Politics,  Theology/Bible

Colson, Boyd, and Claiborne on Evangelical Politics

Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne recently sat down with Krista Tippett for an interview about the political views of Evangelical Christians. You can watch the video here, or listen to the audio below.


The panel was a tad unbalanced. Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne both speak from a pacifist position, Chuck Colson from a classic Just War position. Boyd and Claiborne are iconoclasts of the “evangelical” movement. Boyd is an open theist, Claiborne a socialist (at least he sounds like one). I guess you could say that they are pretty atypical as evangelicals go. Chuck Colson alone spoke for the mainstream of the evangelical tradition.

The interviewer was trying to demonstrate that the differences between Boyd, Claiborne, and Colson represent a wider debate that is going on within evangelicalism about politics. At the end of the day, both Claiborne and Boyd are political liberals, while Colson is a conservative. I don’t have any stats on this, but I doubt that politically liberal evangelicals outnumber conservative ones by a 2-1 ratio. But that’s a minor point, I suppose. I do wonder, however, how many evangelicals are really all the sympathetic to the agendas of Boyd and Claiborne.

In any case, what caught my attention in this discussion was the appearance of what is becoming an all too common refrain among those on the evangelical left. Both Boyd and Claiborne are calling evangelicals away from treating abortion as the transcendent moral issue of our time. They both argue that Christians should be working to reduce abortions but that they shouldn’t be expending a lot of energy trying to make it illegal. Colson of course argued that abortion is a transcendent moral issue and that Christians have a responsibility to work against it in the public square and in the voting booth.

Just to give you a sample of the discussion on this point, Greg Boyd says:

“I think a person who puts up a second mortgage up on their house to fund a woman to go full term and to help raise the child is far more pro-life even if she votes for pro-choice than a pro-life person who votes a certain way.”

I think Boyd’s and Claiborne’s position on the abortion issue is totally inadequate and filled will inconsistencies. Of course Evangelicals should be sacrificing to help “fund a woman to go full term.” No one disagrees with that. But that doesn’t mean that Evangelicals can’t also support candidates and laws that would outlaw the unjust killing of innocent people. It’s a false choice to say that we can or should do only one or the other. We should be doing both, which is precisely what the pro-life movement has been doing for decades now through crisis pregnancy centers.

Once again, I remain unconvinced that abortion-on-demand can be treated as just one among many social ills. In America, it is the greatest human rights crisis of our time, and to turn a blind eye to the fact that it is legal in all fifty states to kill a person at any time from 0-9 months gestation is unconscionable.

Boyd and Claiborne are proving themselves to be unreliable guides once again. On this issue, may Colson’s tribe increase.

“Evangelical Politics” – Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett



(HT: Justin Taylor)


  • Brian W

    I’m not sure why Boyd and Claiborne, who both said in this interview they are pro-life, are disparaged for “how” they feel compelled to address this issue. Frequently in this discussion, they discuss “how” to address these social concerns, not if we should.

    I’m still perplexed that we would belittle others efforts to battle abortion through battling poverty and systemic racism as both of these problems are directly proportional to abortion. Instead, some question if people like Claiborne even care about the issue rather than take a brother at his word.

    It seems obvious to me that evangelicals (in recent years, at least) have seen electoral politics as the prime means of fighting abortion (Tippett rightly noted this). Why are those who negatively critique this position considered second-class evangelicals?

    • Canbuhay

      The problem is not that we shouldn’t tackle issues from a variety of ways. The problem is that Boyd and Clairborne are advocating for helping further the pro-abortion cause while trying to discourage more advocacy against abortion.

      Imagine if they said the same thing about slavery. Was it an economic issue? A spiritual issue? Sure. But it’s nonsense to say that it also wasn’t a political issue.

      If thousands of Black Americans were being killed every day and politician was “prochoice” about that but also advocated for helping the poor, would they deserve the vote of Evangelical Christians (or from anyone else for that matter?).

      There’s a difference between government battling poverty and social justice issues and battling the legal killing of innocent people – it isn’t legal to kill poor people but it is a legal choice to kill unborn ones. The fact that these two “leaders” can’t see that should make all of us question their position.

