Am I Evangelical? (2022)

AM I EVANGELICAL?

QUESTIONS

Before I answer the headline question for myself (and I will answer it), let me first raise some issues by asking some questions:

  • Is Evangelicalism the only hope for the future of Christianity in Scotland?
  • Is Evangelism, as we currently know it and practise it, the right way, or the best way, to reach other people for Christ?
  • Is ‘preaching the gospel’ the highest and best practice of Evangelicalism?
  • What can we learn from the history of Evangelicalism in the United Kingdom in general, and in Scotland particularly?
  • What will we learn from the history of Evangelicalism in the United Kingdom in general, and in Scotland particularly?
  • With whom does the future of Scottish Christianity lie?
  • How has Evangelicalism shaped us as Christians, whether we realised it or not?
  • Have we meekly accepted what Evangelicalism has told us through the years and the decades just because everyone else seemed to accept it?

It is certainly true that the disciple of Jesus the Christ that I am today has been shaped by many things and by many people in the past. That is equally true for all today’s disciples of Jesus the Christ, and that is part of the great variety that is to be found in the church, both at a local, and at a worldwide, level. Yet, even that must be open to being questioned and examined. So, for now, more questions:

  • How much of who and what I am as a Christian today is the result of my own exploration and of my own discovery, rather than what I have been spoon-fed by others down through the years or decades?
  • How much of who and what I am today is the result of me simply believing and practising as I thought I should do, just because I have allowed myself to be shaped by tradition down through the years and decades?
  • How much have I believed about the ‘right’ way for me to do things just because someone in leadership has often said that it is so?
  • Do we allow ourselves to be described ourselves as ‘Evangelical’ because that is what someone says we are?
  • Do we actually know what ‘Evangelical’ means?
  • Have we assumed that the Evangelical Alliance must be a good starting point for our own belief and practice; after all, it is the Evangelical Alliance, so surely it has to be good?
  • Surely the Evangelical Alliance must be correct in the way that it believes that evangelism should be practised?
  • After all, so many people, so many churches, and so many organisations belong to the Evangelical Alliance, and they can’t all be wrong, can they?

Our thoughts and ideas about evangelism have been shaped, and indeed probably hardened, by something and by someone down through the years and decades. As modern-day disciples of Jesus, it is easy for our present to be mainly based on someone else’s past, rather than on our own past and our own journey. Our present beliefs may simply be the beliefs that have been handed down to us through the years or, indeed, down through the decades. Our practices may simply be the practices that have been handed down to us down through the years or, indeed, down through the decades. Our thinking may simply be the thinking that has been handed down to us down through the years or, indeed, down through the decades. In short, we may be dressed in someone else’s clothes, we may be speaking someone else’s words, we may be doing someone else’s practices, and we may even be being someone else. Or we may be trying to do any, or all, of these things. Let us now go digging and explore together the word ‘Evangelicalism’ and see where it takes us.

DIGGING

Bebbington referred to the hundred years or so before the First World War as the ‘Evangelical Century’ when the activism of the movement enabled it to permeate British society. Surely, then, the future for Christianity was, and is, bright, because the future was Evangelicalism? Colin Urquhart certainly seemed to think so in 1985 when he said that ‘God is continuing to renew and revive and restore his church so that there can be a great move of Evangelicalism in this country.’ There was, around that time, a great deal of enthusiasm for Evangelicalism in and of itself, and there was also some enthusiasm for the future of Christianity as it was spearheaded by Evangelicalism. How, then, could Evangelicalism possibly fail to be the future of Christianity? However, before we can decide if the future of Christianity lies with Evangelicalism or whether it lies elsewhere, there is an important question to be answered with regard to what ‘Evangelicalism’ actually isYet this seemingly simple question is profoundly difficult to answer meaningfully, because ‘Evangelicalism’ seems to be a rather slippery word that cannot be fully grasped nor precisely defined in a satisfactory way.

There is no standard definition of ‘Evangelicalism’, and the many attempts that have been made to define it down through the decades are so general and so different as to be of little or no use to use. Even casting our eyes across the membership of the Evangelical Alliance only makes clear how diverse that membership really is. It is also very obvious that not every member of the Evangelical Alliance – whether individual or body – believes the same things in the same way, and nor do they all do things in the same way. Even some people that we may have the greatest respect for could seem to struggle in understanding what Evangelicalism actually was. ‘I know what constituted an Evangelical in former times,’ wrote Lord Shaftesbury in his later life, ‘I have no clear notion what constitutes one now’. This difficulty was also evident to John Kent, who wrote that ‘Evangelicalism … is not always an easy word to define to every one’s satisfaction.’ Indeed, it may well be that Evangelicalism cannot be defined to anyone’s satisfaction. David Cloud declared that the ‘Evangelicalism of the 1990s is a different creature than that of the 1940s and earlier.’ So, where did Evangelicalism originate from?

The New Dictionary of Theology says that ‘Evangelicalism’ has its roots in the creeds of the first century church; that it has particular ties with the Reformation, and that is also deeply indebted to a series of evangelical awakenings which began about the middle of the 18th century. Furthermore, Evangelicalism affirms the centrality of the Bible, Evangelicalism enunciates a theology of the Holy Spirit, and Evangelicalism confesses that the church is composed of all believers who have been incorporated by the Holy Spirit. It all seems to be very clear and very positive. Or is it? Let us take a careful look at the history of the Evangelical Alliance.

The Evangelical Alliance was formed in London in 1846, and its primary aim was to ‘associate and concentrate the strength of an enlightened Protestantism against the encroachments of Popery and Puseyism…’ It would, therefore, seem that the Evangelical Alliance was formed first and foremost to oppose Popery and Puseyism rather than promoting Jesus the Christ himself as YHWH and Lord and as the centre of our belief and our practice. It is little wonder, then, that Cloud wrote that Evangelicals have long held what he called ‘a strong suspicion of the RC (Roman Catholic) Church’. Furthermore, Cloud wrote, ‘Though the term Evangelical has never had an established definition, as a rule it had traditionally described Protestants who were stridently anti-Roman Catholic and who preached the new birth.’ On this basis, one could wonder if Evangelicals aren’t known more for what they are against, rather than what they are forIndeed, the very foundation of the Evangelical Alliance seem to show that it was an alliance against rather than an alliance for. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Evangelical Alliance is itself an organisation that has historically been strewn with disunity. As such, one could ask just what the word ‘Evangelical’ actually means, and one could further wonder what value, if any, the word really has. There have been attempts to define Evangelicalism, and we will now consider the efforts of D.W. Bebbington to provide meaning. According to Bebbington, the four qualities that are the special marks of Evangelicals are Conversionism, Activism, Biblicism, and Cruicentrism; together they formed what he called the ‘quadrilateral of priorities’ that was the basis of Evangelicalism. We will look at each these four qualities and, in doing so, we will also explore something of the Evangelical Alliance’s own ‘Basis of Faith’, which every member is required to fully accept and to sign up to.

