Now Is a Crucial Moment.

American Christianity faces unprecedented challenges. Difficult and different as these challenges may be, there is also a divine opportunity before us. An opportunity to ask anew, "What does the gospel of Jesus have to do with today’s challenges?"

The gospel has always been at the very heart of evangelical Christianity. Sadly, American evangelicalism has reached a point of polarization and fragmentation such that it’s fitting to ask if we’ve lost sight of the fullness of the gospel Jesus proclaimed and embodied in his life, death, and resurrection. That is, the gospel of the kingdom.

Download Calling for a Kingdom Evangelicalism for eight reflections on this idea and browse the site for summaries of what the group of 50 notable Christian leaders listed below came together to affirm.

Download Calling for a Kingdom Evangelicalism for eight reflections on this idea and browse the site for summaries of what the group of 50 notable Christian leaders listed below came together to affirm.

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The 50 Strategic Conversation Partners

Jorge Acevedo Lead Pastor , Grace Church
Jorge Acevedo
Rev. Enid M. Almanzar Director of US Ministry Integration American Bible Society
Rev. Enid M. Almanzar
Ira Antoine Director, Bivocational Ministry, Baptist General Convention of Texas
Ira Antoine
Donna Barber Co-Founder, The Voices Project
Donna Barber
Leroy Barber Co-Founder & President, The Voices Project
Leroy Barber
Stephan Bauman Executive Director of Cornerstone Trust
Stephan Bauman
Donnie Begay Executive Director, Cru Nations
Donnie Begay
Greg Boyd Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church (Maplewood, MN) and President, Reknew (
Greg Boyd
Pam Braman Superintendent, Genesis Conference of the Free Methodist Church USA
Pam Braman
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon Executive Director, Churches for Middle East Peace
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Galen Carey Vice President of Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals
Galen Carey
Mark Charles
Mark Charles
Moses Chung Director of Mission Innovation, Resonate Global Mission
Moses Chung
Jeff Crosby Publisher InterVarsity Press
Jeff Crosby
Ruth Padilla Deborst Rector/ President, Comunidad de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios
Ruth Padilla Deborst
Dennis Edwards, PhD Associate Professor of New Testament, North Park Theological Seminary
Dennis Edwards, PhD
Dr. Carl Ellis Provost’s Professor of Theology and Culture, Reformed Theological Seminary
Dr. Carl Ellis
Wayne Faison Senior Pastor, East End Baptist Church, Suffolk, VA Team Leader, Baptist General Association of Virginia
Wayne Faison
Lisa Fields Founder at Jude 3 Project
Lisa Fields
David Fitch BR Lindner Chair Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary Chicago
David Fitch
Dina Gonzalez-Pina Assistant Dean of Multicultural Ministries, Fresno Pacific University
Dina Gonzalez-Pina
Rebecca Hernandez Associate Provost, Local & Global Engagement and Chief Diversity Officer George Fox University
Rebecca Hernandez
Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D. President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D.
Cheryl Johns Robert E Fisher Professor of Spiritual Formation, Pentecostal Theological Seminary
Cheryl Johns
Tara Beth Leach Senior Pastor at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (“PazNaz”) in Southern California
Tara Beth Leach
Tom Lin President/CEO, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Tom Lin
Jo Anne Lyon General Superintendent Emerita of The Wesleyan Church
Jo Anne Lyon
Rev. Dr. Grace May William Carey International University Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
Rev. Dr. Grace May
Dr. Esau McCaulley Assistant Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL
Dr. Esau McCaulley
James McGee III CEO & President, The Impact Movement
James McGee III
MaryKate Morse Dean of Portland Seminary
MaryKate Morse
Glenn Packiam Lead Pastor, New Life Downtown, Colorado Springs, CO
Glenn Packiam
Kimberly Reisman Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism
Kimberly Reisman
Natasha Robinson MA, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Natasha Robinson
Rev. Dr. JR Rozko National Director of Missio Alliance
Rev. Dr. JR Rozko
Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero
Evelyn Sekajipo Founder & Executive Director, Mama Africana Network
Evelyn Sekajipo
Daniel Smiley Pastor, Black Mountain Mennonite Church
Daniel Smiley
Mandy Smith Lead Pastor, University Christian Church
Mandy Smith
Carla Sunberg General Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene
Carla Sunberg
Rev. James Thomas Talbert Lead Pastor at Citizens Akron
Rev. James Thomas Talbert
Al Tizon Executive Minister, Serve Globally
Al Tizon
Nikki Toyama-Szeto Executive Director, ESA
Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Chad Turnbull
Chad Turnbull
Rich Villodas Lead Pastor, New Life Fellowship, NYC
Rich Villodas
Lisa Rodriquez Watson Leadership & Training Director of CCDA
Lisa Rodriquez Watson
Corey Widmer Lead Pastor, Third Church, Richmond, VA
Corey Widmer
N.T. Wright Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, and Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
N.T. Wright
Jenny Yang Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief
Jenny Yang
Brian Zahnd Lead Pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO
Brian Zahnd