  • Trent G.

    Though I would disagree with a few points, I feel in many ways like Claiborne and Boyd (particularly Claiborne) are picking up the slack where evangelicals have been sorely lacking. Unfortunately they (and the new stream of evangelicals like them) feel that they need to abandon the pro-life cause to do so. And by “abandon” I mean, to dismiss as a useless fight, to see as just a political issue, or to relegate it to the same status as taxes or education. The same social (driven by theological) consciousness that lead Wilberforce to fight against the horrors of slavery should drive us to fight (even if it means politically) for the rights of the unborn being killed.

  • Paul


    I have a legion of reasons why I think your framing of this is poorly skewed…

    1) Complaining about the ratio of evangelical left speakers to evangelical right speakers in the discussion. There are two reasons why I think your complaint here is unjustified…

    a) Unless you’d complain as well if it were a 2-1 split the other way (and I know you wouldn’t), then you’ve got no reason to complain when it’s the other way around.

    b) frankly, the “evangelical right” has controlled the conversation for far too long. I tire of being lumped in with the evangelical right just because of my faith. Our political ideals are completely different, and it’s about time that the rest of America see that there’s more than just the Falwells and Colsons of the world out there.

    2) I tire of the way you dismiss the pacifist position. Especially because of the (flawed) logic you use to prop up the just war evangelicals. We as Mennonites, Bretheren, and Quakers are just as much a part of the Christian landscape as the Southern Baptists, and it’s about time that you recognize that instead of being so flippant about it.

    3) re: your criticism of Boyd’s abortion quote…Boyd’s absolutely right. The person who DOES something to stop an abortion (like adopting a child) is doing far more than the person who votes and goes home. Yes, there are some who DO do more than just vote, but it’s the vast majority who think that a bumper sticker and a vote once every couple of years equals real action. There are far more pieces to the puzzle, and the evangelical right just refuses to look at many of them. And that’s why Huckabee was right: many evangelicals aren’t pro-life, they’re pro-birth.

    Sorry if this comes off as overly angry, but your constant skewering of the evangelical left is upsetting.

    • Canbuhay

      Sorry but if it was any other group of people being killed, would you be satisfied with your response? Replace unborn child with Black person or homosexual and you’ll see your double standard.

      If a politician had THE solution to end poverty but also believed we should have a right to choose to kill lesbians, you’d still vote for them?

      Politics cannot solve the problem of poverty – it’s not just about a change the law.

      But a change in law can save millions of unborn children’s lives. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “The law cannot make white people like me but it will stop them from lynching me.”

      That’s the key difference.

  • Brett

    “Iconoclasts” because they’re different from you? The word “Evangelical” in quotes because they’re not reformed? “Mainstream” b/c Colson’s just war? “Unreliable guides” b/c they’re not right-wing just-war proponents? These are hardly fair accusations, and to dismiss Boyd and Claiborne b/c there are a few right-wingers who actually do something is kind of ridiculous. I went to a Souther Baptist church that was vehemently pro-life and out of the 1500 members there were about 2-3 who actually tried to do something outside of the voting booth.

    I believe it’s the evangelical right who are unreliable guides. At least Boyd and Claiborne distinguish between the 2 kingdoms…kingdoms you seem to fuse and not think twice about it Denny. And your “just-war” comments leave me confused. Even many on the evangelical right don’t believe in this, so I believe you’re attributing your and Augustine’s belief to the whole, which is not true. You paint all evangelicals like they’re war-mongering Republicans. You might be, but many are not, and I hope they continue to decrease.

  • Brian W


    Without doubt, some evangelicals work tirelessly in the way you describe. I have family friends who run a pregnancy center for this very reason. But I honestly don’t see how anyone can deny my point: evangelicals see electoral politics as the primary method of combating abortion.

    Of course its not an either/or. But I’m guessing people like Claiborne would say they’ve been pleading for conservatives to believe that for quite some time now.

  • Matt Svoboda

    The ‘religious right’ is diminishing and I do think it is for the better.

