If you could pick one issue for the Christian church to represent, what would it be? Abortion or same-sex marriage? Environmental stewardship or poverty? Morality?
Some evangelicals are tossing this question around in light of the passing of the old guard: Jerry Falwell died last May, and many other prominent Christian leaders including Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and Tim LaHaye have retired or handed over the reins of their ministries. Earlier this month, James Dobson resigned as board chairman of Focus on the Family.
The mere mention of these men elicits either a warm smile or a cold shoulder because they all were vocal on some issue. For good or bad, their words have shaped the image of the Christian church in America—both the way we see ourselves, and the way non-Christians view us. As we await new representatives who will become spokespeople for the church, one thing is highly probable: We'll identify these leaders as proponents or opponents of some issue.
And which issue will that be? John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, told the Washington Times that evangelicals currently don't have an issue to rally around. "It used to be the pro-life movement, but I am not sure there is an issue now," he said. "The issue evangelicals key on is the gay movement, but they have lost that issue. There is no cause for a leader to emerge in now."
Say what? We don't have a "cause"?
My friend Brooke offered this profound response to Whitehead's words: "Shouldn't the cause for evangelicals forever and always be evangelism? I wonder if the fact that we have become a political constituency and force has caused us to lose sight of the main thing. I also wonder if the strong public moral stands that evangelicals have taken in the political arena have undermined our ability and effectiveness in presenting the gospel."1