Dr. Luder Whitlock

Evangelical Wakeup Call for the Future

by Dr. Luder Whitlock

Too often, each organization and denomination is so busy with its own activities and programs that it is oblivious to or uninterested in that of others, except as it may be of benefit to itself.

In an increasingly secular world, the need is greater than ever for evangelicals to discover and maximize their common heritage and commitments. The decline of the mainline denominations, the rapid development of the parachurch organizations (such as Campus Crusade for Christ), and the growth of evangelical churches and denominations make it apparent that some of the older structures have lost their vitality and may disappear while new ones arise to replace them.

Perhaps this is as good a time as any for evangelicals to consider the need to work for organizational unity and coalition building. The commonalties among evangelicals are so much more important than sectarian distinctives. Cooperative efforts and mutual support and encouragement at every level will be essential for the future. If ever there were a time for evangelical leaders to sit down and think and pray about their stewardship of the future, this is it.

Too often, each organization and denomination is so busy with its own activities and programs that it is oblivious to or uninterested in that of others, except as it may be of benefit to itself. Such selfish behavior is sectarian and an impediment to the growth of the Kingdom, exacerbated all the more by the increasingly secular society in which evangelicals find themselves. This includes international mission efforts. For example, forty-seven different youth groups were in one small area of Jamaica one summer; no one knew the others would be there. Recent activities in the Soviet Union have been similar. These fragmented efforts are poor stewardship and may even be counter productive.

If the mainline denominations continue to lose members, as has been the case for some years, evangelicals will have a greater opportunity than ever for influence and leadership in the Christian community and perhaps beyond for the foreseeable future. They will be a major numerical force with competent, articulate leaders.

But our society appears to be on an increasingly secular track, becoming more and more hostile to the Christian faith. So it is possible that Christianity in general and evangelicalism in particular may be facing some very dark days in this country in the future. In his recent book, We Have Seen the Future: The Demise of Christianity in Los Angeles County, researcher George Barna outlines current trends in California; if they are any indication of what is in store for the rest of the country, prospects for the church are bleak. His may be one of the most accurate projections available and, if so, an ominous warning.

On the other hand, when the worst occurs, when crisis looms, when all past solutions fail, hope surfaces. Often during the greatest crises and worst difficulties, people are converted and turn to the Lord. It may very well be that problems will become so serious and life so difficult that more and more people will become extremely discouraged to the point of total despair, then finally become receptive to new alternatives such as the Christian faith. Our extremity is Godís opportunity.

We can easily observe how this has occurred in the life of a notable individual like Chuck Colson. This could occur on a broader scale throughout the country. There could be another of those mighty movings of the Spirit of God in the hearts and lives of countless people. The doctrine of the providence of God, too long neglected, should offer encouragement. It needs fresh emphasis.

Evangelicals face an uncertain future. Marked by a rich heritage and great strengths, how will we respond to the opportunities and challenges of the day? If evangelicals return to their roots ó not compromising doctrinal truths, demonstrating godly, compassionate behavior, and walking wisely and patiently in every circumstance ó then perhaps the best is yet to come. Evangelicals undoubtedly offer the last, best hope for genuine spiritual renewal in this country and world-wide.

- Dr. Luder G. Whitlock, Jr.




Last updated 6-28-1999.