    But that does not mean Claiborne has it right either! He is picking up the slack where SOME evangelicals have slacked, but I a convinced he has gone to far. I listened to a sermon that he preached and he elevated meeting physical needs on the SAME level as spiritual needs. This is wrong and dangerous. I do think meeting is a mark of he Christian church, Matthew 25 etc.., but it is not why the heart of why we meet together, spiritual needs are. I disagree with Colson on quite a bit of politics, but that does not mean we go to the other extreme and compromise our message. And yes, Claiborne, does compromise the message when he puts giving a man a sandwich on the same level as saving his soul with the gospel.

    Let us not take a side, but let us see the pro’s and con’s of both sides!

  • Paul


    yes…without such obvious bias. After all, aren’t we all on the same team at the end of the day? Why bash your brothers because they take a pacifist stance or believe that actions speak louder than votes?

    Just answering.

  • Brett

    I’m just curious to know how your theology plays into this anyways? I mean, honestly, didn’t God ordain abortion? Didn’t he ordain that 50 million babies die by abortion since 1973? It’s an honest question, and I just see inconsistencies with your stance.

    And on another note, just evaluate the situation. On one hand we have Chuck Colson and Denny Burk advocating just-war and involvement in right-wing politics, on the other we have Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne advocating the kingdom of God, peace, and self-sacrificial love. I’m not trying to set up a straw-man here, but I think the “Christian” stance is extremely clear. Oh how I wish white middle-class evangelicals would all be required to live in different cultures for an extended period of time.

  • Ken

    Skew (in verb form): To take an oblique course; to look askance; to make, set, or cut on the skew [referring to deviation from a straight line; a slant]; to distort from a true value or symmetrical form.

    In your first post, Paul, you complained of the “poorly skewed” frame of Denny’s article. If I read your response correctly, the only way to “properly skew” an article is not to skew it at all. No slants, proper or improper, well or poorly constructed.

  • Ferg

    Brett, you’re probably gonna get hammered for you comment (no. 14) but i would ask the same questions. I would also ask the same questions as Brian asked in no. 3.
    i couldn’t say it better than…

    “On one hand we have Chuck Colson and Denny Burk advocating just-war and involvement in right-wing politics, on the other we have Greg Boyd and Shane Claiborne advocating the kingdom of God, peace, and self-sacrificial love”

  • D.J. Williams


    I’m not Denny, but I think we have a similar view of God’s sovereignty, so let me try to answer your question from my perspective. God also ordained that Assyria destroy Israel, and announced that in Isaiah 9:8-21, being even more specific in 10:5-6. However, in the very next verses of chapter 10, he judges Assyria for the evil they do in destroying Israel, the very action he had ordained to happen. God’s not responsible for the evil, the Assyrians are. Thus, just because God ordains something to be in the sense of sovereign decree does not mean that the thing is inherently good, or that we shouldn’t fight against it. After all, God has decreed that we as Christians still struggle with inner sin (he could have completely obliterated it at the cross if he wanted to), but we are also commanded to struggle against that sin. Thus, my belief that God is in sovereign control of all things does not cause me to simply accept abortion. This is a trap of hyper-Calvinism.

    Also, you said you didn’t want to set up a straw man, but I think you’ve done exactly that. I hardly think Denny would say that he’s not for the kingdom of God, peace, and self-sacrificial love. He just understands the implications of those things differently than you. If Colson is on one side and Boyd on the other, I like to think I’m somewhere in between.

  • Paul


    “If I read your response correctly, the only way to “properly skew” an article is not to skew it at all. No slants, proper or improper, well or poorly constructed.”


  • AJ

    Matt #10,
    You say “I listened to a sermon that he preached and he elevated meeting physical needs on the SAME level as spiritual needs. This is wrong and dangerous. I do think meeting is a mark of he Christian church, Matthew 25 etc.., but it is not why the heart of why we meet together, spiritual needs are . . . Claiborne, does compromise the message when he puts giving a man a sandwich on the same level as saving his soul with the gospel.”

    Just a couple of observations.

    First,you seem to dichotomize the “physical” and “spiritual.” How do you understand John’s exhortation in his first epistle, “If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?”

    Secondly, we do not save any one’s “soul,” God does . . . and He seems to say that He saves the whole person and not just the “soul.”