CONVERSIONISM

According to the Evangelical Alliance’s own ‘Basis of Faith’, people need to be converted by the Holy Spirit because of ‘the universal sinfulness and guilt of fallen man [sic], making him subject to YHWH’s wrath and condemnation.’ This stated basis immediately runs into difficulties for me because, while many Christians may accept the general reality of the sin-stained nature of human beings, they will not all accept that such a fallen state means a total Godless depravity for everyone, so making all people utterly evil and therefore subject to YHWH’s wrath and/or condemnation. For example, if unsaved, evil and ‘totally depraved’ people are the object of YHWH’s wrath, how could it be that YHWH sent Jesus into the world because he loved the world, as stated in John 3:16? How could it be that Jesus never uttered one angry word to ‘totally depraved’ people in general while he walked on earth? Indeed, Jesus reserved all of his hard words exclusively for the religious leaders of his day. Is YHWH angry with unsaved people today, but suddenly loves them when they make a ‘decision for Jesus’? Does YHWH’s love turn back to anger when they ‘backslide’? Children of biological parents would grow up incredibly confused and understandably distressed if their parent’s attitude to them changed from love to anger on a regular basis. If people were universally subject to YHWH’s condemnation, why did Jesus himself never condemn anyone? Why did the Son of God instead show his Father’s love for people through acts of kindness done for them, rather than criticising people for the way that they lived and then condemning them out of hand?

According to the Evangelical Alliance’s own ‘Basis of Faith’, the fallen state of humanity required a ‘substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God as the sole all sufficient ground of redemption from the guilt and power of sin and from its eternal consequences’ through which, they say, God effects ‘the justification of the sinner solely by the grace of God through faith in Christ crucified and risen from the dead.’ Throughout the long history of Israel and the sacrifices that they made for their sin, was YHWH ever angry with the sacrifice? Did YHWH ever condemn the sacrifice? To be sure there were occasions when YHWH found the sacrifice itself to be unacceptable, but it was not the sacrifice itself that was the problem so much as it was the heart attitude of the person or people bringing that sacrifice. If Jesus was YHWH’s sacrifice for humanity, then YHWH certainly did not seem to be angry with Jesus, and nor did he ever condemn Jesus. On the contrary, the Father seemed really quite pleased with his beloved Son.

There is also the issue of what conversion actually means, and a further question of who it is that actually effects that conversion. Is it really all about the individual making a ‘decision for Jesus’? (Whatever that may mean.) This really highlights one of the chief dangers of Conversionism as apparently practised by evangelicals. It is this: Conversionism focuses on people’s individual decisions (or lack of), rather than on the community of faith that is the body of Christ. Conversionism also places the emphasis on that one event of conversion rather than on a joined lifestyle of relationship (discipleship). It is a sad fact that Conversionism tends to focus on the individual almost from start to finish, and the experience of conversion is often regarded as the climax and the end of that focus. Once a person has ‘made a decision for Jesus’, they have their ticket to heaven, the job is done, the box is ticked, and the work is over. This also means that the direct result of Conversionism is that, as Matthews says, ‘people are content simply to believe, whereas the developing, nourishing and sustaining of Christian faith and practice is impossible apart from the life of a believing community.’ (Italics and emphasis mine) Conversionism always targets the individual and tends to completely ignore long-term discipleship within the faith community. Conversionism is all about the individual’s ‘decision for Jesus’. Therefore, for example, as Tozer observed, ‘a sinner may be saved by accepting [Jesus] as Saviour without yielding to Him as Lord.’ So, all too often, evangelicals call people to ‘receive Jesus as Saviour’ or to ‘make a decision for Christ’ or to say the ‘sinner’s prayer’; when these concepts are totally unknown in Scripture. Furthermore, entering into the kingdom of YHWH in the Scriptures is certainly about entering into YHWH’s family that is the Christian community; it does not focus on the individual. Yet, Conversionism does tend to focus on the individual.

Indeed, as the Baptist Union of Scotland has said, ‘conversion is not chiefly an experience [alone] but is about a new relationship and God-transformed values, morals and goals.’ Yet the gaining of converts has long been an evangelical end in itself. It is a very short-sighted end, for it completely ignores the need to go on making disciples over a lifetime of relationship both with Jesus but also with one another. This is a significant weakness of modern-day ‘Evangelicalism’ and of the evangelism that it practises. As the Baptist Union of Scotland has stated, ‘The aim of conversion is to make disciples, so discipleship and conversion must not be contrasted with each other or separated.’ But they often are separated, and it is all too common for Evangelicals to think that, once someone has been converted, the job is done. This is the inherent weakness of the focus being on the individual, rather than the emphasis being on the joining of a community of faith and experiencing a lifelong discipleship. 

The Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith states that: ‘Evangelicals believe in the priesthood of all believers, who form the universal Church, the Body of which Christ is the Head and which is committed by His command to the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world.’ The active conversion of unbelievers is the expectation of such proclamation because of Jesus’ command. Surely this sounds good? Did Jesus really command all believers to go and to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world? In the Greek, the word translated as “go” is in the passive voice; it is not an imperative. If Jesus DID command us all to go, why are the vast majority of Christians comfortable in their communities? Why are the vast majority of Christians (including me!) apparently disobedient to the so-called ‘Great Commission’? Are we staying where we are when we should be going ‘out there’? Are we comfortable when we should be in need? It is either about all believers being missionaries ‘out there’ or it is about all believers building Christian communities where they are. The two are mutually exclusive and you cannot have it both ways. We need to realise that Jesus spoke the so-called ‘Great commission’ exclusively to Jewish disciples, and that the apostle Paul, who was sent to take the gospel to the Gentiles, never repeated that call, and not once in his writings did Paul ever even refer to it. In order to truly understand this, we must explore the context and culture of Israel.

ISRAEL

All through the old covenant days, Israel had been the apple of YHWH’s eye to whom the nations of the world could come and join with Israel in order to learn of YHWH himself and to follow YHWH’s ways. Aliens and strangers could join Israel by fulfilling the required conditions and so becoming a real part of YHWH’s people. Israel was intended in those days to have been a magnet to the nations of the world, drawing people physically and spiritually to join with YHWH’s own people and so to be treated in exactly the same way as YHWH’s own people. These foreign incomers were subject to exactly the same requirements as true Israelites, and the incomers joys and sorrows were exactly the same too. Here are just two old covenant Scriptures to show that:

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am YHWH your God. (Leviticus 19:33, 34)

The whole assembly of Judah, the priests and the Levites, and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the resident aliens who came out of the land of Israel, and the resident aliens who lived in Judah, rejoiced. (2 Chronicles 30:25)

But something quite extraordinary and totally unexpected happened on that mountain top when the risen Jesus met with his disciples. In the so-called ‘Great Commission’, Jesus turned Israel’s history on its head by sending his disciples out to the nations, instead of the way that it had been under the old covenant when YHWH was calling the nations to come to Israel. No longer were YHWH’s people Israel to be a magnet to the nations for YHWH, drawing those nations to them. Instead, Jesus sent Israel out to the nations. Perhaps for Jesus’ disciples as they met the risen Christ on the mountain top, something that they had previously discussed had now come to pass and, if so, it had understandably worried them. Perhaps they had discussed something that Jesus had prayed in the garden. Jesus had at least told his disciple John of his prayer in the garden, and perhaps John had mentioned one troubling aspect of Jesus’ prayer to the other disciples after the crucifixion. 

