You Might Be An Evangelical Reject If. . .

I wish it were otherwise, but, unfortunately it’s true.  Everything within me resisted this realization.  But, the time has come to admit it: I’m an Evangelical reject.

The more I write the clearer this sad truth becomes.  This blog, as much as it’s served as a place to flesh out ideas I believe to be central to expressing the euangelion (gospel [hence, evangelical]) in our day to our culture, also continues to damage my reputation in the evangelical circles that I run in.

I’ve had friends distance themselves from me because they think my views blindly accommodate for twenty-first century secular culture.  Colleagues question my commitment to the Scriptures.  Past and present church members discuss my heretical views behind my back.  To top it all off, one time, in an angry email, a passage was quoted to me from one of the letters to Timothy that talked about false teachers.  I’m an evangelical reject.  And today, I’ve decided to embrace it.

The question is, what makes this so?  Why do I get accused of heresy on the regular?  Before I get to that, maybe there’s a bit of explaining on my end that’s necessary.  Do I consider myself an Evangelical?  Yes.  But in these interesting times, different people want that word to mean different things.  I am with Roger Olson (although, more tempted to throw out this term than he is) who has struggled with the label recently.  He states:

All labels have their problems and, to be sure “evangelical” is fraught with them.  But I am not giving it up.  Instead, I will fight for it.  To me, it is virtually synonymous with “God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving” Christianity.  Of course, that needs unpacking also.

One thing I find helpful when talking to someone or a group with time to listen is to distinguish between the evangelical ethos and the evangelical movement.  I see myself as participating in both, but I am more comfortable claiming the evangelical ethos than I am identifying with the evangelical movement– at least as it is viewed by most people.

Brave New Films

So, most of the time, when I say I am evangelical I mean I am a Protestant Christian who believes authentic Christianity requires a conversion experience of regeneration and that faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and repentance for sin are necessarily included in that.

In so far that evangelical means the belief in repentance and conversion into a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the term describes me.  What I continue to find, is that such a central conviction is NOT enough to appease those who want the term to mean other things.  So, based on my experiences, I want to let you know that: You Might Be an Evangelical Reject If…

  • You’re uncomfortable calling other branches of Christianity “apostate.”
  • You worry that those who cling to terms like “orthodox” often do so because they believe it to be synonymous with “Neo-Calvinism.”
  • You have significant questions about controversial theological “hot button” issues of the day and are some-what comfortable with the subsequent cognitive dissonance.
  • You’ve been asked to leave a church leadership position for philosophical / theological reasons.
  • You had a “love wins” sticker on the back of your car before the book controversy was even thought of.
  • You read theologians from all across the spectrum.
  • You think that science and scripture both reveal God’s truth in complementary ways.
  • You think that what we believe about the so called “end times” actually matters for how we do mission today.
  • You know that living the truth is more important than defending it logically.
  • You recognize culture wars as pathetic attempts for Christians to grab for power.
  • You don’t use the word inerrancy to describe biblical authority because its too rigid a definition and a modernist categorical imposition on the Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures.
  • You think women should do anything BUT be silent in the church. (Can I get an AMEN from my sistas?)
  • You think that postmodern philosophy helps theology more than it hurts it.
  • You drink alcohol sometimes (in public).
  • You endorse someone that has been deemed a heretic by
  • You believe that there are significant parallels between the Roman Empire of the 1st Century and the United States of modern day.
  • You believe social justice is central to the gospel of the Kingdom.
  • You throw up a little in your mouth every time someone says that “the rapture is coming soon, so what’s the fuss with taking care of the planet?  Lets save souls!”
  • You’ve said “I’m not that kind of Christian…”
  • You considered or actually voted democratic in the last two elections.
  • You think that African American Activists have valid points when it comes to justice issues.
  • You have gay friends.
  • You’ve been in a conversation where the other was appealing more to the constitution of the USA than actually biblical theology.
  • You’re also an Anabaptist

Question: How would you end the following sentence: You might be an Evangelical Reject If…

Kurt Willems is an Anabaptist writer and pastor who is preparing for church planting next year by finishing work towards a Master of Divinity degree at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.  He writes at: the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

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About the Author

Kurt Willems

Kurt WillemsKurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is the founding pastor of Pangea Communities - a movement of peace, justice, & hope. The church plant, in partnership with the Brethren in Christ and Urban Expression, is based in Seattle, Wa. Kurt writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.View all posts by Kurt Willems →

  • Kurt, Well put!  

