"Who is the next Billy Graham?"
Isn't that a question we have all heard at one point or another?
Where is the guy that will rise from the ranks to shoulder an entire era of Christianity? We have been waiting a few decades and so far, we haven't seen anyone like him. Where is the charismatic, dynamic leader who can set the country ablaze and help usher evangelicalism back to forefront of the United States?
The reason we haven't seen the next Graham isn't that there aren't any worthy candidates. There are many brilliant men who have shown the charisma, personality and evangelistic gifting capable of leading a resurgence (although we can agree Billy Graham was unusually gifted and anointed). Rather, a major reason we have not seen a revival is that the team or tribe of "Evangelicalism" has become far too divided to support one leader to lead us all.
We see this everywhere, from Christian media and conferences, to our local church. We as evangelicals are dividing like mitosis, creating separate teams that are quickly becoming oppostional towards one another. The interesting part is that these teams are dividing for issues that are really secondary, contested issues in scripture, like method of church service, type of worship, method of baptism and women pastors. The bible isn't explicit in it's instruction of any of these secondary issues, yet we have divided with animosity over them. Now, we have always had denominations of christianity that have done church the way they see it in scripture. But, never before have our denominations and networks become this separated in nature.
We have evangelical denominations like the Baptists, the Methodists and Catholics. We also have church networks like Foursquare churches, Saddleback churches, Harvests, Acts 29, The Vineyard, Calvary Chapels and the like. There is nothing inherently wrong with networks or denominations. All evangelical groups believe in the person and work of Christ and accept the foundational ideas of scripture. They help to give churches partnerships and support. But, when these denominations and networks and the people in them become known more for what they're against, rather than what they're for, then they become problematic.
We are at a pivotal time in our country. The name of Jesus is as hotly contested as ever in the US. The war on evangelicalism is reaching a boiling point. Biblical truths are being thrown out as bigotry and intolerance in the public eye. The ideals of Christianity we clung to in the days of Billy Graham, Francis Shaeffer and John Stott are taking heavy fire. On top of this, evangelicals are also shooting themselves. Certain networks gather in conferences to bad mouth another evangelical stream. Some denominations won't sit in with other networks due to their views on paedo-communion. And even in our local churches we have certain people in networks spewing hate speech against other people who love Jesus based on their method of church and theology. Blog sites are a perfect example of this. If someone posts an article, the "great theological debate" ensues below it in the comment section, were evangelicals are trying to save the world, correcting small details about the article or even firing off hate speech in order to make a point.
I've seen this war happen close to home, where I recently heard of a regional evangelical leader of a network picketing another evangelical church for their views on a secondary issue! Not an abortion clinic, a strip club or some other sinful depraved organization; they picketed a fellow evangelical church for their interpretation of a secondary issue in scripture. I thought that was worth repeating.
I have seen people in the local church become contentious over secondary issues that I or others have thought to be true. I have seen these issues divide churches in my ministry experience. We are already at war with the flesh, the world and the enemy, we do not need to declare war on ourselves.
Declare war over evil, not preference or interpretation
There are certain things we should divide over. If someone divides from the bible as authoritative or separates from the idea that Jesus was God or sinless, then yes, we need to voice our faith in the hopes that they may come to their senses and repent. If that doesn't work and they are bent on stealing sheep with heretical teachings then we must separate from them and their views.
However, when we fire shots at our fellow evangelicals for their views on things the bible doesn't fully answer, we are turning the gun on ourselves in a battle that is raging at the moment.
Can we unite?
Can we as evangelicals unite? Can we link arms in a battle for the name of Christ to be proclaimed across our nation? Even in a corrupt, depraved and mislead world, do we believe Jesus is who he says he is, that he lived a perfect life, was killed and rose three days later to conquer satan, sin and death? The name of Christ is the only name that should be proclaimed. We should not lift the way we do church over that which is of chief importance: that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the light; that no one comes to the father except through him. Will we come together as a royal priesthood and family for the advancement of the gospel? Or will we continue to shoot evangelicalism in the foot as we divide the body of Christ even further?
I believe we can. As Christians, we should repent of our pride and our "methodolatry", and seek God's Kingdom here on earth with oneness just as the body of Christ should be. May God's kingdom come here on earth with unity.
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
-1 Peter 2:9-10
Eddie Williams(Twitter: @realewilliams) is a Christian, a husband and a father, and public speaker, he also leads a ministry as a pastor, called REACH, a young adults ministry at his home church. The 5 year NFL veteran (Cleveland Browns, Seattle, Seahawks) speaks weekly at the ministry and has spoken across the U.S. at high schools, colleges, conferences and ministries about a vairety of topics, including leadership, health and faith. Eddie has been a part of numerous programs for youth, including NFL Play60. He has also given back to the community at organizations like the Cleveland Foodbank, Feed My Starving Children and Veterans hospitals.He has also been featured on SiriusXM radio and ESPN Outside the Lines. For more on Eddie, visit: Eddiejwilliams.me