Jesus had prayed: “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John17:18) Perhaps this part of Jesus’ prayer had disturbed Jesus’ disciples – because it should have disturbed them very deeply indeed as they heard Jesus pray. It may well have been that some of Jesus’ disciples were even more disturbed on the mountain top as the risen Jesus had spoken his words to them there. This was a radical departure from the old covenant ways of Israel and the nations. The true Israel of YHWH no longer said to the nations, “Come here to the people Israel and know YHWH”. The true Israel of YHWH heard Jesus say to them, “Go to the nations and there make YHWH known.” On that mountain top, Jesus said that to his own Jewish disciples who had followed him faithfully during the time that he was with them. Today, Israel still has a central role in history, just as they always have had. But that role in the world has radically changed – at least for the time being. Israel no longer draws people to YHWH by drawing them to herself. There has been a cataclysmic shift of role. The unintended result of that shift is that Israel today is indeed still a magnet to the nations, but not in the way that YHWH had originally intended.

INSTEAD, IN THE WORLD’S EYES, ISRAEL HAS BECOME A LAND; RATHER THAN ISRAEL BEING A PEOPLE.

Israel is now a tourist attraction, instead of being the living revelation of Messiah. Israel is all about the Holy Land nowadays, not about the holy people as it should be. YHWH the God of Israel has been overshadowed by the land, instead of YHWH being revealed in his people. The travel agent Christians happily say, “Come and walk where Jesus walked! Come see the sights. Come see the garden and imagine Jesus as he sweated drops like blood. Come see the place where Jesus went to the toilet.” But that is not the way it was ever meant to be. No! No! No! A thousand times ‘No!’ It was really meant to be: Come and meet Jesus through his people. Come hand yourself over to him. Come see people as Jesus sees people. Come pay the cost of being one with Jesus. Come and be one with his people.”

Today, more than ever, Jews need to listen carefully to YHWH, and that means that they need to listen to Jesus who is their Christ. Only Jews who draw near to Jesus and learn from him would hear him say to them, “Go.” The people of Israel who do not recognize and who do not know Jesus as Messiah will not hear his call to them; they will be unable to receive his words that radically changed their role in history. The magnet that was Israel has had its poles reversed! Instead of drawing people to themselves as the nation of YHWH, they were themselves to go to the nations there to be his witnesses. However, if Israel (the people) does not listen to Jesus, it is in real danger of being merely a very dangerous tourist attraction that lives only in the past. Today for Gentiles, evangelism is almost talked of as it were a duty, a must-do whether you like it or not. Such talk once again puts the focus on the individual as a target rather than on the community as a family of disciples growing together. Such a narrow focus seems almost inevitable when Evangelicalism has no united front, when it has no wholeness, and when it is better known for disintegration than it is for integration.

BIBLICISM

According to the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith, Evangelicals believe in ‘the divine inspiration of the Holy Scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.’ This declaration has me shaking my head in utter disbelief. Is Scripture really the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct? Absolutely no chance! That statement is utter nonsense on every level. Jesus himself has all authority in heaven and on earth, and Jesus himself is the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Accept no substitute! I say again that Jesus himself and no other is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Yet this declaration by the Evangelical Alliance is one of the central planks on which Evangelicalism rests, at least according to the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith.

One must ask serious questions of such a proclamation. One must also ask serious questions about why such a ridiculous statement has gone unchallenged through the decades. How could Scripture ever fulfil the role as the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct? Does Scripture speak into situations from out of nothing to make its decisions known? Does a disembodied hand write Scripture’s judgement on the wall by quoting an appropriate verse or two? Can a Bible placed on a table in our midst suddenly become animated and speak completely independently and without prejudice to us? The answer is, of course, a firm ‘no’. In all our thinking honesty, do we really believe that Scripture is the supreme authority for all matters relating to faith and practice? The answer is, of course, a firm ‘no’.

Evangelical Christians need to repent of the utterly ridiculous idea that the Bible can somehow speak independently into human lives and, in doing so, can be free from human prejudice as it speaks. Furthermore, and I will not dwell on it here, the entire trustworthiness of the Scriptures depends entirely upon the entire trustworthiness of those who are interpreting and then applying the Scriptures. We need to stop claiming things for the Bible that the Bible never claimed for itself. We need to stop claiming things for the Scriptures that Jesus never claimed for the Scriptures. None of us will be holding a Bible when we stand before Jesus after we leave this life. Not one of us will ascend to heaven with a Bible in our back pocket. 

The Holy Spirit does not conform to Scripture in what he says and does, for the Holy Spirit is YHWH but Scripture is not YHWH. Jesus does not have to check with the NIV before he intercedes for us, for Jesus is YHWH but Scripture is not YHWH. Jesus does not have to look over Pauls’ writings before he moves on planet Earth. Jesus himself is the supreme authority in all matters related to our faith and practice – and none other. Precious though the Scriptures are, they need to be put in their proper place. I will not dwell on this, but we must also realise that there is no such thing as a standard Bible (with the same canon and the same translation) across the many denominations, countries and cultures. Of course, there isn’t. Is ‘our’ favourite Bible ‘right’ and all of the rest of the Bibles ‘wrong’? The Bible that we may cling to is but one of many different varieties and versions of the Bible that exist across Christendom; so which Bible is ‘right’? If the Bible truly is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct, then the Bible is YHWH, and the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Scripture. No! No! NO! A thousand times no!

If Scripture is YHWH, then this belief turns us into what Jack Deere calls ‘Bible deists’. For, as Deere rightly declares, ‘although the Bible deist loudly proclaims the sufficiency of Scripture, in reality he is proclaiming the sufficiency of his own interpretation of the Scripture.’ Absolutely. This once again highlights the serious weakness of Evangelicalism in that it focuses on the individual rather than on the faith community of disciples who are learning and growing together. Such an individualistic focus inevitably creates an atmosphere of one individual’s belief versus another individual’s belief, instead of Jesus’ disciples growing together in a community of faith, hope and love. Furthermore, Bible deists often contend that the Bible is the only way that YHWH speaks into our world today. Will we really try to limit YHWH in that way? If, as Deere suggests that for, ‘Bible deists the sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible is the only way that God speaks to us today,’ then whose interpretation of the Bible is the sole authority for life? I will not dwell on this at length either but, if the Bible is the only way that YHWH speaks into our world today, then our God is way too small. Since there is manifestly no such thing as a single Evangelical interpretation of Scripture, but rather Evangelicalism contains many Scriptural interpretations within its ranks, how is Evangelicalism ever going to present a united front; how can Evangelicalism ever make any meaningful claims of unity?

