The Church vs The Kingdom vs The Culture

I have been trying to wrap my head around a new term I heard the other day called “Exvangelical.”  While it may seem like a heady term, it basically refers to those who can no longer identify as an Evangelical.  And this has hit home in a very profound way.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdbee/what-its-like-to-leave-the-evangelical-community-exvangelicals

While this article only seeks to paint the movement in very broad strokes here are some things that stood out to me:

  • “He couldn’t wrap his head around some of the biblical teachings, which seemed too much like a shortcut to being a good person. He couldn’t relate to the church’s staunch political conservatism when he knew believers who were as pious as the rest of them and voted for Democrats. More and more, the things he was taught to be absolutely true—the rapture, for instance—were turning out to be unreliable.”

While the Church is not the Kingdom and the Kingdom is not the Culture, both the Church and our understanding of the Kingdom have a culture.  And when you violate that culture you eventually get treated like you have the plague.  I can very well relate to the continuation of the above paragraph:

  • He began to visit other churches in Alamogordo in the hopes that one might come along and fill in these spiritual gaps. That curiosity was enough for the parishioners of Christ Community, many of whom he had known since birth, to stop speaking to him altogether.

The modern church is in full retreat.  No matter how many claim that the modern church is expanding the Kingdom, either through evangelism or miracles, the reality is they are slowly withdrawing into their own pockets.  And instead of learning to interact with the new norm, isolation or whispers of preparing for civil war have become their cultural norm.  The unspoken theology is that the Kingdom of God needs the Evangelical movement.  The reality is that the Kingdom of God existed long before the cultural norms of evangelicalism and will exist long after it is a footnote in history.  The problem in my humble opinion is that the church is too busy trying to defend its culture.  In the west we fail to realize that the world is coming off of a 200 year revival and we no longer know how to exist without the culture.  Consider some things that still haunt exvangelicals:

  • “Let’s go out to coffee” still makes me nervous
  • No dancing on Sunday
  • I was homeschooled with my seven siblings”

Sound familiar.  Notice what is missing:

  • John 13:35 ESV – 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The church for centuries was the only game in town, so to speak.  On Sundays a pastor could once count on so many visitors coming to visit that some would eventually stick around.  Those that were unsure of their faith would still want to be part of the church community.  Today, those that are unsure seek their own community on the internet as the internet can link them together to realize they are not alone (not necessarily a bad thing) but it means trouble for the evangelical church. Because church culture is no longer enough for someone to believe. It never was.  But it was enough to be overlooked as we had plenty of committed believers as members.  Today those that have left the church portray themselves as a safe haven for those seeking rest from the church.

I pastored a church once that could not grasp that people did not want to be like them.  A people who had a culture but did not realize that having a culture is a poor substitute for love. It is quite the norm to hear people today say “I love Jesus, but I just don’t like the church.”  I must admit, I too have pondered the following question from the article:

  • “Besides ‘exvangelical,’ is there a term for someone who still loves Jesus and believes that he is the hope of the world, is not deconstructing, but cannot self-identify as evangelical because of… *gestures broadly at everything*?”

The term Christian originated as a term of one who followed Christ.  When we label ourselves as Evangelical, we fail to realize that we have replaced the label of Christ follower with following our theology about Christ.

There is only one thing that can define as a follower of Christ, it is not our culture but our ability to have love for one another. 

The Kingdom survived the Romans, the dark ages, the Nazis concentration camps, and Communist re-education camps.  It will survive the internet.  But whether Evangelicalism will survive is still up for debate.

So as always, love much my friends . . .

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