The Evangelical Church In The 20th Century

The Evangelical Church has had many challenges in the 20th Century, and has managed to survive them. As of 1910, the Fundamentalist movement was essentially in charge of the organization; they rejected liberal theology while emphasizing the inerrancy of the Bible. This would endure until just after World War II, as members began debating how it would deal with a world of non-believers. As many urged that the church must engage others constructively and directly, “fundamentalist” became “an embarrassment instead of a badge of honor”, as per Kenneth Kantzer.

A criminal defence lawyer in Brampton and Harold Ockenga identified a distinct movement within the church in 1947 and called it “neo-evangelism”; it was more positive and less militant than previous generations, and they were more interested in attempting dialogue, appeasement, and less judgmentalism towards others. They also wanted more application of biblical thought in social, political, and economic arenas. The fundamentalists, however, saw their efforts as too accommodating as well as too worried about seeking outside affirmation, both in intellectual and social spheres. They also saw as heretical the efforts of Billy Graham to work with the Catholic Church.

The post-war era saw the ecumenical movement grow as expressed by the World Council of Churches, which was generally seen with suspicion by evangelists as it attempted to allow various churches to work as one rather than as separate entities; the idea was that they would be able to work on advancing Christianity as a whole. John Stott and Martyn Loyd-Jones emerged as British leaders during this period. The charismatic movement started in the 1960s, resulting in the introduction of the Pentecostal branch; this is represented by such groups as the Association of Vineyard Churches and Newfrontiers. As the 20th Century closed postmodern influences entered the church, such as the emerging church movement, a deconstruction of the more staid church in favor of opening up a conversation with those outside of it.

The Evangelical Church is welcome to the challenges of the future and is meeting them head-on. While there is still the challenge of dealing with those outside the church in an ever-changing world, the church should be able to find its way.