Around the world, in countless cultures, there are approximately 2.4 billion people who identify as Christian. Many of those are “evangelical” in faith, i.e. they are biblical, Gospel-hearted believers. The World Evangelical Alliance, the global fellowship of Gospel-minded Christians that was first established in 1846, and now has 134 (independent) national alliances in its membership, includes the New Zealand Christian Network.
Earlier this week, the WEA officially handed over leadership roles. Among them, Rev Dr Brian Winslade, of Hamilton, was introduced as the new Deputy Secretary of the WEA. Watch his introduction video above. Brian is also a member of the NZCN Working Board.
If you would like to know more about the DNA of being evangelical, you might want to watch Dr Thomas Schirrmacher’s inaugural speech as the incoming Secretary General of the WEA. (Thomas visited New Zealand in 2019, and took a shine to NZCN’s Te Rongopai DVD).
Now that Donald Trump has left the White House, how should Evangelicals outside the United States of America view this experience, and what counsel might they be able to offer their American brothers and sisters? Many non-Americans ask for my view on what has been transpiring recently in the US. Here are some thoughts.
In my role as global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, as I attempt to explain the United States to others, a number of factors help in my understanding of Americans and, more importantly, American Evangelicals.
For the last four years, too many American Evangelicals have been caught up in passionate contests about the use of raw political power. This has embarrassed many of us and confused others. Never before have I heard so many people say that they either avoid or despise Evangelicals. There have been bizarre debates, sometimes pitting evangelical leaders against each other. Some self-proclaimed prophets even declared that God’s anointing was on President Trump; they predicted that he would win a second term as if this was a word from the Lord.
To understand where American Evangelicals are today, it is helpful to look at their heritage. The United States of America was founded amidst historic aspirations towards freedom, a founding myth that twentieth-century leaders traced to John Winthrop’s famous statement that they were “a city set upon a hill for all to observe.” This powerful religious vision, filtered through the dynamism imparted by mass migration and vast resources, implanted in American rhetoric and ethos a sense that their land had special divine promise and design.
The fact that the USA been predominantly Christian from its beginning has powerfully reinforced this belief. Even in an age of increased secularization, it still enjoys strong denominations and has many megachurches. After World War II, the influence of the American South spread throughout the nation as many Evangelicals moved away from that region. White Evangelicals moved mostly to the West and Southwest, Black Evangelicals mostly to the North as well as the West. And here is another major point of confusion. Pundits often speak of “Evangelical” as if it simply equalled “white Evangelicals.” But there are many African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans who share Evangelical beliefs and practices, but not the political loyalties of white Evangelicals.
This sort of background information assists my non-American friends to understand the power and innovative skill of the American national persona, the unmatched creativity and productivity of Americans, and their unvarnished generosity and desire to be a force of good in the world.
In the wake of a discredited president to whom a remarkable number of (though far from all) white Evangelicals gave support, what are we Evangelicals in the rest of the world to do?
American politics divides into two primary sides—the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. In recent decades adherence to these parties has become much more important for defining social, cultural, and religious convictions. (A generation ago, maybe 15% in each party “hated” or gravely distrusted members of the other party. Now it is way over 50%.), From the start of Trump’s rise to power, while a determined and loyal rank-and-file of white Evangelicals latched on to Trump’s populism, other Evangelical leaders were profoundly concerned and attempted to warn America. A number (seemingly too few) of highly visible pastors, educators and agency leaders were vocal in protesting that people were putting too much stock in one man. They critiqued those who attributed prophetic greatness to the president or the belief that he was under a divine call. They also warned against giving loyalty to any political party, political platform, or political leader a higher priority than loyalty to Christ.
Today, America is a wounded country. Many Evangelicals express embarrassment for their unguarded support others continue to be angry that their candidate didn’t win. A large minority of Americans in general (including Evangelicals) now have a profound distrust in their governmental institutions.
Second, because America is such a global cultural force and its role in evangelical expansion has been so influential, it is easy to overlook the fact that the real growth among Evangelicals recently has been in the Global South. Although the current malaise among American Evangelicals will inevitably influence us all, there is a strong tendency for the media to assume that a trend in the US is the same elsewhere.
