There has been a great divide going on in the evangelical church for the last few years and not many Christians even know about it. It has been unknown because some of the most famous leaders and authors, men who have infiltrated every denomination and, indeed, nearly every church, are the causes of this great divide. These teachers, who have discipled and led multitudes of Christians through their seemingly harmless books on such subjects as prayer, love, parenting, spiritual gifts, and finding God's purpose for their lives, are now causing an uproar by aligning themselves with those who are trying to "restore" the earth and bring about "social justice."
While this has been going on for quite a while, many in the evangelical church are just recently being exposed to how far their religious leaders have gone in embracing this new form of "evangelicalism."
The most famous leaders who have gone this way are Bill Hybels and Rick Warren.
Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life is the best-selling non-fiction book of all time, has become a member of the religious advisory council of Tony Blair's Faith Foundation, an organization devoted to interfaith spirituality and religious coexistence. Warren is also a member of the globalist Council on Foreign Relations. His P.E.A.C.E. Plan is an attempt to mobilize millions of Christians to conquer what he calls the five global giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
Bill Hybels hosts an annual Global Leadership Summit, inviting world leaders such as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, and Tony Blair to his Willow Creek Church to speak to Christian leaders. This year's guest is Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. Hybels says his goal in having the summit is to develop Christian leaders who can participate in "God's plan to restore our world through the power of the local church." Elmbrook Church of Brookfield is participating as a satellite location for this year's August 5-6 meeting.
Some controversy has developed because Hybels' wife, Lynn, writes a blog for Jim Wallis' Sojourners web site. This is the same Jim Wallis that conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, a Mormon, is speaking out against. He even encouraged people to leave their church if it's promoting Wallis' social justice. Conservative evangelicals (I guess the distinction is now necessary), desperate to hear somebody who seemingly speaks their language, have flocked to Beck even though he's a member of the Latter Days Saints. (This Mormon connection led to a division over the election of Mitt Romney, another member of the Latter Day Saints, and whether evangelicals should vote for a Mormon.)
Recently, Jim Wallis was invited to be a guest speaker at Lifest, an annual Christian rock festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This caused a stir because Q90 FM, a local Christian radio station which usually sponsored the event, withdrew their support based on Wallis' participation.
Cornerstone Festival, another Christian rock gathering in Illinois, also came under fire for the content of its seminars on social justice, interfaith activism, monasticism, sexuality, Catholicism, and many other controversial subjects.
Last year there was also a divide over the" Manhattan Declaration." This was a statement put out by leaders in the evangelical, orthodox, and Catholic faiths which proclaims unity on the moral issues of the sanctity of life and marriage. While some, such as Chuck Colson, claimed "co-belligerency" (a term coined by British abolitionist William Wilberforce indicating his willingness to work with anybody, even his enemies, if they helped him to oppose slavery) was a good thing in the fight against evil, others, such as John MacArthur, were less enthusiastic about the statement's characterization of Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as fellow Christians, and were unwilling to put their name on a document which lumped them all together as members of the faith.
The move toward Catholic mysticism, in particular "contemplative" spirituality, is also a hot-button issue in the great divide. While many in the evangelical church are moving toward the "wisdom" of the ancient desert fathers and other mystics such as Teresa of Avila and Brother Lawrence, as revived by Celebration of Discipline author, Richard Foster, and promoted by Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, others are trying to hold the movement back, as can be seen in the controversy involving author Max Lucado and evangelical teacher Beth Moore's appearances on the contemplative video Be Still (which was available for rental at local Movie Gallery stores). The use of popular phrases such as "spiritual formation" (a term used by Eastbrook Church of Milwaukee) and "the spiritual disciplines" have become the latest trend in churches across the country.
Those who oppose this trend are concerned that transitioning the evangelical church from a faith based on absolute truth and historical fact to an experiential religion will make it more difficult to differentiate Christianity from any of the other world religions-many of which are also based on mystical experiences. This would make the blending of religions much easier, since there are no divisive fundamentalist beliefs to hinder the development of Tony Blair's vision of interspirituality or British rocker Bono's dream of coexistence.
Thrown into this mix is the emergent church, led by Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Leonard Sweet, Donald Miller (who prayed at the last Democratic Convention), and a slew of others whose main message is that there needs to be "a new kind of Christianity" with a "generous orthodoxy." Targeting the younger generation and trying to be "relevant," the emergent church also leans to the political left and is less concerned about abortion or gay marriage (issues of concern to the "religious right") than it is with poverty, global warming, and sexuality/gender issues. They are also moving towards contemplative prayer, as McLaren reveals in his book, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices.
Leading the charge against these "new evangelicals" are people like Ingrid Schlueter, host of Crosstalk, a Christian radio show based out of Milwaukee and played on the VCY America radio network, Brannon Howse, founder of the Christian Worldview Network based out of Tennessee, and Minnesota-based Olive Tree Ministries with radio host Jan Markell. Pastor Bob DeWaay and Warren B. Smith are two of the most popular authors writing against the purpose driven movement and the emergent church. There are also web sites such as Lighthouse Trails, Let Us Reason, and Apprising Ministries contributing to the battle against what they believe is deception and even apostasy in the Church.
At issue is the role of the Church in the world. Is it the Church's mission to "restore" the world or spread the gospel? And what does the gospel "of the Kingdom" mean? Does it only apply to salvation after death or is there a "peaceable kingdom" (some call shalom) that Christians should be trying to bring about on the earth?
If we are to bring about the peaceable kingdom, what form should it take? Is it only found within the human heart or does it take a physical form? If it is physical, how can it be ushered in while there are still other religions that reject Christ in the world? Does the restoration of the earth involve the acceptance of other faiths into the kingdom or even universal salvation for all?
Should the role of Christians in the political world be that of a prophetic witness or co-creator? In other words, should the Church be involved in the attempt to usher in a new world order or should they oppose it? Is all of this leading to a world church and/or a world political system as some believe is prophesied in the Bible? Are we near the end of the age and the return of Jesus to set up his kingdom, or near the beginning of the New Age where we set up the "peaceable kingdom?"
These are issues that the average Christian, indeed the average pastor, may need to know more about in the near future since, as the divide grows wider, each person will have to decide which way they will go.