Listomania! #1 — Why Many Fundamental Churches are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant

irrelevant2.JPGSo, this is my first “Listomania!” entry and I thought I’d start it off with a BANG. So, here goes…. my Top 20 Reasons Why Many Fundamental Churches are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant (without personal commentary — mostly).

Drumroll Please…..

1. They have been more interested in controlling their congregations than they’ve been in discipling them.

2. They have done too little expository preaching and too much topical preaching.

3. They emphasized “standards” at the expense of doctrine.

4. They have erected Pastoral Dictatorships rather than emphasizing Godly eldership.

5. They have turned many traditions into near doctrines. (Music styles, Bible versions, Service Schedule, Denominational Tags, etc…)

6. They have classified too many necessary cultural adjustments as theological compromise.

7. They have remained enamored with the “Church Growth Methodology” of previous generations while condemning the church growth methodology of the current generation. (For the record, I think much of the methodology in every generation of the CGM is flawed. But seriously, some folks need to rethink Camp Meetings, Bus Ministries and Tent Revivals in light of today’s cultural context.)

8. They have neglected the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in matters of Worship for fear that someone might think them “charismatic”.

9. They have failed to deal with, admit and repent of the racism that is part of the Southern fundamentalist history and culture.

10. They have forgotten that the enemy is and has always been Satan and not a genuine believing brother across the street, city or country who might share a different view on things like culture, denominational affiliation or associations.

11. They have forgotten how to speak the Truth in love.

12. They have been content in rural areas and suburbs while neglecting the great cities and the broken inner cities of our population centers.

13. They have focused on “doing” rather than “being.”

14. Rather than writing books with sound theological and intellectual arguments and engaging in discourse with others within in the broader evangelical community, they have chosen to simply criticize or attempt to censor those who express ideas different than theirs.

15. They have failed to groom younger pastors, students and young leaders within fundamentalism with patient mentoring and have too frequently driven them away with shallow answers, impatient diatribes or harsh criticism and then lament the fact that they have left for circles of which they disapprove.

16. There has been an iconic approach to leadership in churches, colleges and associations which lends itself to single-generation impact.

17. They have had an out-dated and “Western” approach to missions that has not adapted to a world that is becoming suddenly and irrefutably “smaller”.

18. There has been a subculture of “anti-intellectualism” which considers a broad higher education to be suspect, unnecessary or both.

19. They thought that political activism could/would “save” America.

20. They have failed to practice Biblical church discipline from the pulpit to the pew.

So, if I’ve missed something….add it. If I’ve made you foaming-at-the-mouth angry, tell me why.

Until next time….

25 thoughts on “Listomania! #1 — Why Many Fundamental Churches are Becoming Increasingly Irrelevant

  1. Ken Fields


    Great start to the series!

    You have hit the proverbial nail on the head … especially number 14 which I have experienced personally more than a handful of times!

  2. LesIsmore

    I would tend to agree with just about every point. About the only thing I would disagree with is #19. I think I completely know what you are saying there, and I actualy agree. But, I think there might be lately a tendancy to swing the other direction and to completely ignore politics and have a “whatever will be will be” attitude instead. There are many friends of mine who are politically active because they believe in the freedom of mankind and civil rights and are very conservative and try to get involved. Some of them are Christians, but some are not and are just people who are concerned about economic freedom (high tax rates, out of control inflation) and personal freedom (civil liberties, power of governments to spy on us, etc.). Believe it or not, there are a lot more things going on in Washington other than abortion. I think I know what you mean. Some people have tried to change America and almost make it a theocracy. I think some are starting to realize that you need to change peoples hearts, and you can’t force people to change through legislation. But in coming to terms with this, some have thrown out the baby with the bathwater and decided that politics should be ignored altogether. There’s a happy medium. Just this week there has been some controversy over Republican policies which give government more power to invade our private lives in the name of “terrorism.” The ACLU, which I am 98% against, is completely correct in trying to fight this. But because it’s not “abortion,” many conservative Christians completely ignore politics. Now that were beginning to realize that we can’t legislate morality and thereby change mens hearts, we’ve decided to ignore politics altogether and not even be involved citizens, Christian viewpoint or not.