But the United States is not the world. In a Christian community of 600 million Evangelicals, Americans don’t define who we are or should be for the rest of the world. As the term “Evangelical” has become mixed up with all sorts of political groups, views, political pressure and personalities, Evangelicals elsewhere in the world should insist that Christian belief and Christian practice deserve first place. Evangelicals elsewhere should not be looking to recent American history for what it means to “be in the world, but not of the world.”
A nagging question coming out of the Trumpian mobilization, however, relates to the “brand” value of the name. Should we replace the name “Evangelical”? Arguments in the affirmative say that the term lacks definition, that it has been coopted by political debate, and that it is now a term driving some away from the Gospel. Others, given this American debacle, feel that the name has been simply emptied of its usefulness.
I disagree. First, it’s a biblical name. The word euangelion, or “Evangel”, meaning “the good news”, has been used for centuries, particularly for the followers of Martin Luther and then more broadly at the time of William Wilberforce. Today, in many parts of the world, it remains an important means of identity. For example, if you are in a Muslim or Hindu majority country, and you are not Roman Catholic or liberal Protestant, what name do you use? As a threatened minority, the ability to identify with over 600 million fellow Evangelical Christians provides shelter in identity and bonding in fellowship. As a friend noted, every time a priest takes a misstep, do Roman Catholics wonder about a name change?
Finally, to my Evangelical friends in the rest of the world, let’s not be naïve about the temptation that we too might get caught using our church base and witness to gain political power. We have seen this happen in other countries: Kenya, South Korea, and Brazil, to name a few. As the number of Evangelicals continues to grow, there is a natural inclination to turn size and presence into political power. We may think that the Gospel inhibits us from being seduced by power, but we must recognize our own vulnerability as we seek to parlay our global growth into greater political influence.
Americans need space and time to make sense of the choices they confront. Let us pray that they will make choices based on the Christ they serve and the Bible they read. My prayer is that this hurtful and damaging American moment will be followed by a time of national confession, spiritual healing and a resolute will to make the first priority biblical in faith and Christ-honoring in words and actions.
One song became an anthem to the world as we entered into a global pandemic. The Blessing, sung by virtual choirs and pieced together from a myriad of home recordings and made in isolation.
New Zealand’s offering, recorded as we came out of our first national full lockdown in May 2020, was released as the city of Auckland entered a regional lockdown in August. This project was completed by people working remotely with others they had never physically met and yet, it stands as a remarkable demonstration of what happens when we work together as believers in Christ, put our trust in Him, and declare His blessing to an isolated and hurting world.
NZCN’s General Manager, Gayann, was keen to be involved in this project, providing Grant Norsworthy, More Than Music Mentor, with assistance sourcing people from around the nation to join the virtual choir and feedback as the project developed.
By Brian Winslade, Senior Pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine and has been reposted here with the author’s permission.
I write from outside of the United States, but looking in with great interest. I pastor a church in my home country of New Zealand, but having also pastored in Northern California and obtained a doctoral degree from Bethel University in Minnesota, I am not unfamiliar with American life.
From an outsider’s perspective, the heightened partisan divide in America is disturbing. Some will dismiss this as an American issue and not the business of those beyond its borders. However, we live in a global village; when Americans sneeze, the rest of the world catches a cold!
Media reporting on U.S. evangelicalism has an impact on the perception of evangelical movements and ministries around the world. Undiscerning commentators assume we’re part of the same monolithic whole.
The word “evangelical” stands for belief in the authority and relevance of the Bible, unabashed proclamation of the gospel, the centrality and efficacy of the cross, and a clarion call to radical conversion. Lazy journalism may be to blame for ill-defining evangelicals as a political bloc, but it’s not hard to grasp how they’ve formed such a view with the partisan alignment of some high-profile leaders of evangelical ministries. In my home country, an invitation to a well-known evangelist is now questioned due to his reported political endorsements. Bible-believing Christians are increasingly regarded with suspicion in local media as having an assumed political bias.
As fellow evangelicals, we applaud the engagement of American Christians in the public square. For too long, evangelicals misunderstood separation of church and state to mean non-involvement in national governance. We have a valid voice, and a divine mandate to speak prophetically.