  • Paul


    good point. And to add to that as well, sometimes the “sandwich” that Matt speaks of is the best way to “live as Christ lived.”

    I’ve always taken the Great Commission to be something much more than simply the spiritual. Is it more Christlike to spread the message and not act it out, or is it more Christlike to spread the message BY acting it out?

    This is one area where many figures in the Emerging Church tend to excel, and where far too many conservatives think that witnessing begins and ends with a Chick Tract.

  • Mark Gibson

    “where far too many conservatives think that witnessing begins and ends with a Chick Tract.”

    Paul, I’m glad that you know conservatives so well.

  • Paul


    would you DARE tell me that there aren’t conservative Christians out there that don’t think this way?

    Keep up the pouting and flag waving Mark, it suits you well.

  • Matt Svoboda


    Nothing i said goes against 1 John in anyway. I agree 100% with what John said. I’m Reformed, I know who saves. i was using the language of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, when he says ‘he becomes all things to all people that by all means I might save some.’

    Nothing I said contradicts your first observation.

    Your second observation just missed the point of what I was saying so you attacked a word I used even though I got it from the Apostle Paul!


    Serving man by giving him a sandwich is a means to sharing the gospel. I agree. But if they are equal in importance why not just give the man the sandwich? The sandwich is only important because the gospel is important. I would rather die and go to heaven than eat a sandwich and burn in hell.

    “I’ve always taken the Great Commission to be something much more than simply the spiritual. Is it more Christlike to spread the message and not act it out, or is it more Christlike to spread the message BY acting it out?”

    I understand your point, but the Great Commission only talks about the Spiritual. Read the three verses: it says nothing about meeting physical needs. And it is wrong for us to add to Scripture. How is what I said in my first post not ‘ACTING IT OUT?’

    Aj and Paul,

    Most of what you guys are arguing with me about aren’t anything I disagree with. Do you think giving a man a sandwich is EQUALLY important to sharing the gospel with them?

    I hope not… I no way am I saying we shouldn’t give them a sandwich, build wells, etc. I am just saying that is not our goal. Giving them the Gospel is! If the Gospel is our final goal doesn’t that make it more important?

  • Ben R

    I agree with Paul. I went to two churches growing up (we moved in between), which were conservative, evangelical, and medium sized (~600-800 people). In both churches, evangelism consisted of going into the community and passing out tracks. Or maybe flying to mexico and passing out tracks.

    This continued into college, where once again my college group (organized by yet a third Baptist organization) flew to mexico and handed out tracks. None of us spoke spanish. I handed a track to a man and he walked away, but came back a few minutes later. He talked to me in spanish, but I couldn’t understand. I pointed to the track. He looked at the track and looked back at me. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he needed more than a track to wrestle with the movement of the Spirit upon him. He needed more than words on a page.

    Needless to say, my view of evangelism (and a lot more) changed that day. Sometimes I wonder if the hundreds of other youth that came through those institutions still think handing out tracks is the good news.

  • Matt Svoboda

    On another note:

    Shane Claiborne’s, Human Shields is kind of a joke. They go and protest in Baghdad were they no they won’t be killed to ‘make a point’, but why are they not in Darfur, Sudan, etc. Where they could be killed and not be so hypocritical. If you are going to protest war in Iraq because you are SOO anti-ALL War than go to the more dangerous places as well.

    Don’t come at my like I am a religious right, I’m not. I do not like Chuck Colson and I do not like the mentality of the religious right. But that doesn’t make Claiborne and other extremes right either.

    I like a lot of the things that the Emerging Church is doing in this area, but we can’t compromise the gospel by telling ourselves feeding people is enough even though WE ARE called to feed them!

  • Paul


    to clarify, if the Great Commission is to spread the good news, then how best to spread it?

    Is it by simply handing out tracts or telling people about the gospel?

    Or is it showing people the good news, that Jesus came to fulfill the law, which included taking care of the needy and the elderly?

    Have we really done what we were told to do if we don’t act with the compassion that Jesus acted with? If someone is hungry physically, then the spiritual is usually pretty low on the list of priorities. But feed that person, or give them water, and let them know that it was Christ’s compassion that moved you to feed them or give them water, and then you will be able to meet them where they’re at, so to speak.