  3. LesIsmore

    Number 5, like the author stated, can apply to a variety of issues. Am I the only one who has noticed this odd fixation lately with going back to the days of “Little House On The Prairie” or even centuries earler, and trying to get our young people to “court,” whatever that means, instead of dating? This seems to be the latest fad. Of course there’s nothing wrong with courting and there’s nothing wrong with dating, but some people take traditions like these and want to elevate it to a doctrine and it becomes the only topic they are concerned with. In my own little world, this has been the latest fad I’ve seen.

  4. patrick

    hmmmm… i guess all the things in your list are probably right but isn’t the main reason that “fundamentalism” is irrelevant because FUNDAMENTALISM’S GOAL IS TO BE IRRELEVANT (you know what i mean, right?). and honestly, can those churches really become any more irrelevant? = maybe your list could more accurately read “Top 20 Reasons why fundamental churches have become irrelevant.”

    i’m no expert on this and don’t care to be, but do you really even think fundamentalism is still alive? isn’t it dead? (or hopefully at least will cease to exist within the next 20 years or so?) i mean, the ORIGINAL fundamentalism (of early 1900s) exists somewhere in the middle of evangelicalism. Fundamentalism today is a bad word & nothing like the original stuff. Honest Q – why do people (outside of the SUPER crazy cult churches) continue to use the term?

    Isn’t it kind of like “gay” meant happy… back whenever… before i was born. but now it obviously doesn’t mean that. you would be crazy to go around telling people “i’m so gay” when you’re just happy. seems a little crazy to me for people to identify with “fundamentalism” when no possible positive connotation exists today for that word.

    I guess the same is true of the word “christian” for my generation (mosaics & Busters). a quick perusal of the book UNCHRISTIAN or a look at Barna’s research will show that “Christian” is only negative to our generation. if you tell a 16-29 year old you’re a Christian then they really hear you saying “I am a judgmental, sheltered, insensitive, HYPOCRITE who is way too political & I hate homosexuals!” Not a good opening line. but I’m pretty sure it is a million times better than telling someone (even an evangelical) that you are a “fundamentalist”… irrelevant is the least of their worries.

    hope that remotely made some sense. hope you’re doing well… much love for you bro.

  5. Billy

    Could you clarify what you mean with #13. In the Gospels Jesus greatly emphasized “do” as did James in his Epistle. I’m reading through Luke right now and I’m seeing “doing” reveals that someone is a true disciple. Titus also comes to mind. “The grace of God teaches us to deny . . . and do . . .”

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

  6. Scott Fulks

    Nothing like a God-honoring, church-exalting, spirit-humbling post. Why destroy the church of Christ across the world on the internet, rather than uplifting it? Why tarnish those for whom Christ has died, rather than concentrating on our own sinful lives? You certainly are right on almost all points, but if we are each striving for the kingdom of God, do not ridicule those on the same path. Let us be humble servants of Christ not mockers.

  7. Dan Burrell Post author


    Happy to clarify. Many churches emphasizing “doing” instead of “being” creating a sense that we “earn” Christ’s acceptance. One definition of legalism applies that earning to Salvation — clearly a heresy. Another definition of legalism makes the application that our works produce “favor” or “love” or other “blessings” from God. The problem is that a trained monkey can “do” works within the confines of his training. However, John 15 tells us to “abide in Christ” — that’s “being”. When we focus on being what Christ created and redeemed us to be, we will do what Christ created and redeemed us to do. But if we focus on doing rather than being, it is quite possible that we’ll “do” things correctly — for a time at least — but miss out on the realities of what it really means to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ. Hope this helps explains what I was trying to say.


  8. Dan Burrell Post author


    Don’t just snipe at me because you don’t like my blog. What exactly did you find that was theologically or philosophically in error and let’s discuss it like grown ups. The internet is a free-speech zone so fire away. I don’t have a corner on Truth and my opinion isn’t always correct. So if I’m off base tell me where. Don’t simply try to manipulate me into be silent on matters that you see differently.


