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Timely words from Gideon Strauss:

The political sentiments reported in polls like these suggest a dismal but unsurprising possibility: that very few American evangelical churches offer their members the opportunity of a discipleship that gives attention to the history of Christians over the past two millennia struggling to follow Jesus in their times and places.

Dismal because such a discipleship—alongside sacramentally-centered worship and Jesus-centered public proclamation of the good news of the reign of God—is what constitutes the life of a church.

Unsurprising because shallow and misguided discipleship is a persistent reality in the life of churches recorded already in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul and his fellow epistolators.

This possibility does not call for pride (in the superiority of my own political judgment), scorn (towards morally misguided evangelical voters), disgust (at the pandering polemics perpetrated by Messrs. Trump and Cruz), or despair (at the dismal state of discipleship in so many Christian congregations).

Instead, it calls for repentance (of my own arrogance), compassion (towards the many people bereft of congregations with a long memory of Christian discipleship), intercession (for the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all of America’s present and aspiring political officeholders), and catechetical resolve (to contribute to discipleship in those congregations where I am able to make a difference).

At depth the problem is not the politics of evangelicals or the nominalism of many self-identified Christians or the secularization of America in our times.

The problem is the perennial distraction of Christian churches from the core practices that make them churches, or perhaps more accurately, the distortion of these practices by personal, communal sins and cultural pressures.

As someone intimately familiar with the tremendous power of such sins and pressures, I also know what a grace it is to be exposed to the work of God in the celebration of baptism and the eucharist, in public prayers and worship songs, in preaching and communal Bible study, and in the dear and demanding friendship of fellow followers of Jesus.

You can read the whole thing here.


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9 thoughts on “7 Sentences Every Evangelical Congregation Should Take to Heart”

  1. Dean Davis says:

    I do not appreciate the way Mr. Strauss juxtaposes Messrs. Trump and Cruz. Nor do I appreciate the charge against Senator Cruz that he is a polemical panderer. Nor do I appreciate Strauss’ misrepresentation of the Senator, who said that he would carpet-bomb ISIS, not Syria as whole. You may be certain that Senator Cruz is well aware of just war theory, and has no interest in the targeting of civilians, nor in sending American into futile efforts at nation-building. Actually, this is one of Cruz’ strong points, that he would selectively target terrorist butchers, and “get in and get out” of foreign lands as quickly as possible. I am also disappointed that BTW seems to endorse Mr. Strauss’ condemnation of Sen. Cruz. The latter is certainly not a perfect candidate, but considering the alternatives, he does indeed seem to me the best alternative to Clinton and Trump, and the natural choice for those who adhere closely to the Word of God.

  2. Eric Kjos says:

    I just read the full article. It is from a magazine devoted to Christianity and Foreign Policy. So, I suppose its emphasis on Trump and Cruz is understandable. However, Trump’s unserious populist statement, and Cruz used a hyperbole in his support of fighting ISIS, are not the same as actual policy statements. Justin Taylor believes every evangelical should read this article? What about an article on the scads of evangelicals that support abortion? Or why not an article about evangelical support for the villainous Hillary Clinton, and/or the comedic Bernie Sanders? Anyway, I read the article and I learned nothing new. So, no, I didn’t need to read it.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks for reading the post, Eric, and leaving your thoughts. I’ve blogged hundreds of times about abortion, and explained a number of times how I cannot in good conscience vote for a pro-abortion-rights candidate who will perpetuate the murderous regime of killing innocent children. I’ve also linked on more than one occasion to this piece by John Piper: I take it for granted that most of my audience—churchgoing conservative evangelicals—will not be voting for a pro-choice candidate.

      1. Curt Day says:

        I understand your reluctance to vote for pro-choice candidates because I have to hold my nose while doing so. But to me, until pro-life candidates change their positions on war/militarism, the environment, and wealth disparity I’m afraid that they have made the abortion issue a moot issue in society at large. We also have to realize that the abortion issue can also serve as a sheepdog issue to keep religious conservatives in the Republican fold.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          Abortion is the murder of innocent unborn children—the most defenseless members of society. It has happened millions of times. The Democratic party is committed in principle to perpetuating this monstrous pattern. Wealth disparity in a society is not a sin per se. To privilege that over abortion is morally incomprehensible to me.

          1. Ike Lentz says:

            But Justin, Piper’s one-issue philosophy assumes that a pro-life vote means overturning Roe V Wade, or at the very least, bold measures to reduce abortions. After 50 years of both parties basically acting the same once they get in office, I think Christian voters have a right to be skeptical, especially if their vote means having to put up with a bunch of other anti-Christian nonsense on immigration, guns, and militarism.

            1. Justin Taylor says:

              Nothing in Piper’s article suggests such an assumption. Furthermore, I don’t think your supposition fits the evidence very well (cf., e.g., Furthermore, those of us who hold this position are not pure pragmatists, but are seeking to operate from a principle of conscience. If those who were being targeted and killed were infants being killed by the millions rather than fetuses, I suspect more people would join us and fewer would offer the objections you raise here.

              1. Ike Lentz says:

                That article is primarily about state-level politics. For 50 years abortion has been the key to mobilizing evangelicals, but Roe v Wade still stands and the annual abortion rate has little to no correlation to a Democrat or Republican being president. We can agree that abortion is a tragedy, but single issue voting only makes sense when it assumes that the issue will be of equal priority to the candidate if they win.

  3. joe m says:

    For 50 years Roe vs Wade has remained untouched. It is very reasonable to assume that will stay the say. Look at gay marriage, for crying out loud! Pragmatism makes sense, especially since a President cannot enact laws without the support of a culture. Our pagan culture will not repeal abortion. The legislative battle is a waste of time.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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