The Ten Most Crucial Challenges Facing American Evangelicalism

In April 2017, Missio Alliance convened a gathering entitled, "A Confessing Church Consultation: Discerning a (Kingdom) Way Forward for American Evangelicals." This consultation served as an opportunity for us to ask this perennial question to a diverse group of Christian leaders who occupy roles that afford them a unique vantage point from which to offer insightful responses.

Here is how we framed our invitation:

This consultation is being convened in response to a heightened sense of concern among a distinct community of Christian leaders that the "evangelical church" in the United States has reached a point at which its identity and witness are critically injured and must be seriously attended to if they are to serve the purposes of God's kingdom with integrity toward the gospel. This sense is not sudden or reactionary, yet it is timely as several major cultural events, as well as struggles more internal to the life of the church, have exposed areas of fragility and malformation within evangelical Christianity in recent years.

  • We have been racked by a renewed awareness of racial disunity and injustice on many fronts.
  • Issues of religious pluralism, once distant, are now confronting us at our very doorsteps.
  • Long-standing models of preparing pastors and other Christian leaders are proving inadequate to the challenges of our day.
  • Questions of human sexuality are tearing churches, denominations, and ministries apart.
  • The degree to which our identity and witness have been co-opted by political ideologies has become alarming.

We further communicated the purpose of the consultation in this manner:

We seek to convene a diverse cross-section of Christian leaders who represent the breadth of the American evangelical community and who shoulder significant responsibility for how our churches, schools, networks, and ministries are engaging the challenges and opportunities before us. We wish to conversationally and prayerfully discern what the Spirit of God seems to be saying and calling us to in our day for the sake of his kingdom.

We were tremendously gratified that 50 significant leaders expressed their eagerness to participate and who spent time together answering the following questions:

What do you discern as the most urgent missiological challenges and/or opportunities facing evangelical Christianity in the United States?

What do you discern as the most urgent theological challenges and/or opportunities facing evangelical Christianity in the United States?

What do you discern as the most urgent ecclesiological challenges and/or opportunities facing evangelical Christianity in the United States?

Those responses, alongside brief keynote presentations offered by Mark Charles, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Dennis Edwards, Tom Lin, Jo Anne Lyon, JR Rozko, Rich Villodas, and N.T. Wright formed the basis of the roundtable conversations of the consultation. You can find all these keynotes in our free ebook Calling for a Kingdom Evangelicalism here, as well as explore what the participants discerned were the top ten crucial challenges facing American evangelicalism today in the areas of missiology, theology, and ecclesiology.

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive. Yet given the diversity of the voices represented and the leadership contexts of these consultants, we believe the issues named here arguably represent one of the most substantive appraisals of the fault lines of American evangelicalism in existence. We hope these resources will stimulate conversation, inspire collaboration, and ultimately help to advance God's kingdom in our broken and divided world.

JR Rozko
Missio Alliance and the Need for Fresh Confessions, Convictions, and Calls to Action

JR Rozko began the consultation by offering words of welcome and introduction. After providing some background to Missio Alliance and all that led to the convening of the consultation, JR drew attention to the Gospel passage from the lectionary for the day, John 17:20-26. As a passage that speaks to Jesus’ desire for his love to be made manifest among his disciples through their unity with each other and the triune God, JR commented on way in which the consultation was both a sort of answer to this prayer and an opportunity, through our submission to one another and to God, to see it advanced in our day.

Mark Charles
The Church’s Complicity in American Exceptionalism

Mark Charles was invited to deliver an opening address to help provide important historical context to the development and state of American Christianity. Mark first spoke of the Native inhabitants who had been forcibly displaced from the land on which we were meeting. He called for Christian witness that is prophetic—committed to speaking truth to power—as opposed to activist (a primary posture/strategy of the "Christian left") or lobbyist (a primary posture/strategy of the "Christian Right").

The Three Most Urgent Missiological Issuses

In speaking about missiological issues, we have in view the what and the how of Christian mission. That is, what are the chief cultural realties, whether internal or external to the life of the church, that must inform our engagement in God's mission? And how ought our embodiment of the gospel faithfully adapt and respond to those realities?

1. Navigating Diversity
The most often referenced missiological issues had to do with matters of globalization and global migration, religious pluralism, and multi-ethnicity – as a cultural reality, but even more importantly, as a gospel dynamic.

