In the wake of the criticism for evangelist Joel Osteen’s apparent lack of charity in Houston after Hurricane Harvey breezed through town, I thought it appropriate to talk about evangelism to explain why Osteen’s behavior should not be used to judge a religion he allegedly subscribes to.
According to Dr. David F. Wells, author of The Courage to Be Protestant, there are three categories of evangelism in Christianity: 1. Classical Evangelicals. They are serious about the Christian doctrine. Their churches reflect this mindset. 2. The Marketers. As the name indicates, these evangelists capitalize on all the achievements of the classical evangelical movement which began after WWII, but they did this for their own purposes and success. As evident from Osteen’s display of wealth, he exemplifies this category. Dr. Wells tells us that this particular group is characterized by its emptiness, loss of personal connections in its monster-sized churches, and capitulation to consumerist modernity.” 3. The Emergents. Dr. Wells tells us this “constituency would be straining the definition of ‘evangelical’ to the breaking point if its leaders were not themselves distancing their world from evangelicalism. This constituency is made up of a loose coalition of churches that came together during the 1990’s and now constitute the so-called emerging church. Here, far more than was the case among traditional evangelicals, there is a continuum in the core beliefs that is so wide that it might be wise to distinguish between the emergent church, on the one end, and those who are simply emerging on the other…What they are against is often clearer than what they are for.” This group is heavily influenced by post-modern concepts and culture.
Believers and unbelievers alike should understand that not all evangelism is the same; nor is it even Christian. Only the classical evangelicals represent our reformed doctrine, and it is they who present the genuine Christian witness to the world.