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The Evangelical ambiguity toward old-style religious­right (and religious-left) political activism is of a piece with the growing Evangelical intolerance with “seeker-sensitive” how-to preaching and hymnody. Young pastors often look to their parents’ generation’s worship services—with Aesopian homilies that use Bible characters as examples for how to manage stress or rekindle “sizzle” in a midlife marriage—and ask, “Would Jesus have had to be crucified for this to be true?” Even the old revivalism was typically quite minimal theologically, once one got beyond the “plan of salvation.” The fundamentalists (with some notable exceptions) were more about sustaining a coalition than about conserving the Great Tradition of Christian theology.

Unlike the typical Bible Belt congregation of the twentieth century, the new kind of Evangelical church has strict membership requirements, strict in terms both of entrance into the believing community and of measures of accountability that believers must meet to stay there. The pastor typically preaches forty-five minutes to an hour of verse-by-verse exposition, sometimes calling out backsliding Christians from the pulpit with all the force of the hellfire-and-brimstone revivalists of yesteryear. He is pro-life and pro-marriage. Sexual ethics are emphasized in this typical congregation with a strikingly conservative order, not only in the teaching of the church but also in its discipline, as the unrepentant face what their parents never seemed to notice in their red-and-black-lettered Bibles: excommunication.

This pastor and his leadership may want to retain Christianity in its fullest, but they are not sure how, or whether, public engagement fits with the mission of the church, but not because he’s theologically liberal. He has seen social gospels of left and right try to package a transcendent message for decidedly this-worldly, and often cynical, purposes of pulling the levers of political power. The question is, how does one carry out the things Jesus has commanded us to do (evangelize, baptize, disciple) without confusing them with the illusory immediacy of the priorities of this present age?

Read the whole thing: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/12/evangelical-retreat