2. The "Political Identity" of (especially white) evangelicals
Nearly tied in terms of how often it was referenced was the troubling reality of evangelical identity being bound up with political partisanship and howthe way in which this undermines the public integrity and internal unity of the body of Christ.

3. A New Vision for Sentness and Sending
The final issue that dominated the responses had to do with a felt need for new, more kingdom-minded, mission-sending paradigms and practices, domestically and internationally, in light of shifting contextual and technological realities.

Tom Lin
Four Priorities for Missiological Leadership Today

Tom Lin initiated our conversations in the area of the missiological challenges facing the church. Tom’s approach was to speak to the leadership characteristics needed to faithfully engage them. He spoke specifically to the need for uncommon collaboration, resiliency, unsexy leadership in a platform culture, and leading with data and narrative.

Dennis Edwards
The Promise and Challenge of Christian Community

Dennis also delivered remarks on the missiological challenges facing the church. Dennis’s primary focus was on Christian community as the integrative center out of which we must address the missiological challenges before us, noting especially the challenges of imbalances of power, privilege, and prejudice.

The Three Most Urgent Theological Issuses

Consideration of the key theological issues facing American evangelicals isn't primarily about matters of doctrine and confession, important as those things are. Rather, we mean those issues most directly related to the theological categories and perspectives that shape our teaching and participation in God's mission in the world.

1. A Living Theology
The top theological issue referenced was the need for a theological praxis, hermeneutics, and orientation to discipleship that is more culturally aware, socially engaged, and contextually embodied.

2. An Embodied Gospel
Approximately the same number of respondents emphasized the need for a more holistic understanding of the gospel and salvation to permeate mainstream Christian thought and practice, particularly as this relates to issues of our bodily existence, gender, and sexuality.

3. A Socially Engaged Orthodoxy
A final issue of prominence was the need for greater movements of Scripture engagement and theological literacy among all Christians for the sake of strengthening the relationship between an orthodox faith and the church's social witness.

Ruth Padilla DeBorst
Doing and Living Theology as a Multicultural, Interpretive Community

Ruth’s remarks revolved around the need to revisit the stories we are/should be living out of, the question of what it means to understand theology as a verb—something we do—as opposed to a noun—something we teach or learn—and that the American Church might discover if it learned to do theology and live into the gospel alongside brothers and sisters of the global church.

N.T. Wright
Theology as the Task of the Whole Church

In his remarks, Tom focused on theology as the task of the whole church. He held forth a vision of theology as the vital, energizing, stabilizing, healing, transforming, sign of life among God’s people; "it is what we do to be the people of God for the world."

The Four Most Urgent Ecclesiological Issuses

In seeking to name primary ecclesiological issues, we mean those issues most directly related to the structure and practice of church bodies (denominations/networks) and local congregations as we pursue faithfulness in God's mission.

1. A Thicker Ecclesiology
The primary issue identified by consultation participants was the need to rethink our ecclesiology, at both local and trans-local levels, from the intersection of historical, theological, and missional frames of reference that move us beyond many of our functional and pragmatic assumptions.

2. Kingdom Discipleship
The next most frequent response signaled the need for more robust understandings and practices of spiritual formation and discipleship in connection with the ethics of Jesus which encompass all of life and find communal as well as personal expression.

3. Comprehensive Mutuality
Just as many responses named the need for a greater theological and practical commitment to expanding our relationships, networks, and streams of learning across lines of diversity (gender, race/ethnicity, tribal affiliation, socio-economic class, and ministry context/model).

4. Responsive Leadership Development
A final issue well worth mentioning based on how often it came up is the need for fresh vision and engagement with regard to our paradigms and models of equipping church leaders, especially as they relate to the rapidly changing nature of our cultural contexts and the dynamics of gender and race.

Rich Villodas
Re-Imagining A Paradigm of Discipleship for Today

Speaking to the area of ecclesiology, Rich’s talk grew out of a central question (a la Bonhoeffer), "What is the Church to be for Christ today?" In short, Rich called our attention to the need to reimagine a paradigm of discipleship that shapes people into the image of Jesus for the sake of the world. This, he suggested, is predicated on our embrace of the reality that the church’s singular task is faithfulness to Jesus and his kingdom.

Jo Anne Lyon
Recovering the Imagination of the Early Church

Jo Anne began her remarks with the powerful ultimatum that the American evangelical church of our day must decide if we are going to be nationalistic or Jesus churches. She also referenced a number of strategic opportunities before us, such as reclaiming justice as central to discipleship and increasing opportunities to learn from the non-Western Church.