Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Part 9: Balance
Because the deck of life is always shifting balance can be nothing more than momentary synchronicity. (Richard Pratt)
Balance is something that evangelicals know very little of. We were birthed as a reaction against liberalism. In doing so, much of the conservative theology and philosophy of ministry were an equal and opposite reaction against liberalism. For much of fundamentalism-turned-evangelicalism’s existence, we defined ourselves anegativa against liberalism, rather than forming a positive definition from Scripture alone. In many ways, early evangelicalism required liberalism to exist, in order for it to exist.
Moving forward, here are 9 (non-comprehensive) areas where evangelicals ought to seek balance:
1. Words and Deeds
Some churches like to show the gospel, some like to preach the gospel – we should do birth. The lost should see and hear Christ preached.
2. Evangelism and Discipleship
Jesus called us to make disciples and this includes evangelism. Jesus modeled evangelism as a part of his disipleship. In many cases, Jesus sent out his disciples before him. These two things go together. When we do not model how to share our faith, we cannot expect that our disciples will ever multiply themselves.
3. Boldness and Clarity
Boldness corresponds to preaching the gospel. Clarity corresponds to showing the gospel in relationship. Paul did both.
4. Immanence and Transcendence
Immanence emphasizes God’s nearness. Transcendence emphasizes God’s bigness and incomprehensibility. Both are true and both need to be reflected in our personal and corporate worship. Some like to emphasize God’s immanence at the expense of his transcendence (Pentecostalism). Some like to emphasize God’s transcendence at the cost of his immanence (Liturgical). We need to help people see both and not just pander to one or the other. Who cares about the form of worship style if God is presented in both his immanence and transcendence.
5. Preservation and Adaptation
We need to honor the vast tradition of the history of the church – preservation. We need to innovate to adapt to the language of the culture (obviously, without over-contextualizing).
6. Individual and Communal
We are saved as individuals. We are called out to a community. We are not saved by merely being in the church while we are called out to a church.
7. “Already/Now” and “Not Yet”
Christ has already risen from the dead; Christ has not yet returned. We stand between two worlds and must yearn for the one to come, while seeking to affect change on the one we reside.
8. Reaching-up and Reaching-in and Reaching-out
Reaching-up is the vertical ministry of our relationship with God. Reaching-in is the horizontal and inward ministry of those in our church. Reaching-out is the horizontal outward ministry to the world. If we fail to do any one of these, we have been deficient as a church.
9. Orthodoxy and Orthopathos and Orthopraxis
All of the previous balances can be summarized in this final one. Right belief, Right emotion, Right practice. Balance is critical here. If we are seeking sound doctrine it ought to produce right practice and right emotion. If we are seeking right emotion it ought to produce right belief and right practice. If we are seeking right practice it ought to produce right doctrine and right belief.
What balances would you add?
Moving forward, balance is critical. Up next, we will look at some summarizing thoughts regarding evangelicalism in the future.