However, many of us around the world struggle to understand the lack of civility and Christian grace that currently manifests in the cauldron of American politics, especially toward those of different shades on the political spectrum. The culture of vilification, name-calling and conspiratorial presumptions of those with different political views is disconcerting. That many who profess to love Jesus, and hold a high view of the Bible, also engage in such banter is incongruous with the values we evangelicals hold dear.
Isaiah warned of misguided accreditation of current affairs: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness ….” (Isaiah 5:20).
Evangelicals refer to the Bible as the “word of God.” It shapes our worldview and how we live. It also encourages us to speak up when we see a brother or sister caught in inappropriate behaviour; for to say or do nothing is tantamount to complicity. What advice, therefore, might a fellow evangelical offer his U.S. brothers and sisters amidst a divisive election cycle? Here are 10 ideas:
Speak to, and about, those of different political perspectives with grace and respect — as befitting of Christ-followers. It is possible to believe passionately and to disagree with others in a manner that is honouring. Name-calling and vilification of those who don’t share our view weaken our distinctiveness as ambassadors of God’s kingdom (Philippians 2:3–4).
Love and uphold the truth. Be wary of those who bend or distort the truth. Fact check what politicians and media commentators tell us — including those we support. Maintain an open mind until all facts are laid bare (John 8:32).
Get your news and political commentary from a variety of sources, rather than just one. Evangelicals think biblically and are cautious of deception. Filter all we hear through the lens of Scripture and think for ourselves (Colossians 2:8).
Be cautious of believing and retelling unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Christians have suffered much over the centuries from false conspiracies; we ought not to perpetuate disinformation. Truth sets us free, Jesus said, not speculation and innuendo (Isaiah 8:12–13).
Work for reconciliation wherever there is discord. Blind and belligerent party politics destroys a nation. Followers of Jesus are more committed than most to finding negotiated resolutions amid conflict (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Accept that equally sincere Christ-followers may have different political ideologies, coming to different conclusions from reading the same Bible as you do. “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” The kingdom of God supersedes party politics (Romans 12:2).
If you have influence in a Christian organization, encourage it to remain nonpartisan in its public policy engagement. Be cautious of those that appear to have “hitched their wagon” to one political ideology lest they damage their credibility (Acts 5:38–39).
Take seriously what the Bible says about justice, care of the poor and marginalized, and those without a home and/or nation. The Bible is replete with God’s displeasure upon those who mistreat the poor and homeless (Proverbs 14:31, 17:5, 21:13, 28:27).
Recognize that Christian faith flourishes even under ungodly political regimes. It was born in conflict, matured amidst waves of persecution, and does its best work in low-profile love and service — rather than on the coattails of political power (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Remember, it is righteousness that exalts a nation, not the state of its economy or the security of its borders. God’s blessing falls on those who treat others well, especially those less fortunate (Proverbs 14:34).
At the end of the 19th century, Charles Sheldon penned a famous little book (“In His Steps”) based on a series of sermons delivered to his church in Topeka, Kansas. Parishioners were asked to pledge for one year to make no major decisions without first stopping to ask the question: “What would Jesus do?” Maybe in a political context, it might just be a good question for evangelicals to ask again in the year 2020!
“In a time of disorientation and seeming chaos, Brian shows us that discipleship and the radical way of Jesus is the plumb line from which all else is measured. This book is needed and the author’s ability to root it in life makes it all the more invaluable.”
GARY V. NELSON, Tyndale University, Toronto, Canada
Brian Winslade is senior pastor of Hamilton Central Baptist Church in New Zealand and a member of the International Council of the World Evangelical Alliance. He has pastored five churches over 40 years, and has been a missionary in Bangladesh, CEO of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, national director for the Baptist Union of Australia, and lead pastor of Hillside Church of Marin in Northern California. Winslade holds a D.Min. from Bethel University and is a graduate of Carey Baptist College in New Zealand.
The teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is unparalleled and acclaimed in the history of our world.
Born into obscurity and poverty, no one has impacted the world to the same extent as Jesus.