  9. Charles E. Whisnant

    Reading your twenty reasons why Fundamental churches are become increasingly irrelevant is good. You said “becoming increasingly irrelevant.” that was good. Because fundamentalist are not dead yet. You hit the points right on target I must say. But with that said, the biblically fundamental foundation of fundamentalist as I know it (J.F. Norris) is alive though almost dead. While there are churches that would say they are fundamental, are doing well, most are not.

    So do I want to say, I am no longer a Fundamentalist just because so many others have really abused the term? Do I want to take the name Baptist off our churches because so many have abused the name? And do I want to stop using the term “Christian” because so few know what a Christian really looks like? Personally NO.

    No I think we need to take a look at these twenty points you pointed out, and address them and correct them in light of Scripture.

    You were correct in your points by the way.

  10. Ben R.

    Great post. For those of us who grew up at the tail end of fundamentalism’s influence, we can testify to the truths of what you have written. If I were to add #21, I would say that fundamentalism forgot or at least drifted from it’s historical roots. 100 years ago, being called a fundamentalist would have been an honor because they were standing up for truth, engaging culture, starting churches, and were more concerned about bringing glory to Christ. How times have changed!

  11. Don Edwards

    A homerun, but our minds seem to run together on the state of the church and its lack of discipleship.
    For Scott–try this on for size:
    “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men.” A.W. Tozer
    “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.” A.W. Tozer

  12. Scott Fulks

    Please forgive me for having come across as simply “not liking your blog.” The truth is, I completely agree with every one of your points. I am in full agreement to what you put forth. What I do have a problem with is that though the internet is “free-speech” zone, on what biblical basis do we have the right to fire away at fellow brothers in Christ who do not have the gospel wrong? Can we honestly take John 17 in one hand and take your post in another hand and say, “Yes, this was God-ordained?” I find in my own writings and among others that it is so easy to critize anyone to our ‘right’, but call ourselves the bastion of unity simply because we like those around us and to our ‘left. Please forgive me if I come across in a wrong manner, I do not intend to be pious or greater-than-thou, only to write with humility and a focus on the cross. With what right do we malign other believers openly? With Christ’s command? I graciously look forward to your reponse. Thanks Dan!

  13. Tmarleau

    “on what biblical basis do we have the right to fire away at fellow brothers in Christ who do not have the gospel wrong?”

    Very interesting point, Scott. I think you’ve answered your own question. Dan is a fundamentalist, for one thing, and he therefore has a keen insight into the movement and his critiques and insights may seem more genuine and intending to be helpful rather than just sniping. It’s not like he is an “outsider” making disparaging comments just to be funny. But back to your point about our fellow brethren who do not have the gospel wrong. That’s a great observation. But let’s be honest, some strains of fundamentalism have let the gospel become lost in the background and a secondary (or lower) issue. For example, a person could go to a church for years and think that the Christian life means a list of rules such as avoiding CCM and not going to the theatre. Yes, they do have the true gospel, but it almost gets watered down and becomes a secondary issue, while these other issues, which should actually be secondary, become the all-important issues that define the Christian life. It’s as if there’s a great reversal in that the most important things get placed too low on the list, while the secondary, or some would even say non-important issues, get elevated to the utmost importance……….By the way, Dan didn’t mention any names or get personal in the least, so I don’t think you could call it unfair criticism applied to anyone or any group.

  14. Dan Burrell Post author

    Scott…thanks for the “push back”….I enjoy the dialogue. I guess my question is whether or not John 17 precludes me from challenging brethren on every or any matter wherein they might err. Surely if that was the case, then how could Paul and others have confronted Peter publicly as they did.

    I actually tried to make this broad enough where I did not identify in particular denomination, let alone a church or an individual.

    I will admit that I have a manner which can come off as “sarcastic” to some and downright arrogant to others and part of it is simply my wacky sense of humor — albeit one man’s “wit” can be another man’s “abuse”. In addition, creating a blog that actually encourages people to read and think and return requires some sense of provocation and uniqueness otherwise, it will simply get lost in the hundreds of thousands of blogs already out there.

