Even though our decision to move back to the U.S. and start a new ministry probably seemed very sudden to many, it was actually the culmination of a long process of preparation through which the Lord had taken us.
I wrapped up the previous post with: This prompted me to write a simple two-line email to Jimmy DeYoung (a long-time friend and Founding Director of Prophecy Today), asking the question: “Is there a need for an organization, something like the Pre-Trib Study Group, to help hold the line on historical, conservative evangelicalism?”
As I mentioned, I wrote this email because of the results of a survey that had just been published (in June, 2008) concerning beliefs among those who self-identified as “Evangelicals.” As a missionary, it was very disconcerting to read that 57% indicated they believed other religions could lead to eternal life.
On the other hand, these results weren’t a complete surprise. In fact, for several years I had been suggesting that I would not be surprised if as many as 70% of those in Evangelical churches did not really believe that “the heathen are lost.” Up until the Pew Study results were published, I didn’t really have anything concrete upon which to base my “gut feeling.”
However, this whole issue had been a concern to such a degree that for each of the past three furloughs (2004, 2006, 2008), I had been preaching exclusively about this from Romans 10:9-15 whenever I had the opportunity. (And there had been an overwhelming response, especially from older believers, as their attention was drawn to the Lord’s perspective on the question of “What about those who haven’t heard?”)
In December, 2005, I had the privilege of speaking in chapel at Dallas Theological Seminary and again I preached from Romans 10. I was stunned when after the message, Howard Hendricks came up to me and said, “Thank you. I’m glad someone finally had the courage to say this.” I thought to myself, “How could this be coming from a professor at DTS?”
(If you would like to hear this message, it is still available on the DTS website: “Are the Heathen Lost?”)
For several years, many of us on the mission field were becoming increasingly concerned about the broad decline in the emphasis on missions, the struggle churches were having in even maintaining their financial commitments to missions, how fewer and fewer believers were moving into vocational missions, and how it was becoming increasingly difficult for missionary candidates to actually get to the field. Missions conferences were and are almost a thing of the past. For various reasons, very few people in any given church know any missionaries very well. And, because more and more churches only have one service a week with preaching from the pulpit, most congregations never hear missionary speakers as many pastors are understandably reluctant to relinquish that one opportunity they have each week to speak to the entire church.
What was happening within Evangelical churches? And more importantly, why?
I was beginning to conclude that ultimately there must be a theological reason behind this. I was sensing that a dramatic shift was occurring with more and more evangelicals becoming “practical universalists,”even though I knew most would theoretically agree that “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” Again, the Pew Study only served to confirm this conclusion.
This theological shift could only mean one thing: Either people were no longer being grounded in the Word through clear expositional teaching and preaching or what evangelicals believed about the Bible and the way they were handling the Word of God was changing – or both. If this were true, then the foundations upon which “classic” evangelicalism rested were being quickly eroded and the future of historic, conservative evangelicalism was at stake. At the same time, I was sure that there must be a significant number of evangelical leaders who were seeing the same thing and shared the burden to keep the church faithful to the Lord and his Word.
It was this thought that prompted the email to Jimmy DeYoung and it was this concern that became one of the main catalysts in the formation of The Alliance for Biblical Integrity.
Please “stay tuned” for Part III in the next few days.
ABI Ministry Coordinator