    It was the compassion and faith of early Christians in Antioch that led people to label the early church as Christian. Now people label us based on our political stances. It’s about time we get back to being the witnesses of Christ that reflect Christ, and not Jerry Falwell.

  • Paul

    “Shane Claiborne’s, Human Shields is kind of a joke. They go and protest in Baghdad were they no they won’t be killed to ‘make a point’, but why are they not in Darfur, Sudan, etc. Where they could be killed and not be so hypocritical. If you are going to protest war in Iraq because you are SOO anti-ALL War than go to the more dangerous places as well.”

    Can’t speak to Claiborne’s Human Shields, but the Mennonite Central Committee sends missionaries into Darfur and to some pretty remote and dangerous parts of the planet to do missionary and peace making efforts. So, realize that not all Christian pacifists are making empty or seemingly empty gestures in this regard.

  • AJ

    Denny’s “this is not an either/or. It’s a both/and” (#5), also applies to meeting “physical” needs as well as proclaiming the gospel. I’m sure you agree with the above. However, when you say things like “I no way am I saying we shouldn’t give them a sandwich, build wells, etc. I am just saying that is not our goal. Giving them the Gospel is!” (#23), you set yourself up for being misunderstood. Our goal is to proclaim the gospel. Our goal is to meet physical needs. Our goal is to pour ourselves out for the sake of the other as our Savior did. May we pray for the grace to live our proclamation.

  • Brian W


    Your point is excellent. Digging wells (providing food, etc) is part of the good news we offer. Before Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” he fed 5000 people.

  • Matt Svoboda


    “Or is it showing people the good news, that Jesus came to fulfill the law, which included taking care of the needy and the elderly?”

    I agree with this. Nothing that I have said contradicts this. But that doesn’t mean physical needs are EQUALLY important. That is the only point I’ve been making!

    Comment 27- Point well made. And I don’t doubt that at all. I do believe Pacifists are doing Missionary work in dangerous places! Human Shields isn’t in anyway ‘missionary’ work though it is just, Anti-War

    Brian W,

    Nothing that I have said contradicts the point you made!

  • Mark Gibson


    You made a genarlization about conservatives that plainly isn’t true. You have no idea what each individual does when it comes to evangelism and service to the community.

    Once again, you can’t have a conversation without a personal attack. By the way, I’m never going to apologize from being a flag waving American. I’m proud of my country unlike some of the leaders on your side of the aisle.

  • Paul


    you’re the only one that saw my statement as a personal attack.

    I’ve seen the give a tract and split crowd too many times. To say that it doesn’t happen is just as disingenuous as me saying that every conservative does just that…oh wait, I didn’t say that. Please go back and read what I said carefully.

    And I only attacked because you did first. An eye for an eye, right?

  • jeff miller

    If you were Boyd in the linked interview and you reviewed the tape, which statements or comments (in the context of the discussion)would you feel compelled to make substantial changes to in order to more faithfully set forth the perspective of a disciple of Jesus?
    Jeff M.

  • Brett

    I’m sorry but I’m with Paul in regards to this issue. My former church only cared about evangelism and didn’t do anything to meet people’s physical needs. They slandered people like Mother Theresa from the pulpit and said her work was useless. Personally, I find this common amongst conservative evangelicals. I in no way attribute this to the whole group and don’t believe all are like that, but I do believe it’s a common trend I’ve observed. We’re so anti-works salvation that we basically throw them out the window and live passive lives and just focus on passing out tracts and taking people through the 4 spiritual laws and romans road.

    Mark, nobody expects you to apologize for being a flag waving American and being proud of your country. However, I would warn you to not look at such a belief and feeling as “Christian” though. God could care less if you’re a good, proud American or not, and is only concerned with you being a citizen in the kingdom of God instead of a kingdom of the world. Also, people on both sides of the aisle are critical of America, and rightly so. How can we not be critical when as a whole we’re so greedy, fat, power hungry, and immoral? The fact that a country consisting of 5% of the world’s population consumed 60% of the world’s resources says enough in my mind. I am thankful for some things about America, but I certainly don’t deify it and believe we’re the new Israel like the Puritans did! I personally wish that all Americans were exposed to other cultures for extended periods of time because I think it’s healthy and it makes us know God more by seeing and learning the diversity of the world as opposed to being immersed in our white, middle-class, comfortable neighborhoods.