If a person grasped nothing else of the teaching of Jesus, apart from that contained in the Sermon on the Mount, he or she catches The Essence of his message.
This book takes a fresh look at TheEssence of Jesus’ teaching and its remarkable application in our current age—a resource for individual Christ-followers, preachers, and a discussion-starter for small groups.
Amidst all he said and did, one of his close friends, Matthew (a former social outcast), captured his teaching given on a hillside just above the town where he lived, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthews’s Gospel, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, have been described as The Essence of all that Jesus taught about God and how we relate with him. It has been called the “Core of the Christian Apple,” the “Compendium of Christ’s Doctrine,” the “Magna Charta of the Kingdom.”
Glyn Carpenter, Brad Smith (President of Bakke University), Rev Stuart Lange, Rick Pierce & Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau
Seven New Zealanders attended the recent General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance, in Indonesia: Stuart Lange, Rick Pierce, Brian Winslade, Glyn Carpenter, Rachel Afeaki Taumoepeau, Jay Matenga, and – based in the USA – Chris Elisara.
The WEA represents some 600+ million evangelical Christians, including Pentecostals. There are national evangelical alliances in 130 countries. NZCN is one of those.
The emphases at the Assembly included the absolute necessity of holistic disciple-making, and inter-generational leadership.
The most delightful thing about the Assembly, though, was the fellowship and interaction with evangelical leaders from all over the world, and the opportunities to learn from one another.
It was also good to see some Kiwis elected to key positions within the WEA: Jay as Executive Director WEA Mission’s Commission, Rachel as Regional General Secretary of the South Pacific (replacing Glyn), and Brian as the South Pacific representative on the International Council, of which he is now the chair.
WEA General Assembly Digest: Discipleship
The theme of our General Assembly was ‘Your Kingdom Come’. We are praying and longing for God’s Kingdom to be manifested on earth. It comes by God’s will being done. Therefore we commit ourselves to “…make disciples of all nations…” and help them obey everything that Jesus has commanded (Mt 28:19-20).
Our theme and commitment led us to our corporate response – Decade of Disciple-Making, when the global Evangelical community will be revitalized and realigned toward holistic intentional disciple-making. This is not about a program or a project, it is about a lifestyle and relationships. It is when every believer is fully committed to becoming like Jesus and is inviting others into a journey of Christ-likeness in every area of their lives.
We are encouraged that, according to the GA Evaluation, 87% of the participants were impacted by the call to the Decade of Disciple-Making and want to be involved. And 83% of EA leaders anticipate their alliances to be engaged in it. Pray with me that God will empower us to effectively do his will in a way that is appropriate to our times and contexts. Pray for a transformational ripple-effect from General Assembly across the WEA membership and beyond. Pray for the evangelical alliances as they seek to spread the shared vision by encouraging its participants towards disciple-making and providing opportunities for connection, learning, and collaboration.
Thank you for responding to this call and championing the decade of holistic disciple-making.
Bp Efraim Tendero
Secretary General / CEO
World Evangelical Alliance
WEA ‘Make Disciples’ Toolkit
As we embark on this journey, we will be sharing stories and tools that might be helpful for you. The toolkit is a collection of curated relevant resources on various aspects of holistic disciple-making, portions of which will be highlighted in our newsletters.
A video of five stories from a local church that has been practicing intentional disciple-making through its small groups that adopt the problems of their community as their own. It is called, “The Normal Church”
A survey on Disciple-Making for conducted among the participants of the WEA General Assembly. It revealed three key factors that can help develop a disciple-making culture: 1) holistic disciple-making models; 2) training and 3) leadership practicing disciple-making.
Eleven years after the 2008 WEA General Assembly, we sense the mighty move of the Holy Spirit. He is inviting, inspiring and initiating a new season of Kingdom work that will unite church leaders across geographies, generations, and global causes. Serving in this new season will require a careful and Spirit-led process of clarifying, casting vision and then shifting to a new mindset. What must evangelism and disciple-making look like in the coming decade?
The 2019 WEA General Assembly is an invitation for us, leaders of churches, nations, regions, networks and commissions, to visit afresh the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)