CRUICENTRISM

According to the Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith, ‘The substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate Son of God as the sole all sufficient ground of redemption from the guilt and power of sin and from its eternal consequences’, and this means that the Cross is at the very centre of Evangelicalism. It is also, by definition, at the centre of Evangelical evangelism. The cross is at the heart of Evangelicalism and the cross is also at the heart of evangelistic preaching, and rightly so. The self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is what made it possible for human beings to be renewed into an intimate relationship with YHWH. The cross is, therefore, at the very centre of our faith; but what does that actually mean?

An exclusive focus on the cross can produce some strange theological conclusions, and it is important to always remember that Jesus didn’t stop at dying on the cross, but that he went on to rise from the dead and then to ascend to his Father in heaven. The focus on the cross alone has produced some strange theological planks upon which we are invited to walk, but what is at the end of the plank? For example, according to John Sanders, ‘apart from human preaching there is no salvation.’ This makes me feel very sorry for deaf people who will never hear any preaching, and also makes me cautious about many people in the Far East who are becoming Christians with no human agency involved at all. Or at least it would make me cautious if I agreed with Sanders. I don’t agree with him, and I find his assertion to be absolute nonsense. Preaching is not sovereign – Jesus is. YHWH is never at the mercy of human beings and he can act sovereignly exactly as he chooses, and the sooner we learn that, the better it will be for us. On its own, the cross is not good news. On its own, the cross apparently preaches sin and condemnation. Is that what Evangelicalism is about? The resurrection and ascension of Jesus are what turn the cross into a symbol of victory. Preaching Christ crucified is fine and appropriate, but we also need to live Christ resurrected and ascended.

ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE

If the history of Evangelicalism teaches us anything, it teaches us that what some may mean by that word today is not what was meant by the word in previous generations. The history of Evangelicalism teaches us that Evangelicalism is not a monolithic structure of unity and harmony. Evangelicalism certainly has immense diversity, but this can be both a critical weakness and a real strength. One very important statement made by Bebbington can be passed by all too easily: ‘The diversity of the Evangelical movement created tensions.’ Indeed, it certainly did, and indeed it certainly still does, and some would say that what really characterises Evangelicalism is not diversity, but fragmentation. Furthermore, it is difficult to see what is going to prevent Evangelicalism from fragmenting even further. That fragmentation is never more evident when disputes about theology and doctrine crack the thin veneer of unity among Evangelicals; for then, suddenly, as David Watson once observed: ‘We have exchanged our knowledge of God for heady disputes about theological words.’ Of course, we don’t call them disputes, rather we claim that we are simply defending the faith. But are we? Or are we really only trying to defend our vague understanding of Evangelicalism? Are we only protecting our idea of the truth and shooting at anything that seems to challenge or to threaten our favoured theological position? Does Jesus really need us to defend him?

Peter Cook believed that the pietistic Evangelicalism of the post Second World War period had the highest motives, for, ‘All it wanted to do was to hold Christians together safe from the world, and, especially in the Church of England, safe from “Rome”.’ High motives? Perhaps; but is Evangelicalism really only about defending ourselves from the Roman Catholic Church? Is that really all Evangelicalism is about? If Evangelicalism is only, or primarily, about being against something, then I would question its right to exist, and I would further ask why it should be listened to at all. Alistair Ross has been on the receiving end of many bitter personal attacks on him as an Evangelical because he dared to think differently, and he stated that, ‘A danger that the Evangelical Church needs to face it is schizoid approach to life, in which right theology is more important than right practice.’ The trouble is that Evangelicals cannot agree about what right theology actually is, so perhaps that is why they hardly ever agree on what constitutes right practice. ‘Right’ in this context seems to mean whatever the individual wants it to mean. 

Cook observed that, in 1966, there was ‘A split in the Reformed Evangelical movement between the pure church party led by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones into the British Evangelical Council (which many felt went into a cul-de-sac) and those who believed in ecclesiastical involvement.’ The British Evangelical Council failed to rally together extra-denominationally all Evangelicals into a powerful movement to capture the British scene, as Dr Lloyd-Jones had hoped it would. As a consequence, noted Cook: ‘Evangelicals were more divided than ever.’ 

Divided Evangelicals might be, but there is no shortage of activity in Evangelical circles. Is it true, as Tozer has said, that most of the present Evangelical activity ‘is little more than weak humanism allied with weak Christianity to give it ecclesiastical respectability?’ Ouch. Does Evangelicalism parade some sort of symbolic unity while, all along, it has slipped into the error of believing that religious activity equals spiritual life equals spiritual unity? I must agree with Tozer that ‘Evangelical Christianity is on a dead-end street if it is going to continue to accept religious activity as a legitimate proof of spirituality.’ A dead-end street is precisely the course I believe Evangelicalism is indeed on, for, as Cymbala noted: ‘Too much of our religious life is made up of programs and human ideas, talents and strategies. We need something with the mark of heaven upon it.’ Amen to that.

Yet, consider this: What happens if the mark of heaven is clearly seen on something that is not regarded as being at all Evangelical? Worse, what happens if the mark of heaven is seen upon something that most Evangelicals would regard as ‘wrong’? Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that it was time Evangelicals faced up to the issues raised by the biblical doctrine of the church for, too often, it seemed to him, they appeared ‘more concerned to maintain the integrity of their denominations than anyone else’. I believe that this very truth has led to Evangelicalism generally being very widespread but, at the same time, very shallow. As Lloyd-Jones said, ‘the main trouble in the church today – and I am speaking of evangelical churches in particular at this point – is the appalling superficiality.’ There is simply no virtue in being united in shallowness, even if that unity was achieved. 

THE EVANGELISM OF EVANGELICALISM

Post Second World War Evangelicalism promoted an aggressive style of evangelism in which the street evangelist called people to ‘turn or burn’, the soap box on the street corner was occupied by a sin-focused preacher, and it was the age of the big evangelistic crusade that called sinners to ‘make a decision for Jesus’. We will now look at the concept of the big evangelistic crusade as it was spearheaded by Billy Graham and his organisation. In 1954, Billy Graham conducted a series of crusades in Harringay, London, which were heralded as being wonderful successes that made a lasting impact on many people’s lives. According to Murray, the London crusades ‘had done much to encourage Evangelicals across the nation’ and the Bishop of Barking spoke of ‘the glorious possibilities these coming years hold for us’. The London crusades had apparently done much to encourage Evangelicals. Is encouraging Evangelicals really what the crusades were all about? Reflecting on Harringay, Reverend E.H. Robertson declared that Billy Graham had ‘permanently influenced the preaching of many thousands of our preachers, and he has offered the Churches a new opportunity for evangelism’. Indeed, after Harringay, Billy Graham himself spoke of his ‘belief that Britain is on the verge of the greatest spiritual awakening in her history’. 