  • Matt Svoboda


    Again, I like what you say, but I can’t agree that slandering Mother Theresa and work like hers is common among Evangelical Conservatives. I think you might of stretched that one. I have never heard ANY conservatives evangelicals blast Mother Theresa, sorry that you did!

    What is wrong with the Roman’s road? haha… just kidding!

  • Brett

    Hey Matt! Thanks for responding. I said that at my old church they slandered Mother Theresa and humanitarian-focused people, not all Evangelical conservatives. When I said, “I find this common amongst conservative Evangelicals” I was speaking about just focusing on evangelism and not focusing on meeting needs (physical needs). I haven’t actually heard anybody else outside of my old environment slander Mother Theresa, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. I’m sure Denny feels the same way that my old church did.

    Again, I’m not sure if slandering humanitarian-based ministries is common amongst all conservative Evangelicals, but I personally would not be surprised if it was. My main point was that focusing exclusively on evangelism is common amongst all conservative Evangelicals. Granted, there are some who focus on meeting physical needs, but it’s a general trend I’ve observed.

    And by the way (this isn’t directed at you Matt, but for everybody), why don’t we slow down the objections we have when somebody makes a general statement. For example, Denny mentioned in this post how SOME conservative Evangelicals have tried to stop abortion and slow it down by setting up crisis pregnancy centers and stuff. Well, that’s all well and good, but it is a general fact that most (the majority) conservative Evangelicals don’t do ANYTHING about abortion outside the voting booth (and I’d be willing to bet most on here as well)…and that it the bottom line. To dismiss Boyd’s statements as though they’re false b/c you have a little tiny sect of people on your side who are actually doing something about it is near-sighted and denies the facts.

    I’ll make criticisms of my own leanings to make the conservatives happy. Arminians: stop avoiding Romans 9 and admit where there are problems with your system. Democrats: stop trying to be the opposite of everything the Republican party is. Hilary Clinton: I have no idea how people vote for you and you have been corrupted for being in politics too many years! Liberal scholarship: stop taking the attitude that the Bible is guilty until proven innocent and show some respect for the inspired word of God! Greg Boyd: stop making cliche comments like “Christians are called to be self-sacrificial kingdom people” and start giving us suggestions and examples of what this looks like. Clark Pinnock: stop doing theology that makes you feel right and start going where the evidence leads you. New Perspective guys: stop acting like all of 1st century Judaism wasn’t works-based, you bring up great arguments, but your solutions can’t contribute to the whole problem b/c they fall up short half of the time. Liberals: stop acting like you’re so enlightened and all other people are brainwashed.


  • AJ

    Have any of you read Telford Work’s on the Lord’s Prayer called “Aint Too Proud to Beg”? It has two fascinating chapters, “The Reign of God” (Thy Kingdom Come) and “The Presence of God” (Your Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven). He argues in the former that American Christianity (both liberal and conservative) is divided in its loyalty between American Patriotism and Christian identity. In the latter chapter he argues that American Christianity (again, both left and right wing kinds)has shaped and been shaped by American foreign policy. This is a truly eye-opening work and is quite relevant for many of the ongoing discussions in American evangelicalism. Pick up a copy if you haven’t read it.

  • Mark Gibson


    I called out something that I perceived as a generalization. That is not a personal attack. “Keep up the pouting and flag waving Mark, it suits you well” is a personal attack (also completely off topic). Then you say that no one saw it as a personal attack, and you follow it up by admitting that it was. Which is it?

    At my church (very conservative), Gospel tracts were always given to us to hand out to people. We were also taught to use it as a tool, not to give and forget. However, there is no doubt that people just handed them out at random with no intention of presenting the Gospel themselves.


    I was just responding to Paul, I know that being an American has nothing to do with being a Christian. I realize that I have a closer bond with a Christian of another nationality than a non-Christian that is American. As much as Paul and I argue on here, we have a closer bond than a non-Christian with the same political views. I like arguing with Paul, it’s challenging.

