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By David W. Virtue, DD
June 3, 2022

Evangelicals in America are going to have to admit an ugly truth about themselves. They, above nearly all other Christians, have created the climate of decline and spiritual loss in America. I write this as a deeply committed, theologically driven evangelical Anglican.

Evangelicals are the problem, and they are the reason why conversions are down and why it cannot all be blamed on Covid.

The net evangelistic effect is that Nones, people without religion, are on the rise. They present a threat numerically to both evangelicals and Catholics.

Apart from the scandal of pedophile Roman Catholic priests, bishops and a cardinal or two, no other group has done more harm to evangelism and the spread of the gospel in America than evangelicals.

Consider the following.

The political alliance of millions of evangelicals to the side of Donald Trump brought about the rise of Christian nationalism, racism, xenophobia, fearmongering and hate, and the conflation of the gospel with American civil religion. This has wrecked the proclamation of the Good News to secular America. Trump used evangelicals as useful idiots for his base to drive MAGA America, even though he despised them. In private, Trump spoke with cynicism and contempt about believers. They're all hustlers, Trump once opined. This has done profound damage to the cause of Christ.

Dr. Tony Evans, one of the country's most respected leaders in evangelical circles as a pastor, teacher, author and speaker, recently stated, "I think one of the things we're facing now is the judgment on America because of the failure of the church to be the people of God that represents his kingdom more than we represent the nation. We've been more cultural Christians than biblical Christians."

Secondly, evangelicals have fatally put leaders like Ravi Zacharias,, Jerry Falwell, Southern Baptist leaders and mega church pastors on pedestals. When these people crash and burn, usually over moral straying, evangelical disappointment runs deep with millions growing cynical and dropping out. Secularists watch all this blatant hypocrisy and just despise evangelicals. Can you blame them?

Some 400 Southern Baptist leaders, from youth pastors to top ministers, have pled guilty or been convicted of sex crimes against more than 700 victims since 1998. This is a scandal that will haunt the SBC leadership to its dying day. They have lost two million members since 2006!

Mega church pastors, a dozen of whom have fallen from grace, usually over sex, but often money as well, besmirch the name of Jesus one more time.

Greed. Money lies at the root of much evangelical venality. Mega church pastors who fall from grace usually leave with millions of dollars to fool the faithful somewhere else in America. A phony prosperity (health and wealth) gospel has beguiled millions. This has sadly seeped into the Global South.

Missions. According to Barrett and Johnson, international Christian demographers, Christians make up 33% of the world's population, but receive 53% of the world's annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves. North American and European Christians spend $12.5 trillion on themselves and their families each year, only 0.1% of all Christian giving is directed toward mission efforts in the 38 most unevangelized countries in the world.

So, evangelicals feel the need to give less than two percent to overseas mission. They spend the rest on themselves and their need to build bigger temples to worship in, neglecting the very needs of millions who have never heard the name of Christ with many in Africa worshipping under trees.

Global South. Can or will evangelicals learn anything from their African and Asian brothers and sisters many of whom face open, often daily persecution for their faith, always ready and willing to put genuine piety ahead of politics! Are American evangelicals even aware that there are more orthodox Christians in Africa, nearly 685 million Christians, with 760 million expected by 2025. There are an estimated 44 million Christians in China though estimates by Open Doors and the CIA think the figure is closer to 120 million.

Power. Evangelicals gravitate to power like moths to a flame in the hope they can fuse love of America with love of Jesus. They forget that Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world. American evangelicals believe America was and still is exceptional; special to God and to hell with everyone else.

Despite efforts to make American evangelicals think globally about mission and evangelism, not even a couple of Lausanne Congresses on Evangelism have significantly moved the needle to change American evangelical minds.

End Times As an increasingly godless America crumbles and decays, American evangelical apocalypticists have emerged from the swamp to declare the Lord's return must be presaged on what happens in and to America. God's timetable is America's evangelical timetable we are led to believe. This degree of evangelical arrogance is a stench in the nostrils of God. Trying to discern America in the Book of Ezekiel requires a degree of exegetical hubris found only among the worst sort of fundamentalist exegesis.

It's becoming increasingly clear that millions of people who call themselves evangelical in America have their own definition of the term and it's not entirely clear what they mean by it. One thing it increasingly does not mean is going to church.

New research from pastor and Christian researcher Ryan Burge finds that the number of self-identified evangelicals who attend church regularly continues to drop, with 26.7 percent saying they seldom or never go to church. About 13.5 percent of self-identified evangelicals say they go to church "yearly," bringing the number of evangelicals who go to church once a year or less to about 40.2 percent. About half of self-identified evangelicals attend weekly or more, with the other ten percent saying they attend about once a month. Current evangelicals are truly Evangelicals in Name Only (EINOs); evangelical Americans have descended into the banality of the empty and venal, and they have no one to blame but themselves for what America has become. Theologically they are three thousand miles and one inch deep. Politics has transcended true piety. God, flag and guns is the new evangelical trinitarian creed.

So, what does this have to say about evangelicals in America? Not much. Dr. Mark Noll in his book THE SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND written in 1995, opined that the general intellectual difficulties of an advertisement-driven, image-preoccupied, television-saturated, frenetically hustling consumer society, and that the reason evangelicals suffer from intellectual weakness is that American culture as a whole suffers from intellectual weakness. It is 2022 and nothing has changed, in fact one can easily make the case that the evangelical mind has only gotten worse and shrunk.

Perhaps our greatest concern shouldn't be empty pulpits, but rather empty pastors standing in them.


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