When the evangelist responded positively to the invitation of ‘Tell Scotland’ to lead the ‘All Scotland Crusade’ of 1955, it appeared, according to Bisset, that ‘the advance of the Kirk was unstoppable’. On to Scotland, then, on that wave of success and optimism after Harringay. According to William Fitch, ‘the All-Scotland Crusade, 1955, was born in the floodtide of the blessing of Harringay’ and Reverend Tom Allan said that ‘planning for the All-Scotland Crusade benefited greatly from the Harringay experience’. After the apparent joy of Harringay, churches and Christians across Scotland came together in an apparent show of unity to support the Billy Graham crusades in Glasgow. These crusades would not only be seen by those who attended the Kelvin Hall each night, but also by many thousands who watched by television relay in halls and church buildings across the nation, and even into England. 

There were, however, beneath the show of apparent unity for the crusades, some serious rumblings of discontent that gave real cause for alarm before the crusades even began. Furthermore, one could be forgiven for thinking that the primary stated policy of the Billy Graham Organization was to preach Christ, or to make Christ known, or something along those lines. In fact, it was nothing of the sort. As Murray noted, the primary stated policy of the Billy Graham organization was to ‘attain prestige and influence for Evangelicals’. Yes, really. Therefore, one might understandably think that the aim of the crusades was actually to promote Evangelicalism among Christians, and that the ‘saving of souls’ was but a secondary aim – if it was an aim at all. Now, in order to ‘attain prestige and influence for evangelicals’ there had to be a successful image for the Billy Graham crusades that was free from division among ecumenically oriented churches, and Murray noted that Graham exacted their endorsement as the price of city-wide meetings. The Glasgow crusades would hopefully be seen to bring Evangelicals together in a glorious show of unity.

However, it did not work out quite like that, as Pollock noted: The unity, however, was not as deep as it looked. It included those who strongly supported Graham but had no interest in Tell Scotland; those in favour both of a Graham crusade and of Tell Scotland; and those who would not have supported Graham, but, being committed to Tell Scotland, were loyally behind a crusade of which they did not fully approve. Deeper still lay a fundamental cleavage on the meaning of the Cross and the nature of the Gospel. The long-term effect of the crusade would depend upon these hidden tensions being resolved. There were also those who were unhappy at the ‘decision for Jesus’ style of evangelism that was used by Billy Graham. Lloyd-Jones believed that the basis of claim for Harringay’s success on the numbers going forward to ‘receive Christ’ was an entirely unscriptural assessment. Murray observed that the virtual identification of saving faith with the decision to walk forward was bound, in many cases, to ‘confuse individuals as to their real spiritual condition’. A number of significant people were particularly critical of the perceived total lack of follow-up of those people who had ‘made a decision for Christ’. There seemed to be an atmosphere of ‘job done’ and ‘box ticked’ when people went forward at the crusades, and there also appeared to be virtually no interest at all in following up by the participating churches. Those who had ‘made a decision for Jesus’ were largely left to fend for themselves instead of being taken into Christian communities for discipleship. John Matthews highlighted this danger when he wrote, ‘People are content simply to believe, whereas the developing, nourishing and sustaining of Christian faith and practice is impossible apart from the life of a believing community’. Therefore, many saw the ‘decision for Christ’ as a false indicator of spiritual birth, and were perhaps understandably shocked that real and lasting discipleship was nowhere to be seen.

According to the Baptist Union of Scotland, ‘The aim of conversion is to make disciples, so discipleship and conversion must not be contrasted with each other or separated.’ There were those who were unhappy at exactly this separation in the Billy Graham crusades, since the evangelist left follow-up in the hands of local churches who were themselves very far from united behind the crusades, and who were also totally ineffective in any kind of meaningful follow-up. What also concerned Lloyd-Jones about the London crusades was the frequently trumpeted triumphant cry that there was no emotion in those who responded to the appeals and who had ‘made a decision for Christ’. ‘Can a man’, Lloyd-Jones asked, ‘see himself as a damned sinner without emotion? Can a man look into hell without emotion? Or conversely, can a man really contemplate the love of God in Christ Jesus and feel no emotion?’ For Catherwood, evangelism had become ‘too obsessed with results, and decisionism was no substitute for the proclamation of the truth in all its fullness.’ In truth, then, the foundation of unity for the Glasgow crusades was not even skin deep.

Nevertheless, on Monday 11th April 1955, as the Glasgow crusade opened in the Kelvin Hall, thousands of people were gathered in halls and churches all over Scotland to watch the meetings on television; they were a vast and unseen audience all over the land. Furthermore, with a television audience second only to the Coronation, Pollock noted that ‘it was unquestionably the vastest [sic] audience addressed by a preacher in Britain’. Some people today still personally remember the crusades, and so does some of the media. 

A few years ago, the then ‘Glasgow’ Herald looked back on the ‘success’ of the Glasgow crusades that took Scotland to what they called ‘fever pitch’. Over the six weeks of the crusades the paper reported on, the crusades reached more than 2.5 million people and prompted 50,000 Scots to come forward to ‘make a stand for Christ’. The excitement was contagious. Tom Allan said ‘First, and before everything else, many thousands of people were won for Christ and many thousands more were led, through the Crusade, to new levels of consecration and commitment to the Lord of Life.’ For Pollock, the crusades ‘influenced clergy more than social leaders, and influenced them profoundly’; so that, as Graham himself noted, ‘probably the most lasting results will be in the lives of hundreds of ministers.’ Evangelicalism on a triumphant march?

But the enthusiasm for the results was rightly tempered with great caution. Tom Allan again: ‘It would be impossible to over-estimate the importance of these particular Crusade meetings, although they present some difficult problems from the evangelistic point of view.’ How would people reflect on the impact of the crusades in Scotland? Was Billy Graham’s visit to Scotland in 1955 a success? Not if Ronald C. Paul’s biography of Billy Graham was anything to go by. He devoted two chapters totalling nineteen pages to the Harringay London crusades, but then dismissed the Glasgow crusades with just one short sentence: ‘A Scotland Crusade followed, with a return to Britain in 1955’. One of the saddest reflections that John Pollock made on those Glasgow crusades was summed up by him in one similarly short sentence: ‘Unity did not outlast the crusade.’ Unity has not existed since the crusades, either.