    “The fact that a country consisting of 5% of the world’s population consumed 60% of the world’s resources says enough in my mind.” I see this a good thing. All of that energy helps feed, clothe, and raise the standard of living around the world.

    When it comes to getting out of our comfort zones I couldn’t agree more. I believe that it happens more often than you think.

  • Brett


    Thanks for the words. In regards to your last point, I’m talking about much more than a one or 2 week short-term mission trip. I mean immersed in another culture for an extended period of time, and this does not happen very often (considering the amount of people who are Christians versus the amount of people who do this). I wish all American Christians were required to do this. Maybe we should adopt the 2-year thing like Mormons do!

  • Carol Jean

    The straw men being burned in effigy are very frustrating! There’s a huge “don’t trust anyone over thirty” mentality that seems to be running rampant in some circles and often mischaracterizes those in my (over 40 evangelical) generation.

    I think that some are confusing institutional policies with individual Christians. While evangelical church policies may push tracts and do nothing for the poor and build no relationships with those outside the church (although I don’t believe it happens nearly as often as some may think)I don’t think it’s fair to lump individual “evangelicals” (for lack of a better term) in with that mentality.

    Our pastor has apparently been reading Dan Kimball’s books and has been going on and on about how we live in our Christian bubbles and we need to step out of our comfort zones and form relationships with the outside world. I’m sitting there listening and wondering, “Who on earth is he talking to?”

    The next hour I go to my Sunday school class, made up almost exclusively of white couples over 35, and listen to prayer requests from people who are involved in REAL ministry with REAL people in the REAL world. A man who ministers to troubled teens, someone with a bipolar Jewish friend, a university biology professor who builds relationships with foreign students, a family with children who has taken a crack addict into their lives and even their home for a time, a lawyer who helps the disabled, a couple who has chosen to move to the worst neighborhood in our city to start a ministry. And just average people who have friendships in their neighborhoods and their children’s schools and find ways to share Christ with them through their daily lives.

    The vast majority of Christians work in non-Christian jobs 40+ hours a week. They’re quietly volunteering at homeless shelters and pregnancy centers week after week, year after year…I know people who have done it for more than 30 years! They’re not staging protests for the news, writing books, or giving interviews…they’re just quietly serving food and teaching Bible studies to unwed mothers.

    Maybe, instead of mischaracterizing an entire generation (Tony Campolo excepted!) some of the naysayers ought to get to know some of the quiet servants of my generation.

  • Paul


    you must go to a way different conservative church than the ones I ever checked out.

    I went to one megachurch in Naperville, IL, a town of 180K people, a church of 5-6K members, and they did virtually no public outreach.

    All three of the churches I checked out in Wheaton, IL (home of the famous Wheaton College) did little if any public outreach.

    It wasn’t until I went to a church that was definitely affiliated with the emergent church idea that I saw someone trying to do anything to reach out into the world outside of passing out Chick tracts. Even then, though, it didn’t seem like much.

    Now that I’ve joined my wife in as a mennonite, I’ve finally seen a church which truly has a heart for missions. While theologically, they’re pretty conservative, politically, they’re as liberal as it gets.

    So, let’s review stats here…

    Paul’s been a Christian for 10 years.

    In that time, he’s been to countless churches, but we’ll narrow it down to the ones I went to more than 3 times and actually considered being a member of.

    13 churches overall.

    9 classically conservative churches. All nine did little to none in the missions or charity department.

    1 was a church that was in the process of discovering the prosperity gospel while I was going there. This was a black church that did anything and everything for its community, but did very little outside of its church community. I dunno if you realistically call that charity or not.

    1 was a church based around the idea of racial reconciliation. I didn’t last long there, but at least they went out of their way to give free ESL classes, free lunches for folks in the area, neighborhood cleanup days and other things where they used these kinds of ploys to try to reach out to the community at large.

    2 mennonite churches that send people all over the country, continent and world trying to get the gospel out there in every way possible. Our church alone has a homeless shelter, a womens shelter, a 10K Villages Store a camp for at risk kids and a couple of other things that I don’t remember off the top of my head.

