Michael Spencer, who maintained the immensely popular blog “Internet Monk,” died of cancer last month at his home in Kentucky. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have applauded Michael for his willingness to challenge the status quo of his particular tradition, especially regarding young-earth creationism and evangelical worship. We expect outsiders to criticize their opponents, but when insiders criticize their own house, there is power. And I will miss his candid, insightful analysis.
While I was reading about his death, however, I stumbled across yet another fantastic manifesto from last year, titled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.” In his typical, frank style, Michael proclaims: “We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity…the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.”
After analyzing the forces that are leading up to the collapse of evangelical Christianity, he paints a picture of the landscape in a decade or so. Three interesting observations are these:
Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the “conversion” of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.
Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism.
Evangelicalism needs a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa.
Nevertheless, Spencer concludes that “evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral.”
Michael then goes on to ask some difficult questions about the remnant of evangelicalism–that which is left after the collapse–questions that are relevant for all Christians today:
Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church’s problems.
Will it [the collapse] shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.
Michael does end on a positive note, but not necessarily for the status quo or for the current forms of ministry in the evangelical tradition.
Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.”
We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.
We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.
Amen, Internet Monk. Amen.