How to Recognize a Neo-Evangelical Church
By Pastor George C. Bruns
Neo-Evangelicalism is not a denomination. A Neo-Evangelical church will not have a sign on its front door proclaiming itself to be Neo-Evangelical. Neo-Evangelicalism is a movement, and it is not a new movement. It began in the 1940's in direct opposition to biblical Fundamentalism. Neo-Evangelicalism is dangerous. It is a dangerous movement because it is a movement away from God and the clear teaching of His Word. Listed here are seven characteristics of Neo-Evangelicalism. Not every Neo-Evangelical church may display all seven of these characteristics, but a church that displays some of them is Neo-Evangelical at heart, and will no doubt continue to add more of these features to itself as time goes on unless it is shown the error of its ways and repents.
Neo-Evangelical churches preach easy messages that talk about sin in general terms. A person will most likely never be challenged concerning his/her particular sin in a Neo-Evangelical church because it might offend them and chase them away. A person will rarely, if ever, squirm in their seat in a Neo-Evangelical church. Nor, will they probably ever grow as a Christian in a Neo-Evangelical church. However, it will "feel" spiritual to be in one.
But, the Bible warns against the preaching of "smooth things" and commands us to preach hard things (Isaiah 30:8-12; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). Repentance and confession of sin is not just for the unbeliever unto salvation. It is also necessary for the believer to repent of his sin and confess it for the sake of sanctification. God expects us to grow in grace. (1 John 1:5-9; 2 Peter 3:17-18).
Neo-Evangelical churches refuse to separate from unbelief. They dialog with modernists and adopt their unscriptural views rejecting the reality of biblical miracles, the global consequences of Noah's flood, and the literalness of the six-day creation of the physical universe along with the creation and fall of man (Acts 2:22; Genesis 6:5-7, 17; 7:18-20; Mark 10:6; Romans 5:12).
Yet, God's Word clearly tells us to separate from apostates and all false teaching (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Psalm 119:128).
Neo-Evangelical churches promote unity at the cost of purity (James 3:17). They have no trouble fellowshipping with Charismatics, Pentecostals or even Roman Catholics in evangelistic endeavors. They promote compromisers like Billy and Franklin Graham.
But the Bible warns against fellowshipping with unbelievers and even with believers who have fellowship with them (1 Kings 13:1-34; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).
Neo-Evangelical churches have brought the world into the church and replaced traditional hymn singing with worldly contemporary music and old-fashioned biblical preaching with dramas and plays.
But the Bible tells us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that place the emphasis on correct doctrine using melody and not on modern music that places the emphasis on sensual rhythms and on a mind-numbing beat. And Scripture teaches that the world will be won to Christ by preaching the gospel and not by big musical or theatrical productions and dramas. (Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:21)
Neo-Evangelical churches support dangerous 12 step programs and self-esteem promoting Christian psychologists such as James Dobson, Larry Crabb, John Bradshaw, Philip Yancey, and others like them.
However, the Bible teaches that there is only one step to self-improvement and that is repenting of our sins and receiving Christ as our Savior. The Bible warns against the dangers of blaming others for our sins (Genesis 3:12-13) and for esteeming ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 6:11; 12:3).
Neo-Evangelical churches embrace the modern versions of the Bible. Not all, but most have adopted Bibles that are based on the Westcott-Hort critical Greek text rather than on Traditional Greek Text of the King James Bible.
But, biblical Fundamentalists understand and believe in God's ability to miraculously and perfectly preserve His inspired word down through the centuries (Psalm 12:6-7; Isaiah 59:21). The modern version supporters reject the biblical doctrine of preservation.
Neo-Evangelical churches not only fail to warn their members about teachers of false doctrine but often promote such heretics as, William Barclay (Barclay’s Bible Commentary), Deitrich Bohnhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship), Oswald Chambers (My Utmost For His Highest), Hannah Hurnard (Hind’s Feet On High Places), C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screw Tape Letters, etc.), Norman Vincent Peal (The Power of Positive Thinking), Robert Schuller (Self-Love, The Dynamic Face of Success and Self-Esteem, the New Reformation), and many, many others.
But the Bible commands us to test all things against Scripture (1 John 4:1; Romans 12:9).
Neo-Evangelical churches tend to be big, and impersonal. Unlike Christ they tend to measure the success of their ministry by the number of people they attract to their services rather than by how close they are adhering to the Word of God (John 6:58-66). If a church is pushing a 40 day, 30 day or some other number day program, beware. These are man's methods not God's (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:47).
If you think you are in a Neo-Evangelical church then you need to show your pastor this article and get his reaction. If he throws the article away or rejects what it teaches then you're probably in one.
Perhaps you should then consider looking for a Fundamental church that you can rightly "feel" uncomfortable in.
Dr. Charles Woodbridge wrote in his book, The New Evangelicalism:
"The New Evangelicalism is a theological and moral compromise of the deadliest sort. It is an insidious attack upon the Word of God. ...The New Evangelicalism advocates toleration of error. It is following the downward path of accomodation to error, cooperation with error, contamination by error, and ultimate capitulation to error!"
The saddest thing of all is that many churches that call themselves Fundamental are actually Neo-Evangelical and don't even know it.
If you are blessed enough to find yourself in a truly Fundamental church, thank God for it, pray for it, continue to support it, and do everything you can to keep it that way.