As always with any evangelistic crusades, follow-up was one of the areas that caused people the greatest concern – and rightly so. Pollock observed that ‘once again the churches were not truly ready for their opportunities, and many converts did not grow to maturity.’ In considering the after-effects of the Billy Graham Crusade in Glasgow, Tom Allan asked very pointed, and very important, questions: How far is the Church as we know it able to receive and nurture and train those who have been won? How far is the present pattern of life within the Churches geared to the fruits of evangelism? How far can those so lately won out of the world find themselves at home in the Church? The obvious disunity among the supporting churches and the lack of follow-up discipleship were constantly recurring themes. Billy Graham and crusade evangelism got the blame, but not from everyone. Indeed, for some, crusade evangelism got the blame which rightly belonged to churches who had failed to welcome and nurture their potential new members. Colin Holmes observed that, ‘When the hard work begins at the close of a mission, churches are rarely prepared or willing to do effective follow-up work.’

So, the hope of Graham, of Allan, and of many others that the crusades would ‘set in motion a progressing evangelism through local congregations’ was not fulfilled, according to Pollock. In truth, some people, such as John Wimber, did not hold out much hope for the crusade style of evangelism: ‘By its very nature and assumptions, programmatic evangelism tends to have as its goal decisions for Christ, not disciples.’ According to Wimber, this type of evangelism was fatally flawed because ‘many people who make these decisions do not encounter God’s power, and thus frequently do not move on to a mature faith’. Is crusade evangelism little more than a museum piece today? It is hard not to get the impression from many churches that evangelism has been set aside as the work of but the few ‘experts’ and that only a few ‘experts’ are set aside for evangelism. Perhaps, then, as Holmes observed, this kind of crusade evangelism ‘allows the church to escape its responsibility to pass on the message.’

But I must ask, is true evangelism really only about passing on the message? ‘Perhaps,’ Olyott says, ‘we have thought of evangelism as a thing which exists with its own identity and character, which is somehow connected to the life of the church’ rather than being an integral part of church. One impact of the Billy Graham crusades was to show that they did not reach anywhere near as many unchurched people as had been thought. Of the enquirers who came forward at the Crusades, 62% described themselves as ‘regular church attenders’. Tom Allan commented on the lack of the unchurched coming forward by proclaiming that ‘there is no possibility of effective evangelism until something is done to destroy the barriers of indifference which separate the Church from the people whom it is here to serve’. Since Allan wrote those words, those barriers of indifference have grown larger and stronger than the church itself, and the church has declined accordingly. Despite the availability of various analyses of results, there is no evidence whatsoever to show that any of the evangelistic crusades of the 20th century served significantly to reverse this decline. This, says Cotterell, suggests that ‘the problem of the declining church has more profound origins than in any paucity of evangelistic missions.’

Yet, the Glasgow crusades did touch many people and it did affect some people’s lives in a positive way. I have personally spoken to a number of people who attended the Kelvin Hall Crusades in 1955, and most of them remember it fondly. But perhaps one of the biggest impacts is seen not in those who responded at the crusades, but in how churches and Christians have responded since. For example, Colin Holmes wrote, “After spending nearly eight years in ‘normal’ evangelism, I have come to question the real long-term value of short (crusade evangelism) campaigns.” John Allan has written that ‘methods of evangelism which do not lead into a New Testament commitment to teach, guide and shepherd the new Christian will never result in very much.’ The Glasgow crusades of 1955 seemed to have caused (or assisted) a degree of polarisation about the methods involved in the crusades themselves, but so much of the focus appears to be on Billy Graham himself and the crusades and so little on the churches that were also involved. Perhaps the most negative impact Billy Graham’s crusades had was to make the churches believe that evangelism was the sole responsibility of the para-church organisations who were ‘specialists’ in this field. I am sure that Graham himself, having served his Lord in the way that he believed was God-led, would be heartbroken if he thought that he had caused the belief that evangelism was the exclusive responsibility of the para-church organisations who were ‘specialists’ in this field.

WHAT NEXT FOR EVANGELICALISM?

The 2001 Evangelical Alliance Assembly in Cardiff was an opportunity for Evangelicals to come together and to find a positive direction for the future of Evangelicalism. Indeed, Joel Edwards, the then General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said that Evangelicals who seek to ‘win public arguments rather than people’s hearts … will not be heard,’ and that seemed to speak against the aggressive defending of faith and doctrine that was so often the hallmark of Evangelicalism. Was Edwards’ proclamation the reason why only 2,000 people attended the conference where 3,000 had been hoped for, causing the conference to make a financial loss; or was plain apathy about Evangelicalism itself and a disbelief in Evangelicalism the real reasons? Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden, noted that ‘there wasn’t anything at the conference that was not covered by events like Spring Harvest, Easter People or New Wine.’ He concluded that the Evangelical Alliance ‘needs to ask itself what it is in existence for.’ That is a very good question.

It seems to me that Evangelicalism is rather like a bag of boiled sweets. There is an apparent togetherness because they are all in the same bag, but it is only a paper bag of unity. This paper-thin unity holds a variety of flavours that are united only because they happen to be in the same place. There is a vast variety of flavours, so that, as Gibson notes, ‘the ecclesiastical supermarket offers a bewildering complexity of options.’ However, the paper-thin unity is terribly fragile and the flavours are lost upon the ground when the bag breaks and leaks. Who wants a dirty sweet? Furthermore, as Bebbington noted, the flavour of those sweets has changed (deteriorated?) over the years, for ‘Evangelical religion in Britain has changed immensely during the two and a half centuries of its existence.’ The sweet that was popular fifty or a hundred years (or more) ago is not the same sweet that is around today. As Bebbington has rightly said, ‘Nothing could be further from the truth than the common image of Evangelicalism being ever the same.’

While Protestants often like to consider their Evangelicalism as fundamental, such an association is fictional, rather than real, according to Bebbington: ‘Because Evangelicalism has changed so much over time, any attempt to equate it with “Fundamentalism” is doomed to failure.’ I would therefore contend that Evangelicalism is not real life, and that it has – at best – a very weak link to real life. As the Reverend Peter Barber once wrote: ‘I too was brought up in a pious Evangelicalism which seemed detached from real life … the fellowship I attended was remote from the real issues of the society around it.’ I further contend that Evangelicalism is actually little more than a preservation society. Or, I should say more accurately, Evangelicalism is a self-preservation society. An ineffective self-preservation society, according to Frost: The members of the preservation society prefer the kingdom of God to be housed in a museum; the church embalmed in lifeless institutionalism; the people of God stored safely as dried bones. Sadly, while they are labouring to preserve the life of the church, they actually hasten its death. The self-preservation society is, itself, now crumbling away to dust, and it will continue to do so. The self-preservation society of Evangelicalism claims that it is guarding the truth and protecting the purity of the gospel, but where is the openness to receive and consider what other evangelicals are saying?

