5 Epidemics the Evangelical Church Must Address

5 Epidemics

One of the very best ways to grow personally is to be 100% honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

I feel that way about the local church, and about the wider church.

At Connexus, where I serve as Lead Pastor, I remind our staff team regularly of two things:

1. We should be our church’s biggest fans and most honest critics. I believe the combination of the two helps us to stay encouraged while we relentlessly work on whatever needs to be fixed. And something pretty much always needs to be fixed.

2. We get paid to see the cracks. Even though we’re fortunate to have a healthy, growing church, we have days where all we seem to do is spot problems and try to figure out how to fix them. But here’s the benefit.  If the paid leadership of the church does this, then everyone else ends up with a much better experience and healthier church. If the paid leadership (and elders) ignore them, everyone suffers.

Shouldn’t we apply the same level of vigilance to the wider church? If you stay healthy, you’ll ward off any issues before they reach epidemic proportions.

Today’s post is about 5 epidemics I see impacting the evangelical church. (My last post was about 5 epidemics impacting the mainline church.) I’ve served in both settings and love the church too much to ignore these trends.

A healthy church is an effective church.

Here are the 5 epidemics the evangelical church must address:

1. Pride. Many, but certainly not all, evangelical churches are growing. And with growth can come pride. And even when churches aren’t growing, there can be a pride about ‘being right’ about doctrine. Pride edges God out of churches and turns people off. The self-righteousness pride induces is the opposite of authentic Christianity. We need to repent of our pride.

2. Judgment.  So many people feel judged by Christians and the church. Judgment springs from pride. It’s centred on the false belief that somehow we got in or get to stay in because we deserve it. That’s just not true and makes a mockery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. How many people do we lose every year because they feel like Christians think they are better than everyone else?

3. The elevation of everything hip or cool. I believe in using the culture to reach the culture. But using what’s hip, cool or otherwise current is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Walk into an evangelical leadership conference and you’ll realize that people feel they have to dress the part to be in leadership. I won’t stop using what is cultural to express what is timeless, but it can’t ever become the goal. Sometimes it’s good just to be your uncool self.  

4. Alienation from the Past. For sure some evangelical churches feel like you walked into 1950, while others feel like you walked into a Hollister store or some vintage store (see point 3, above). What I’m talking about here is an alienation from the rich tradition of 2000 years of excellent theology. When a leader’s bookshelf or Kindle only has works from the past 5 years on it, you wonder how sustainable that theology really is.

5. A Lack of Love for the World God Created. When you come from a place of judgment or pride, it’s easy to look down on those who are not like you. The most quoted evangelical verse of all time, however, says that God loved the world. And he does. He loves people far from him. He loves people who are different than Christians. He loves people where they are at. He loves the planet. Has it all been deeply twisted by sin? Absolutely. But under the Father’s heart is a deep and abiding love for his people and creation. What if evangelicals reflected that love by how we treat outsiders and the world God made?

Again, I write this only because I feel all 5 tensions and am not above any, which is how I feel about the 5 epidemics facing the mainline church as well.

What would you add to this list? What do you disagree with?

(Oh, and remember…mainliners and evangelicals, play nice in the comments).


  1. Lawrence W. Wilson on August 10, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Regarding the distinction you raise in #3, I think the great leaders of the movement (beginning with Graham) have always understood how to use but not adopt the culture, but many of us lesser lights have been unable to see (or hold) that line. If evangelicalism has a fatal flaw, that’s it.

  2. Stephen G. Knopp II on August 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I am awesome at being uncool. What are some examples of using the culture to reach the culture without resorting to skinny jeans (no offense-I really do wish I could pull them off) or other ways we are simply trying to be relevant?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on August 10, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      Funny. 🙂 And a great point. I have seen very traditional services that were relevant because it was clear the preacher was up on cultural issues and understood where people really lived and what they were struggling with. Naturally, I would have liked to see the rest of the service updated, but even a relevant approach goes a long way toward bridging the gap with your audience.

  3. Michael Pratt on August 10, 2013 at 2:07 am

    I’ve watched God use some pretty un-cool people in amazing ways. The thing they all had in common? They loved God and people in life changing ways. Thanks Carey, great post.

  4. Gord Evans on August 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

    We need to stop ‘doing’ church, and start ‘being’ the Church. Thanks for this insightful post. Good food to chew on today.

  5. Aaron Buer on August 9, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Wow. Great post and a strong challenge. Thanks.

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