September 14, 2023
Throughout this fall, I will be reflecting on parts of the book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America by Russell Moore. I hope you are willing to grab a copy and read alongside me. Today I will be looking at the Introduction (p. 1-25).
First, a confession: Sometimes I feel awkward about doing the altar call on Sunday mornings. It’s not that I don’t believe in reaching the lost, but my experience has taught me that most people who enter the doors of a church in our day and age are looking for guidance in discipleship (at least in a Sunday morning worship service). I think I also want to avoid the kind of harmful individualism that Moore reflects on in the Introduction.
Moore points out that evangelicalism has sometimes been guilty of creating a separation between our faith and our actions. As a Southerner himself, Moore says of evangelical Christianity: “It could reemphasize the sort of individualized Christianity that enabled generations of my ancestors to fight for the enslavement of human beings or to ignore the atrocities of Jim Crow segregation, all with an easy conscience that all was well as long as they repented of the sins the preacher mentioned – personal sins such as getting drunk or playing cards.” (5)
I know that truths such as this can be uncomfortable for people like us. Nobody likes going to the doctor only to be told that we have to change our habits. However, the only path to healing is through the discomfort, not around it. We have to admit that much of evangelicalism in our country has become enamored with idols of nationalism and worldly power. And confronting those idols requires truth, not denial.
But, as Moore says, within evangelicalism itself is also what leads toward healing. Moore quotes (one of my favorite writers) Wendell Berry who says, “The great problems call for many small solutions.” At its core, evangelicalism believes in the power of change within each individual heart. That is why, even if I cannot get behind all of the political trappings that come with the word “evangelical” in our world, I am still proud to call myself an evangelical Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ can speak to each individual soul and can lead us farther down the road toward discipleship with each passing day.
Let’s remind ourselves that the word “Gospel” is a translation of the Greek word evangelion or “Good News.” My hope for my own faith and for our church is that we always keep our eyes fixed on the Good News of Jesus Christ and our belief that God is still at work among us.
Next reflection on Losing Our Religion will be on September 28: “Chapter One: Losing Our Credibility” (p. 27-61).