Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Evangelicals – Bad or Good?

I’ve been following discussions on Evangelicals for a long time. I am fully aware that this is probably a much greater issue in the United States than where I come from. Our church (Swaziland Reformed Church) belongs to an ecumenical body within Swaziland known as the Swaziland Conference of Churches and this body’s aim is to incorporate all Evangelical churches into one organisation. There are also two other ecumenical bodies in Swaziland, the one consisting of churches of a more Orthodox nature (such as the Roman Catholic Church) and the other of traditional African religion groups, such as the Zion Christian Church. I’m perfectly comfortable to be associated with the Evangelical churches in Swaziland.
I have a feeling, however, that there is much more emotion in the United States about this term. I’ll really appreciate it if people from the USA could respond and share how they understand this term – both negatively and positively. The impression which I get through lots of reading is that “Evangelical” not only refers to one’s viewpoint on salvation through Christ alone (which I totally agree with) but that it immediately also refers to one’s viewpoint on a number of moral issues (many of which I would also agree with) as well as political viewpoints. The impression that I have, however, is that Evangelicals may not be as concerned with certain other issues. Evangelicals have strong debates about homosexuality, abortion, public prayer, home schooling, and many other issues, but do they feel equally strong about ecological issues and about the exploitation of poor people within the labour market? I’m not sure – that’s why I’m asking the question.
In one of the blogs I read regularly, The Blind Beggar, Rick Meigs referred to someone who had said some very harsh things about Evangelicals. You can read his post here. One of the reasons given for this attitude towards Evangelicals is: “The primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians, and especially conservative Christians, is not because of any specific theological perspective. What they react negatively to is our ‘swagger,’ how we go about things and the sense of self-importance we project.”
True or not: this should be a strong warning that many people who are viewing Evangelicals from the outside, do not view them positively. I’m not saying that all people are correct, regardless of what they believe. There’s a number of things I believe in and what I stand for that I consider to be non-negotiable. And if we believe in Jesus Christ, then it would be important that our lives should reflect the image of the One we believe in and Whom we follow. And that image can never be one of ‘swagger’ and self-important.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008 - Posted by | Ecology, Evangelicals, Mission, Swaziland, Theology

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