Clark Pinnock has stated that: The truth claims that we make are all open to discussion and we ought to be teachable and ready to learn because none of our work rises to the level of timeless truth. Yet anything that Pinnock said or wrote was treated and judged as if he were trying to make it timeless truth and not just words for discussion, and both he and his words have been viciously attacked. Evangelical ‘unity’ did not outlast the publication of books about Open Theology by Pinnock and others, for some Evangelicals were denouncing as heretics the very Evangelicals who were writing these things that they did not agree with. This so-called ‘defending of the faith’ destroys the myth of Evangelicalism united. As Pinnock himself confessed: I am not particularly concerned about my reputation as an Evangelical theologian, having advanced new proposals in the past and taken the heat of criticism before, though not to the extent of being called a heretic. Furthermore, other Evangelical writers can identify with the experience of Alistair Ross who said that he ‘has been on the receiving end of a scarcely veiled judgementalism which seeks to measure Evangelical purity’, and that he had ‘encountered the narrowness of mind by which some define spirituality in the blinkered terms of the Evangelical world.’ Will Evangelicalism never learn that a house divided against itself cannot stand? And will Evangelicalism never learn that in-fighting among its own members is leaving unchallenged the true enemy of our souls? This infighting highlights the fact that, for far too many people, Evangelicalism is about the belief of theology and the theology of belief, and not about knowing YHWH intimately. It is only about proving why they are right and why everyone else is wrong.

WOMEN

All too often, Evangelicalism is not about YHWH at all, but only about man – and I really do mean ‘man’. For Murray, ‘A recurrent feature in the history of the church has been the significant role played by women in first generation church planting movements, and their marginalization in subsequent generations.’ Why do so many Evangelicals deny women both their place and their function in the body of Christ? ‘Women can and should expect to play varying roles within Christian leadership,’ said Beasley-Murray, making himself friends and enemies simultaneously. Is there any unity among Evangelicals about the role of women? No, and neither is this a new issue. ‘I would like to discuss the place of women and the degradation of women in our day,’ said Tozer many decades ago, ‘but I may as well shut up. There is just no use.’ He was not the first to feel that way.

VARIOUS FLAVOURS

‘It is important to note that our God is bigger than just our favourite type of Christianity,’ said Goldsmith. What Goldsmith said of the church is equally true of Evangelicalism. As a collection of everyone’s favourites, Evangelicalism is an organisation (of sorts) and Thwaites observed that: The challenge is that we have taken the organisational dimension of life and placed it over us. The outcome is that most leaders and saints now live to serve it. Evangelicalism is neither a good servant nor a good master. Ouch. Any thought that a particular move of YHWH might bring Evangelicals together or promote Evangelical unity has nothing in history to support it. 

For example, the arrival of the Charismatic Movement from 1963 onwards drew ‘many recruits from Evangelicalism’ as Bebbington noted, but it also opened a gulf between Pentecostalists and the Charismatics. This was because many Pentecostalists were suspicious that the new movement emphasised testimonies at the expense of Bible teaching. Surely Evangelicalism should welcome any move of YHWH? Are people not people the world over? Is it not possible for people to be in the kingdom of YHWH unless they are also embracing Evangelicalism? 

The House Church movement did not promote unity among Evangelicals, and Professor Hollenweger asserted that ‘the House Church movement is the result of a failed attempt at reviving the existing churches and thus will become – not immediately, but in time – another denomination’. Is Evangelicalism in reality just another large and fatally fragmented denomination that will stand against all the other denominations? As the Professor has observed, ‘conformity of theology does not create unity! (What an important insight for our ecumenical committees!)’ And Evangelicalism certainly does not have conformity of theology!

Many Evangelicals pray for ‘revival’, many Evangelicals talk about ‘revival’, many Evangelicals long for ‘revival’; so surely ‘revival’ would unite the Evangelicals? Yet the simple fact is that ‘revivals’ (whatever they may be) were all too often accompanied by marked disunity among Evangelicals. Duncan Campbell was opposed during the Lewis ‘revival’ of 1949 to such an extent that that the ‘revival’ appeared to cease for a while. It has often been said that disunity among churches was the apparent reason for the ending of some ‘revivals’. 

Wright has said that Scottish Evangelicals have ‘a tendency to speak out only when there is something to protest against, and normally when this is a matter of “sin” rather than of the unjust ordering of society.’ This is a very negative image for Scottish Evangelicals, but it has a great deal of truth in it. Evangelicalism will find itself spending most of its time trying to patch up its own wounds and prevent further self-fragmentation when it should be known for something positive in society.

NEW EVANGELICALISM

What of the so-called ‘New Evangelicalism’ as proposed by Cook? In beginning a discussion on this subject, David Cloud immediately launched into a defence of the ‘pure faith’ by saying, “I am convinced that few errors are as destructive to Fundamental, Bible-believing churches as New Evangelicalism.” Unfortunately, Cloud had not even attempted to define New Evangelicalism, but had instead already made his entrenched position very clear. He did so even further when he declared that ‘few false philosophies more directly pull at members of Fundamental Baptist churches than New Evangelicalism.’ Is this an openness to consider the views of others? Is this really what Evangelicalism is about? And what, then, is New Evangelicalism? According to Ockenga: It differed from Fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life. Those vehemently opposed to New Evangelicalism cited what they saw as the compromise of people like Billy Graham and others who entered into discussion of an ecumenical nature and countenanced Christians remaining within ‘denominations that were in error’, when they should have separated to the ‘pure’ church. In truth, the in-fighting really beggars belief. Consider the following statements by David Cloud as found on the Internet, and I must quote him in full:

“The Evangelical world has ignored the concerns of those who have lifted a voice of warning. New Evangelical thought has been adopted by such well-known Christian leaders as Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold Lindsell, John R.W. Stott, Luis Palau, E.V. Hill, Leighton Ford, Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels, Warren Wiersbe, Chuck Colson, Donald McGavran, Tony Campolo, Arthur Glasser, D. James Kennedy, David Hocking, Charles Swindoll, and a multitude of other men [sic]. Through publications such as Christianity Today and Moody Monthly, and through publishing houses such as InterVarsity Press, Zondervan, Tyndale House Publishers, Moody Press, and Thomas Nelson–to name but a few–New Evangelical thinking was broadcast across the world. In addition to the powerful influence of the printed page, compromised New Evangelical teaching was promoted by institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, BIOLA, the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelism (LCWE), the National Association of Evangelicals, the World Evangelical Fellowship, National Religious Broadcasters, Radio Bible Class, Youth for Christ, Back to the Bible, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, World Vision, Operation Mobilization, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. There have also been countless conferences which have been organized with the main purpose of promoting New Evangelical thought. Two of the largest and most influential were Amsterdam ’83 and Amsterdam ’86 which were sponsored by Billy Graham Ministries and were attended by thousands of preachers from across the world. Because of the tremendous influence of these men and organizations, New Evangelical thought has swept the world. Today it is no exaggeration to say that almost without exception those who call themselves Evangelicals are New Evangelicals; the terms have become synonymous. Old-line Evangelicals, except for rare exceptions, have either aligned with the Fundamental movement or have adopted New Evangelicalism. Beware of New Evangelicalism. To join hands with New Evangelicalism is to join hands with apostasy and is to turn one’s back on biblical Christianity.”