    But back to your point, I guess I would classify what I have written as a desire to be part of “Iron sharpening Iron” wherein we can join together from around the globe and include people of a wide variety of “stripes” to do some conversing, debating and hopefully, self-examination. I am don’t focus on just those to my “right”, but as frequently I poke at those to my left at well. I actually identify more with the right-wing of fundamentalism or evangelicalism than I do with the left, but I enjoy the conversation with both sides and I learn from everyone.

    Indeed the internet may not be a perfect place, but I’m open to other ones. I would just want to have another place to gather for a conversation before I burn down the one I’ve been enjoying.

    Thanks for the comments and challenges….they are appreciated and considered. Please keep them up!


  15. Pastoraj

    Great list. There is one thing I would add which may underlie a number of other things on the list. As I travel around I find many churches that have simply lost their first love. Rather than loving Jesus supremely, they have fallen in love with themselves, their methods, their….fill in the blank. The bottom line I think is they are so full of pride and themselves; they have lost sight of Jesus and obeying the great commission. An elder missionary once told me, “Too many pastors are trying to make a name for themselves, rather than make a name for Jesus”. And so we continue to slide down the slippery slope of irrelevance.

  16. Pingback: Consuming Worship » Blog Archive » The value of subjective truths

  17. Mark Harrell


    This topic is addressed exactly in the new book: unCHRISTIAN. It is full of real statistics about what culture thinks (that thing we’re supposed to be impacting with the gospel) about church and christians. Have a tissue handy while reading!


  18. Steve

    One other thing I would add to the list is that churches today are not proclaiming the gospel, the good news that “Jesus is the Son of God.”


  19. Joe

    Who is THEY? Lol…… sounds like you had a bad stay with a bad church…. what is fundamental… that all of the bible is true and Jesus is our Lord and Savior? Many church’s in america deal with racism, but uhm you’re white, so back off on that and allow us minorities to deal with how we want to deal with that and God…. What we say and do individually is accountable to God, so how about instead of wasting your time calling out the “church” you go out and spread the gospel…. But do not call out what you believe to be a an evil church based on some bad experiences… (and do not write a “dear joe this is true of some but not all…) fix it, make it right…. And be accountable to God…

  20. Dan Burrell Post author

    Wow, Joe….you couldn’t possibly be more cliche and stereotypical if you actually tried. For the record, in my church I AM a minority. We have fewer than 20% anglos in our congregation. But nice rant…..

  21. Corey

    I would just like to say that the fundamental church is not dead but very much alive. I wasn’t raised in church but I had a fundamental pastor shoot the Gospel straight too me and not water it down with self opinions and showed me that the Word had been forever settled in Heaven and my righteousness was as filthy rags now I run a bus route in the south LOL where I pick up all races of children teaching them the good news of Jesus Christ yes I’m Baptist yes I’m fundamental but here’s the? If Jesus is the same yesterday today and forevermore who has changed? Man has God hasn’t we don’t need a new way to worship or a new version to fit mans standards we need more Christians that are going to be “doers of the word” not just say we need something new how about we just preach save Jesus and him crucified and give God the glory BC he’s the only reason we are here.

  22. JET

    The reason that so many thousands of churches are in trouble is because of the dispensational, futuristic theology that they endorse and preach. That theology has no real life or soundness, very legalistic. They want to rebuild corrupt, political Israel which God submitted to destruction in AD 70. We now are under the age of Christ and the law of Christ, not the age of Moses. I would suggest a book by Max King, SPIRIT OF PROPHECY, from, in Colo. Spgs. Max, along with others have brought back the true theology of the Bible which existed long before John Darby or C.I. Scofield. The movement of realized eschatology is spreading throughout the world and many are being delivered from the shackles of legalistic, futuristic theology and are now living in the PRESENCE of Christ. . . . JET

  23. patricia bowman

    I lost my church 7 wks ago to the purpost driven movement. A renouned church
    here in montreal with 95 yrs. of blessed history. It is very hard. I was there for
    13yrs. I never recieved so much as a phone call. We are the last days generation
    so pray….pray….pray. So many are suffering right now.Even so LORD JESUS come. Patricia Bowman


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