Monthly Archives: March 2019

A More Personal Take on My Issues with The Evangelical Church

My last two posts covered some of my theological, and political, issues with the (white) Evangelical Church at least in the US. But, as I’ve been trying to – and this morning (March 17, 2019) succeeding – get myself back to attending church with at least some regularity, I got thinking about how at least one aspect of the Evangelical Church impacted me, and how I see it impact others. I’m specifically talking about the aspect that gives that portion of the church its name, and in many ways and for many years gave it its identity: its emphasis and and style of evangelism.

As I saw from both the outside and inside, the Evangelical Church, at least in the U.S. at its core is focused around the central ideas that the an individual is only saved if they hear about Christ’s work on the cross, and then make a personal decision to accept that salvation; and that the primary job of any Christian who has been so saved is to attempt to reach out and bring that message to as many others as they can.

I grew up in the Presbyterian tradition, which in the mainstream Presbyterian denominations doesn’t make a big deal about the exact nature of salvation. But many years ago when doing research on the various branches of the larger Presbyterian Church, I came across writings from an Orthodox Presbyterian Church that vehemently condemned the “Armenian Heresy,” which is the belief that is core to American Evangelism. So, while it wasn’t emphasized, my Christian upbringing in fact comes from a tradition that is separate from this idea.

With my eyes open to this, I can look at a traditional Presbyterian worship service, and see evidence that their beliefs tend more towards the idea that salvation is the work of God than anything of man’s doing.

However, starting around the time I got engaged, I started attending various Evangelical churches. For the most part during this time, I had few major issues with the churches. However, one issue continued to bother me to a lesser or greater degree: the fact that while I had believed in God, in Christ, and in the fact that Christ had died for my sins, for as long as I could recall, I had never consciously made the decision to accept Christ in the Evangelical sense. At more than a few points, the pressure caused by being in this environment caused a feeling akin to guilt, which led me to fee that maybe my belief wasn’t enough and that I needed to go ahead and say the salvation prayer. But, that didn’t change anything – either relieving the guilt, nor creating the so-called sense of salvation peace.

Then there is the other part of this. The part I saw more clearly both before and after I was regularly attending Evangelical churches, but still saw at other times. The reverse effect of evangelism.

I’ve known many people who find much of the outward evangelism practiced in this country off-putting. This is true of both the personal evangelism from friends and strangers, and the general evangelism found in advertising and mass outreach.

Telling someone that they are going to be punished because of who they are, or because of what they do, or do not believe, is a very off-putting message to a lot of people. This is even more so to people who have studied disciplines such as science and engineering, so their minds are bent towards analytical thought. Then, the fact that many of the most aggressive purveyors of evangelistic outreach for decades have also been the ones who love to condemn the very people that they think they are trying to save – think Jack Chick and they group who used to show up with yellow signs at Comic-Con International telling us how anyone who reads comics was bound for hell – and you are creating an environment where evangelical outreach is driving people away from all kinds of Christian Churches.

So, between my personal issues where I found that being regularly put into a position of doubting my beliefs based on a model of salvation that I don’t think I ever truly accepted as true, and knowing that that model of salvation was hurting the Church as God’s (or at least one of God’s) outreach to mankind by driving people away from it, I have to suspect that it was only a matter of time before I would reach a point where other factors would make me realize that I could not continue to worship or attend churches built around evangelism.