Evangelical unity? Hardly. I therefore contend that the future of Christianity in Scotland does not lie in Evangelicalism, whatever flavour you may choose or defend. Where, then, does the future of Christianity in Scotland lie?

TELL ME THE OLD, OLD STORY

Catherwood said that, ‘whether we realise it or not, where we are now is a result of a long and often complex historical process.’ But actually, we are not the result of that process, we are ourselves an ongoing part of that process. As a (temporary and automatic) member of the Evangelical Alliance while I was at the Scottish Baptist College from 1999 to 2003, I was a part of that process; yet it is certainly not to the Evangelical Alliance that I look for the future of Christianity. 

In the beginning, the Spirit of YHWH brooded. The Word spoke, and the Spirit created, the Father directed. YHWH saw what he had made and he saw that it was good. Before there were committees, before there was the Evangelical Alliance, before there was any Scripture; YHWH took responsibility. YHWH still does take responsibility.  The future of Christianity is in Christ’s hands. We are in Christ’s hands. Jesus saw what the Father did and he did the same; he heard what the Father said and he said the same. That is where the future of Christianity in Scotland lies.

So what is the Father saying and doing in our land today? And what can we learn of the history in Christianity in Scotland over the last century that can help us prepare for the future? We could surely learn something from the Alpha course that has crossed the boundaries of culture, country, language and Evangelicalism. As the ‘Church Without Walls’ report noted, ‘The success of courses like Alpha lies in the social focus of food and friendship as the context for discovering faith.’ Isn’t that what Evangelicalism is supposed to be about? As the Church of Scotland’s report says so eloquently: ‘the theme of friendship could be developed further. It may be the key to many locked doors.’ Furthermore, the report honestly admits that ‘it has usually been a frustration that our church environment does little to encourage relationships – with God or with each other.’ Yet, isn’t that what church is supposed to be about? Actually, that is what church is about.

The years ahead will see YHWH at work in our land in ways that we have not imagined; labels such as Evangelical will fall off, preconceived ideas will be abandoned, and Evangelicalism will become the spiritual equivalent of Jurassic Park. The future lies firmly in the hands of those who dare to believe YHWH and the Christ of YHWH, and who will not be constrained by human labels or dogmatic theologies. The future’s bright; the future’s Christ’s.

Oh, and lest I forget my opening question. Am I Evangelical?  No! No! No! No, I am Christ-centered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

John Allan, ‘The Local Church and Evangelism’, The Harvester, Vol LIX No 1, January 1979, pages 16-20

Editor: Tom Allan, Crusade In Scotland, (London, Pickering & Inglis, 1955)

Baptist Union of Scotland, Heart, Mind and Mission, (Glasgow, Baptist Union of Scotland, 2001)

Paul Beasley-Murray, Dynamic Leadership, (Eastbourne, MARC, 1990)

Editor: D.W. Bebbington, The Baptists in Scotland, (Glasgow, The Baptist Union of Scotland, 1988)

D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism In Modern Britain, (London, Unwin Hyman, 1989)

Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, (Edinburgh, 1954)

Simon Carpenter, ‘Just Another Denomination?’, Today, September 1985, pages 6-8

Christopher Catherwood, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1995)

David W Cloud, ‘Fundamentalism, Modernism, and New-Evangelicalism’, on the Internet at: http://logosresourcepages.org

Charles T. Cook, London Hears Billy Graham, (Edinburgh, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1954)

Peter Cook, ‘Evangelical Attitudes Since the War’, Scottish Tyndale Bulletin, 1979, pages 1-4

Peter Cotterell, ‘But What Is Evangelism?’, The Expository Times, Vol 102 No 9, June 1991, pages 259-262

Editor: F.L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, (London, Oxford University Press, 1963

Jim Cymbala, Fresh Power, (Grand Rapids, ZondervanPublishingHouse, 2001)

Jack Deere, Surprised By The Voice Of God, (Eastbourne, Kingsway Publications, 1996)

Evangelical Alliance, Mission Statement and Basis of Faith, on the Internet at: http://www.eauk.org/homepage.html

Editors: Sinclair B. Ferguson & David F. Wright, New Dictionary of Theology, (Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1988)

Richard Foster, A Celebration of Discipline, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1980)

Rob Frost, Which Way For The Church?, (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1997)

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Report of the Special Commission anent Review and Reform, ‘A Church without Walls’, available on the Internet from: www.churchwithoutwalls.org.uk

Editor: Eddie Gibbs, Ten Growing Churches, (London, MARC, 1984)

Editor: Alan F. Gibson, The Church and Its Unity, (Leicester, IVP, 1992)

Martin Goldsmith, What In The World Is God Doing?, (Eastbourne, MARC, 1991)

Professor Walter J. Hollenweger, ‘The House Church Movement In Great Britain’, The Expository Times, Vol 92 No 2, November 1980, pages 45-47

Colin Holmes, ‘Evangelism Explosion’, The Harvester, Vol LVII No 5, May 1978, pages 148 and 149

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching And Preachers, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1998)

John Kent, ‘Evangelicals and Evangelicalism’, The Expository Times, Vol 101 No 1, October 1989, pages 24 and 25

John Matthews, ‘Facing Fragmenting Cultures’, The Baptist Minister’s Journal, April 2001, pages 6-8

Iain H. Murray, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Fight Of Faith, (Edinburgh, Banner Of Truth Trust, 1990)

Stuart Murray, Church Planting, (Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1998)

Stuart Olyott, ‘What is Evangelism?’, The Banner of Truth, No 70-71, July-August 1969, pages 1-4

Ronald C Paul, Billy Graham – Prophet of Hope, (New York, Ballantyne Books, 1978)

Andy Peck, ‘Reasons for Hope?’ Christianity & Renewal, January 2002, page 4

Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, (Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 2001)

John Pollock, Billy Graham, London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1966

Alistair Ross, Evangelicals In Exile, (London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997)

John Sanders, No Other Name, (London, SPCK, 1994)

‘Square Pegs Round Holes’, Today, March 1984, pages 23-27

‘Taking Scotland To Fever Pitch’, The Glasgow Herald, Vol 220 No 36, page 27

James Thwaites, The Church Beyond The Congregation, (Carlisle, Paternoster Press, 1999)

A.W. Tozer, A Treasury Of Tozer Favourites, (Bromley, STL Books, 1981)

A.W. Tozer, Faith Beyond Reason, (Bromley, STL Books, 1987)

John Wimber, Power Evangelism, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985)

David F. Wright, ‘Rediscovering A (Scottish) Evangelical Heritage’, The Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology, Vol 4 No 1, Spring 1986, pages 1-4