For the Health of the Church: NAE proposal

Missional: Other Voices

by Jeff Jeremiah

I attended the Board meeting the National Association of Evangelicals in Eden Prairie, Minnesota on October 9. One of the items presented to us was a proposed "For the Health of the Church," drafted by NAE President Leith Anderson, George Brushaber and David Neff.

The proposal spoke of the possibility of a "renaissance of the evangelical church" in the early 21st century, and addressed positive factors and serious roadblocks before American evangelicalism. While this is being written for a broader audience than the EPC, I think many of us can identify with and understand the opportunities and challenges noted.

Factors that indicate the time could be right for a "renaissance of the evangelical church" include:

  • Church planting has a new appeal and urgency for evangelicals.
  • Unprecedented financial wealth resides in the upwardly mobile evangelical church and the "generosity" emphasis of stewardship.
  • A cadre of strong young leaders of evangelical conviction is coming into places of influence.
  • New media and technologies are available to carry out evangelism and the nurture and training of Christ-followers.
  • Demographic diversity gives large opportunities among ethnic and immigrant groups and communities of color.
  • Evidence of more cooperation and partnerships between churches and para-church organizations.
  • Public and media discussion about who evangelicals are allows a re-branding that maintains both the integrity of our convictions and a more effective way to express and live out those convictions.
  • A new spirit of collaboration among many evangelicals who have wearied of the intramural attacks and sniping.

Among the serious threats and roadblocks before evangelicals:

  • Religious pluralism and multiple faiths compete with the Gospel in every neighborhood.
  • Materialism and consumerism affect evangelical Christians to the same degree as their neighbors, and most are in an acquisition and accumulation modes of pre-stewardship.
  • Resistance to change and innovation is high in many churches and many have become more culturally and generationally exclusive.
  • The cycle of rise and decline common to most organizations is tightly gripping many churches and agencies, and they find it hard to make wise decisions of resource stewardship.
  • Church growth is still not yet fully linked with effective discipleship strategies.
  • Ethnic and cultural diversity is still unresolved in many evangelical churches.
  • New forms of competition and quarrelsomeness are evident.
  • Turmoil and change in print and broadcast media are painful to many ministries, and generational differences in media usages are bewildering to leadership.

I trust we can affirm the proposal's conclusion: "We hope to give the evangelical church and those of us who love and serve within it a new vision, a new boldness, a new confidence, a new determination, a new strategic plan, a new urgency and a new dependence on our gracious and almighty Lord."