    You might also be an evangelical reject if you resonate with the questions found at at the end of this article:

    or if you find yourself enjoying the new book, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity!  : ) 

  • Sandy

    Amen! BTW I am reading this because someone I respect called Tony Campolo a heretic, and I went to find out for myself…thinking Christians, what will they do next?!

  • Deborah


    from a sister who is a Senior Pastor and who has a real hard time being silent

  • Carolnowlin

    Amen to most of those, as a sista and a fellow Anabaptist.But do you think being a reject means we can’t still engage traditional evangelical structures? I think there has to be room for difference and dissent without disengagement.

    • @38e370107e7a726688024f1da902ae5b:disqus , to answer your question I invite you to read my follow up article to this which is now live on my personal blog:

    • LightByGrace

      I definitely think there is room…I am fully ensconced within both a Vineyard church and a Methodist church…I love them both and I am learning to navigate through the areas of doctrine that I do not necessarily uphold within each tradition. If I left to find some other church I would probably run into the same problem in the areas that I still agree with in the more conservative evangelical realm…I am learning to live in the tension…I feel like one of the things Papa might be asking me to do is to be a bridge builder.

  • Anonymous

    You might be an Evangelical Reject If…
     . . . You have the audacity to believe that “baptism . . . now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .” (1Pet 3.21).

    . . . You see everywhere in the American church the notion that revivalism is way more sexier than the ordinances Christ instituted for his church.

    . . . You see 20-30 something evangelicals suddenly get it that Christianity is much larger than them, much larger than the individual’s “conversion experience,” and then they start bitching about it like they’re the first to do so, and you find yourself rolling your eyes and repeating along with Qoheleth, “there’s nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

    . . . You reject most other attempts to understand Christ & Culture other than the Two Kingdoms model.

    . . . You drink more than just sometimes.

    . . . You see both the evangelical right and the evangelical left as two sides of the same coin.

    . . . You affirm the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Supper.

    & co.

  • Gavincargill

    You might be an Evangelical Reject if you believe that some of the narratives in a John Grisham novel just might be true! (i.e. The Confession)

  • Drew

    You might be an Evangelical Reject if… you try to put “sola fide” in context.
    Too many use “sola fide” as an excuse to not have any works, contrary to James 2:17, Matthew 7:20, ect….

  • Drew

    “You’ve been in a conversation where the other was appealing more to the constitution of the USA than actually biblical theology.”

    Here’s a twist on that…

    “You’ve been in a conversation where the other was appealing more to atheist Ayn Rand than actually biblical theology.”

  • Grace

    You might be an evangelical reject if…

    …most of your relatives believe that you are going to hell becuase you have not one but two degrees (BA and JD), vote democratic AND have a tattoo.

    …..if you went to public school your from k-12 grades.
    …..if you beleive your vocation is your “calling”
    …..if you question people that have to say “Jesus” after every other word to show that they are more religious than you are.  (thou dost protest too much)
    ….if you are more concerned about people on the frige of society than you are about the middle class

    And so many more from my life as a prechers kid from Oklahoma…

  • Grace

    Sorry…one more!
    …if you listen to Christian radio stations to hear opposing viewpoints.

  • Lauren Edwards

    Amen from this sister (on all of it, not just the woman part)!  

    There is a place for us Evangelical Rejects but I’m beginning to believe that it might not be within the traditional evangelical denominations. Just trying to find a place where I fit on this journey…

  • Lightbygrace

    It’s official then…I am a reject! 

    And AMEN from your sista!

  • Lightbygrace

    You might be a reject if you don’t believe that the US was ever intended to be a ‘Christian Nation’…”

  • Lightbygrace

    Another one: 

    “You understand the word ‘repent’ to mean ‘to change your mind, change your course’, not ‘to scrape your face on the ground repeatedly at the feet of a faceless God who forgives you if you beg hard enough'”

  • yeah Kurt… but for every person fleeing because you’re unclean, there are others drawn in, breathing deeply, and saying, “finally – a faith that looks like Jesus” – Keep up the good work. 

  • I kind of think it’s when you actually believe each line of the Apostles Creed, with specific emphasis on the word “catholic”, and you understand the term catholic in it’s larger text.

     –adjective1.broad or wide-ranging in tastes, interests, or the like; having sympathies with all; broad-minded; liberal.2.universal in extent; involving all; of interest to all.3.pertaining to the whole Christian body or church.

