Two quick stories by way of introduction, then the application.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Evangelicals would do something each spring called door-to-door visitation. In other words, teams of two people would pick a neighborhood and knock on doors inviting people to come to church. Or to consider the claims of Christ. Or to come to church in order to consider the claims of Christ. Or accept the claims of Christ and then come to church.
Honestly, I’m not sure which was which because I’m pretty sure back then you had to believe to belong, but now you can belong before you believe. But now I’m a thousand miles off course.
The thing I really wanted to say here is this: Going in twos door-to-door was pretty much co-opted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. They took the form or the methodology and totally dominated. They killed the category.
Today, you can’t go door-to-door without being taken for JWs or Latter Day Saints.
A church near where I live did something a few years ago did something I would consider quite wise. They’re part of a Canadian denomination that has both the word Missionary and Evangelical in their name. So emblazoned on their building in rather large letters was the name, Evangelical Missionary Church.
Bob, do we have a picture? No but we have a picture of the church bus.
Anyway, the leadership of a few years back decided the word Evangelical was losing its respect in the broader world. (Think televangelist.) If you follow Christian authors and pastors online, you know this discussion is taking place across Evangelicalism. (Try this article on for size.)
They also felt the word Missionary was somewhat archaic. It conjured up an image of Beulah Baker with her hair in a bun heading off for seven years in the Belgian Congo. Honestly, I agree with the need for change; I accept the Missionary position on this issue.
So today, the sign reads, Grace Church. Short and simple.
So where are we going with this today? We have a story of a form being co-opted. We have a story of the meaning of words shifting, at least in perception.
The word in question: Gospel.
The Gospel is the good news, the heralding that something of vital importance has taken place. As the great theologian Linus once said, “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”
But now it’s a code word. Think “Together for the Gospel.” Or “The Gospel Coalition.” Now you know to whom I refer. The Neo-Reformed. The New Calvinists. (Or as I will often use as alternatives: Militant Calvinists. Internet Calvinists.)
Preparing this, I was reminded of an article I wrote back in 2011, with a screenshot of a note about an upcoming conference and the writer’s joy over how great it was that “three real friends of the gospel” were speaking. This implies that:
- The others are not real (or true) friends of the gospel
- Anyone individual or group not part of the YRR (Young, Restless & Reformed) crowd are simply not friends of the gospel
Where does this end?
- The others don’t like the gospel
- The others don’t preach the true gospel
- The others are heretics
- The others hate the gospel
Yikes; that last one was hard to type, but are we really that far away from a schism of that nature? That’s where this rhetoric is taking us. Words matter. What we say counts.
Or…the rest of us, who would have been happy continually using those words, have to find new ones. To the reformers: That wasn’t your word to steal. But now you’ve ruined it for everyone…
…What’s that, Bob? You found the picture? Well, okay: