymous, who pray to a red white and blue (but mostly white) Jesus, I want nothing to do with it, and I don’t think the real-life brown, Middle Eastern Jesus does either.

But if by “evangelical” you mean the rising people of God who are thirsty both for deep wells of doctrine and deep rivers of justice, a church that lifts high the cross and loves across boundary lines, a generation too conservative for liberals and too liberal for conservatives, ambassadors who herald a coming kingdom and shake the status quo, who think the “pro-life” cause should defend all vulnerable lives, including black and brown ones; disciples who make war on their own sin while extending patience to other people’s sin (instead of the other way around), and Jesus followers who love the glory of God and work for the good of broken people; in short, a Church committed to embodying both compassion and conviction, holiness and humility… well, give me more of that. Let me give my life to that. I will gladly spend and be spent in that great and glorious cause.

If that’s not “evangelicalism,” then I have no desire to be an evangelical. If the “evangelical” label is rightly the property of the “God & country,” “guns & Bible,” civil religion crowd, then it’s not mine and never was.

But if this is where the gospel has been leading us all along, if the full “good news” does indeed shape us to be full-blooded “good news” people, then I’m the real evangelical, and it’s the prosperity preachers, patriots, and pharisees who should find a new label.

I, for one, want my label back.

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