  • Obscuritus

    I’ve referred to myself as a “recovering Evangelical” which sounds eerily similar to an “Evangelical Reject”.

  • ALG

    …if you start squirming in your seat when your pastor closes the sermon by stating emphatically that Christians are the only ones who believe in Almighty God…

  • Mathew

    The amount of judgment from those that claim to be the one’s being judged is painful.  I have tried to follow this blog because I respect Tony Campolo and still remember hearing one of his talks on tape that really expanded my understanding of the eternal nature of Jesus’ work on the Cross.  In just about everything I have read on this blog though, this article is the last straw for me, all I see is a self-righteousness due to thinking one is able to “live the red letters” of the scripture.

    It is impossible to do this and that is why Jesus did it for us, so that
    we might live lives of self-examination, confession, repentance, and
    thanksgiving for the work of Christ.  If we are supposed to live the
    “red letters” how do we live Matthew 5:48 – Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    It is painful for me to write this comment but I am compelled to because I have to say that all I feel when I read this blog is judgment and burden.  That is not the Gospel!  The Gospel sets one free and we are called not to submit again to another yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1).
    I am not judging you or your sincerity but I am judging the message as not being a Gospel one but rather one of the law. 

    Judge away!

    • Sorry if I offended you.  I disagree with your assessment of me, as I know me and well… you don’t. Nevertheless, you are entitled to your own opinion.  May God’s grace be yours in spite of differing understandings about Scripture and a life in the Spirit…

      • Mathew

        It is not you that offended me, really.  I was not assessing you or judging you.

        As I said, I was commenting on the message of the post and of this blog in general being one for the most part that brings burden to me because of the way that it describes some Christians as opposed to other Christians ways of thinking about things. 

        I was also, commenting on the the theological viewpoint of the blog in general and happened to do it on your article as it was the last one I read. 

        The theology of this blog and your theology are not you.  Theology is words about God and it is based on particular understandings of the Scripture. 
        The theological viewpoint of this blog is burdensome to me. 

        You, you’re right, I don’t know. 

        You, yourself, have not offended me but thank you for your compassion.

    • LightByGrace

      I agree with you to some extent, Mathew. I, too, have thought at times that this blog carries a bit of the same judgmental spirit that it is opposing in others. But I find this to be true in any faith-based blog regardless of viewpoint. It’s easy to fall into that. No matter what point of view that I take I know I have to be careful not to place people who hold the ‘other’ viewpoint under condemnation. I have to remind myself that we’re all just trying to figure it out and follow Jesus the best we can. I especially have to remind myself where I came from and that what I believe now could change as I continue to grow..To walk humbly with God.

      I found this article enjoyable because as someone who spent a long time following one viewpoint while ignoring nagging questions in my mind, it has been an adjustment to finally feel free enough to ask the questions without fearing the looks and judgments of people in my community of faith. And at times I have felt like a reject (or at least the target of sympathetic prayers of well-meaning friends who fear for my eternity)…One week I was told by one person: ”what happened to the girl I knew who was so strong in her faith?” and by another: “You talk about Jesus too much in your Facebook posts’…

      ??!!! :)

      What is a girl to do?? Know what I mean?

      I think that Kurt was kind of doing a tongue-in-cheek version of how you summed up your comment here: ‘I’m not judging you, I am judging the message’…I believe (and hope) that Kurt was not intending to place judgement on the people who hold the views that some of us no longer adhere to, but share his experience as one struggling as he shakes off some previous held views.

      • Mathew

        Thanks for your reply.  I understand the sentiment and preachy prayers from friends are not cool.
        Walking humbly with God is exactly what we’re called to do! 
        One part, in my opinion, means to understand that all that we have no hope of being able to righteously do has been done by Christ and that we are righteous and forgiven because Jesus has died, is risen and will one day come again!
        Thanks again and peace.

  • Iambingle

    thnx Broz… needed the levity, 24 for 24 Be Blessed!

  • Juliane

    You might be an Evangelical Reject if you aren’t comfortable being called a missionary and often use other descriptions like volunteer at _____ or worker with _______.  Annnd it doesn’t feel right when your documentation says your occupation is “wife of a missionary.”

    Also you might be an Evangelical Reject if you drop the f-bomb.

    • LightByGrace

      The F-bomb is my favorite!

  • Willhouk

    I’m a reject. I love it! Great post.

