Before I get on the plane and fly out to Chicago this is a post that explains why I do not believe evangelicalism can be reformed. There are a multitude of reasons why but I think its important to address those factors and tamper down thinking in an effort to be realistic.
“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency.“
“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.”
“The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.”
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,
Ephesians 1:18 NIV
This post today is going to be dark. But before the Restore Conference I wanted to put down my thoughts on evangelicalism. There is a lot of ground to cover so let’s move ahead and look at some issues. It is my belief that evangelicalism can not be reformed. Let me walk you through my thinking and then explain more at the end of this post.
What I Learned in Writing a Blog for 5 Years
This blog was born out of pain and in seeing the dark side of religion. Here are three posts that will help you understand this blog better. “What You Should Know About The Wondering Eagle – An Overview of this Blog So Readers Can Understand it Better” , “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is” and “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.” This blog has written about a number of organizations from Sovereign Grace, to the Evangelical Free Church of America, to Acts 29 to Harvest Bible Chapel and the Southern Baptist Convention. This has been a shocking ride as I learned that corruption and abuse is widespread and epidemic. I have written about corruption in mega churches and also small churches where a family has a lock on the place. I have seen all kinds of corruption that has played out in many forms. Sometimes its sexual abuse, other times its abuse of power or financial abuse. It can be a number of things to consider. What blew my mind? Is the fact that I have written about nearly every single church that I once called home. I could just shake my head in disgust. Recently I wrote about a church I was involved in that today is led by David Platt. You can read about my background in McLean Bible in, “The Wondering Eagle’s History with McLean Bible Church.” Last month I told the story of how an adult volunteer groomed teenagers for planned sexual abuse and how it was covered up. Its the latest problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. You can read more in, “How David Platt Never Learned From the Mark Aderholt Situation. The Disturbing Story of how McLean Bible Mishandled Scott Woods, an Alleged Predator in The Rock Ministries.” I can’t believe how many places I have written about. In my case I have even had to write about pastors that I once listened to enthusiastically when I planted and led Campus Crusade for Christ. You can read that in, “An Email Exchange with Bryan Loritts in March of 2013 Helps Shine Light on the Alleged Cover Up of Rick Trotter’s Voyeurism in Fellowship Memphis.” How did it get to be like this? How did it get this bad?
Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal is Not the Exception its the Norm
I want to present a new train of thought on James MacDonald and the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. This may help people understand evangelicalism better in the end. I would suggest to you that scandals like Harvest are not the exception but instead the norm. The scandal at Harvest is dark and its still going on. Yet I have written about so many types of scandals over the years. When I hear about an evangelical church my gut reaction is to wonder about its history and problems within it. Harvest was more dramatic because of the size but evangelicalism is choking on scandal. There are Harvests every day that people are approaching me about. Sadly this is the reality, but if you think of Harvest as the norm in evangelicalism you will be more prepared for what you will encounter. Here in the D.C. area I have stooped trying church and largely stay in the background. I will go to a place if I am writing about it but that is it. At this point I think its problematic and even foolish to try and get involved in another church. If you think of Harvest as normal in evangelicalism then a person is prepared for what they hear in other locations. So my point here is this, don’t escape Harvest and go somewhere else expecting it to be different.
Charisma and Power is Too Much an Issue
The model in evangelicalism is flawed and broken. Too much power is often put in the hands of people who should not have it. Evangelicals throw around terms like, “Elder Board” and “Elder Led” and more really translate into yes men who rubber stamp a demagogue. There are some good pastors out there but they are exceedingly rare. But for many people too much power is concentrated in too few. That model is broken and there needs to be frank discussions about it and why it does not work. This raises another issue there are many evangelicals who will not speak about these topics. To question the pastor in their mind is to question God. To challenge a pastor is morally wrong and you are to shut up and go with the flow. As long as people like that support, attend, give money then stand in the pews and clap for people things won’t change. Those of you who have been in these difficult situations know what this is like but when you challenge something people get upset and they take their anger out on you. The messenger is the problem, not the pastor who is greedy and living off the backs of others. This is sadly also the reality today.
Some People Will Never Recover or Bounce Back
This aspect I learned from interacting with some people from Mars Hill in Seattle. There are a number of people who will never recover or bounce back. There are many who are out for the count. They are permanently done and the damage is too deep. Some people are never going to understand these individuals which is sad. The person hurt becomes the issue and not the organization that causes the pain. But here we are 8 to 10 years removed from Mars Hill and there are people in Seattle who have never stepped into a church again or they are done. Can one blame them? No I think rejecting something after being through something so traumatic is understandable. And here is another thought when the Mark Driscolls, C.J. Mahaneys, Andy Savages, James MacDonalds or the Bryan Loritts run and try and begin a new start up or go to another church it just rekindles and angers people. So we need to be honest that some people will not bounce back at all. Life after the dark side of evangelicalism will be the new normal for many people.
Evangelical Christianity Needs to be Thought of as a Business
One of the reasons why evangelicalism will never change is that it is a business model. For many its about money and empire. Many plant churches and franchise in the same way Starbucks does market research to figure out where to grow and how to plant new operations. Pastors publish books and they need congregations to buy them. Its a viscous dog eat dog business model. But in that context people get kicked to the side because no one can get between a “pastor” and his money. James MacDonald was far from being the only one who is about money. Many have ghost writers that do the writing for them. But all this points to one key fact in this situation, evangelical Christianity for many is about money.
Based on Above, Reform is Impossible
Based upon what I communicated above to be honest I don’t think reform is possible in evangelicalism. That is why you keep seeing scandal after scandal after scandal and more. The modus operandi will prevent change and many pastors don’t want to address these issues. And then there are some pastors who start small and get into a bigger church that grows and before you know it they to have also been corrupted. I say all this not to be a downer or a pessimist. Instead I am trying to be realistic as that helps people to face these issues with more ease. Its harder when you have higher expectations and then you have those dashed. In this case I can trying to help people tamper down and brace for the long haul. I wish I could say something different but the reality is that evangelical Christianity can not be reformed.