    Maybe I just went to the wrong conservative churches. I dunno. But going 9 for 9 seeing nothing but people eager to stay in their bubbles doesn’t really give me much to work with here.

  • Paul


    nope. The beautiful difference between “old order Mennonites” and “new order Mennonites.”

    Actually, when my wife took me to her college (Goshen College in Goshen, IN), it looked more like the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show back in the day than a well revered Christian college. I saw more llama’s wool sweaters and manskirts than anyone should ever expect to see at a Christian college. And I also schooled some folks at hackey sack. 🙂

  • Bryan L

    huh. I hadn’t heard of the “old order” and the “new order”. I might just have to become a Mennonite now. It’s sad when what keeps me from a particular denomination or theology is nothing but the clothes. But I guess I’m pretty shallow that way : )

  • Carol Jean

    Paul Said “Maybe I just went to the wrong conservative churches. I dunno. But going 9 for 9 seeing nothing but people eager to stay in their bubbles doesn’t really give me much to work with here.”

    Paul, I feel like you either didn’t “listen” or purposely ignored the point of my post. My point was there is a difference between organized institutional outreach and individual personal outreach. In the churches you visited, did you get to know each and every person in the 5k-6k congregation to ascertain that they were living in a bubble and not doing anything for the kingdom? Or did you walk in and see that the “institution” did not have anything big and showy that you approved of and then sit in judgment of those people?

    I think there is a perception that institutions, whether government or the church, are going to solve the world’s problems. We forget that institutions are made of individuals.

    So my friend, who has a ministry with inner city teen mothers, may go to a mega church like the one you visited and you may not have met her or heard about her ministry. Actually, she goes to my mega church and my church supports that ministry financially. Many church members volunteer with that ministry. It’s outside the walls of the church and there’s no big show to advertise it or brag about all the good works our church is doing. Our church supports pockets of parachurch organizations all over the city and around the world, both financially and with boots on the ground. But someone visiting the church may not know about those things until they get seriously involved in the church. I come from a generation where it is considered crass to talk about all the wonderful things you’re doing.

    Honestly, I’ve listened to some of Rob Bell’s sermons and talks and I’ve been really…almost embarrassed for him because a lot of what he says comes across as bragging. I hear the same thing from Claiborne when he talks about his good deeds. “When I went to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa…..when I went to Iraq….” OK already! We hear this every time he gives a talk! I understand you’ve been raised in a generation that needs a lot of affirmation and everyone gets a trophy and you can’t use red pens on the homework because it will hurt the kid’s self-esteem. Enough already!

    “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4)

  • Paul


    nice shot.

    I see a vast difference between “bragging” and a church actively getting involved in a community. A church is made up of individuals, and those individuals make up the face of that church. And there’s a HUGE difference between a church bragging about what it’s doing and it saying “hey, so and so is starting this ministry, help him/her out by doing this, that or the other.”

    Now, insofar as the megachurch that I went to, I DID meet and talk to everyone in the college group. And as a matter of fact, it was callous remarks made by a member of that college group regarding why I felt no need to join the worship team that helped me to make up my mind to leave. But, anyway, the college aged group, the group of people that are supposed to be young and energized and eager to go out into the world did nothing of the sort. They went to church on Sunday, some of them went on Wednesday, and none of the people I met did anything other than that. And if the college aged members of the church aren’t being active in the community, I can pretty much guarantee you that they learned that apathy from their parents and elders of the church. That said, the pastoral staff that I met there weren’t interested in doing much for the community, either.

    If your mega church supports parachurch ministries and the such, then good for your megachurch. But it didn’t seem to be the case at this one. And it didn’t seem to be the case at any of the conservative churches that I went to. And believe me, I asked around at all of those churches to find out if there were ministries that I could get involved in. And time after time, outside of getting handfulls of Chick tracts or supporting some missionary going to (insert far off place here), they had nothing.

    So, once again, I come back to, I’m 9 for 9 in finding conservative churches that don’t do outreach in their communities. Your conservative churches may vary. But that’s MY experience. Getting uppity because of the experiences that I’ve had does nothing to help either your cause or mine.

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