  • Ha! Thanks for giving me a place to belong! Before in my life, being a “reject” was undesirable. But you just made it super cool.

    You might be an evangelical reject if…”Emergent” isn’t a cuss word in your vocabulary.

  • Alan Hamilton-Messer

    YES!!!! I am in Scotland UK and exactly the same things are happening here. I have left two churches over the last year because of my Emerging Church views.

  • Zach R

    You might be a liberal reject if:
    1. You’re uncomfortable compromising biblical standards of objective moral truth.
    2. You worry that most people who call themselves orthodox ignore the vast majority of the orthodox tradition.
    3. You have significant questions about hot-button social issues and you recognize that God’s answers are bigger than your questions.
    4. You think that science cannot contradict Scripture.
    5. You know that living the truth is not possible without being able to defend it logically and know it rationally.
    6. You recognize that culture wars are unavoidable when we live in a culture so antithetical to the gospel.
    7. You recognize that God’s word, being wholly and verbally God-given, is without error or fault in all its teaching and that its authority is inescapably impaired if inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own.
    8. You recognize that God created men and women with different roles, both outside and inside the Church.
    9. You realize that the message of the Gospel is so radical in its claim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life that postmodernism’s deconstruction of objective truth claims are  not only incompatible with it but antithetical to it.
    10. You support your country.
    11. You believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are central to the gospel.
    12. You care more about people than about trees.
    13. You’ve said, “This is what Christianity actually is..”
    14. You don’t blame the entire Republican party for the presidency of one man.
    15. You have gay friends and love them enough to not enable their sin.
    16. You’ve been an argument where the other side appeals more to how they feel than to what the Bible says.
    17. You also like John Calvin…

    • EllisPurdie

      “3. You’ve said, ‘This is what Christianity actually is..'”

      I guess that makes people in the Red Letter Christian movement both Liberal Rejects and Evangelical Rejects.  Excellent point, Zach!

    • LightByGrace

      And this is what makes Jesus so awesome…He loves all of us rejects just the same! Blessings, brother.

    • # 15 – how, exactly does one “enable their sin?” 

      • LightByGrace

        The logic is usually that by letting homosexuals (or other such unrepentant sinners) think that what they are doing isn’t condemned by God, then the sin is being enabled, encouraged or erroneously dismissed as not being a ‘definite sin’. But that’s just my guess…I probably shouldn’t answer for someone else…

        • Zach R

          Christians enable sin when they are more concerned about appearing intolerant or outdated then they are concerned with speaking the truth in love and acting as agents of God’s redemptive plan on earth. People are so fond of talking about partaking in the redemptive work of God when it comes to the environment and to social justice, but when it comes to issues of sin that the broader culture accepts, I see an unwillingness on the part of many Christians to try to reform that. Just as we should not enable destruction of the environment or oppression of the poor, we should not enable sexual immorality either.

    • Seth

      12: If you care about people you must care about trees i.e. the environment which we are all dependent upon.

  • Jim MacQuarrie

    …you think God is trying to get people into Heaven, not keep them out.

  • RED

    AMEN from a lonely sista who has very few fellow egalitarians in the church to discuss this with!

    • LightByGrace

      Be not lonely!! I am a fellow egalitarian!

  • Alanmidgleyten

    i dont believe that there are outsiders and insiders I believe that all or insiders but sum have not admitted it yet 

  • supposedtobethelightoftheworld

    One of my favorite scriptures at the moment, Philipians 2….”work out everybody else’s salvation with fear and trembling”… err…I mean…um..

    Oh and also the other one, thats actually in the red letters.. “get that tiny little speck out of your own eye so you can point out all those heretical logs in others”…

  • Anonymous

    you seem to be using humor via inference to insult your enemy while also unifying your preferred group…this is not a new technique…rather, a very old form of propaganda that has also been used by (what I suppose you would call) the “traditional evangelicals”

  • Stevemvcf

    You might be an Evangelical reject if…

    …your definition of being “pro-life” doesn’t end in the womb

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  • Mudpuddlemusic

    …you believe that ” conversion”, choosing to follow the path towards light rather than darkness, often occures within the heart before the head. I can love Jesus, be healed by him, prior to having any meaningful, theology.

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  • Darryl Adamson

    Wow Kurt,
         Beautifully written!  I can’t wait to copy your list and share it with some friends.  Best wishes in starting your new church.
    Darryl (San Diego)

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  • …your God doesn’t hate you

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