Like GOP, evangelicals look to rebrand
Evangelist leaders such as Rick Warren have spoken for evangelicals for years, but he and other leaders must adjust, some say.
March 26th, 2013
09:47 AM ET

Like GOP, evangelicals look to rebrand

By John Blake

(CNN) - There’s been a lot of debate about the Republican Party’s need to rebrand after the 2012 presidential defeat, but could evangelicals face the same challenge?

The evangelical community, too, has been involved in some collective soul-searching. Evangelical leaders constantly warn that young people are deserting churches; pastors struggle to address changing views on homosexuality; and others wonder how evangelicals can remain relevant when a growing number of Americans refuse to identify with any religion.

Relevant magazine, an evangelical publication, tackles these issues head-on in its latest issue with an article titled “10 Challenges Facing Us in The Next Decade."

“The future is coming faster than ever," the article says, "with the tectonic plates of society, church, culture, technology, economy and environment shifting beneath us.”

How the church should change to meet this future is the thrust of the article. The magazine asked some of the nation’s top evangelical leaders for their take on the biggest challenges facing the church in the next decade.

Their answers varied, and some were surprising.

John Mark McMillan, a worship leader and musician, says religious entertainers can’t save evangelicals. Building more megachurches with slicker worship services that feature skits, live music and hip pastors in skinny jeans won’t do the trick.

“How will we avoid the temptation to simply draw crowds?” McMillan asks. “While a floating head on a Jumbotron can instruct us, I think we can only grow to maturity when we learn to love at point-blank range, where the messy aspects of relationship can’t be avoided.”

Another evangelical leader says making marriage relevant for a new generation is the big challenge. David Kinnaman, whose book "You Lost Me" examines why young evangelicals are leaving the church, says more youth see heterosexual marriage as outdated.

Relevant cited statistics from the Pew Research Center that show 44% of millennials (people age 18-29) say marriage is becoming obsolete.

“Millennials face many challenges when it comes to marriage,” Kinnaman says. "They have more financial pressure, more readily available sexual temptations, fewer social inhibitions with infidelity, not to mention overly distracted spouses who are working hard to get ahead or ‘screening’ away their valuable time.”

Shane Claiborne, author of "The Irresistible Revolution" and a founding member of an alternative community called the Simple Way, points to another challenge.

He says evangelicals must broaden the definition of “pro-life.”

Claiborne says we live in a nation where gun violence kills 10,000 people every year, dozens are executed under the death penalty, and the threat of nuclear annihilation looms.

Claiborne’s suggestion: Create a Life Party of Christians who “insist on protecting life in all its dazzling forms.”

“I hope that we can decrease and eliminate abortion, embrace the immigrant and orphans, end the death penalty in the U.S. and see poor people cared for,” Claiborne says.

Evangelicals can’t meet the future by simply altering the delivery of their message. The message will have to change in some ways as well, says Shane Hipps, author of "Selling Water by the River."

“The historic strength of evangelical churches to innovate methods without altering the underlying message will no longer have the same impact,” he says. “That’s because the cultural shift now under way is not merely about music preferences or the use of video clips in sermons.”

Hipps' solution for the future is to learn a lesson from the past. He cited Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor martyred by the Third Reich during the closing days of World War II.

“We must learn to embrace what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called 'religionless Christianity,' ” Hipps says. “These people will press beyond the tired religious categories of ‘liberal’ and “conservative.’ They will see the life and teachings of Jesus not as religious or even spiritual in nature, but rather as fundamentally human.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith

soundoff (602 Responses)
  1. Kafir

    The religions that adapt to shifting trends and ideas are the ones who don't really believe the drivel they spout.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  2. Alex

    Ironically, more and more gay people are proving right wing religion wrong every day using a method that Christians themselves once mastered but now often fail at –witnessing. Gay people who are in relationships live upstanding, productive lives for all to witness. They raise well adjusted, educated children. I think a reason some Christians are so against gay marriage is because they know that if it were to become legal everywhere–then more people then ever would see that gays are fully capable of loving marriages all all their old primitive beliefs would fall away.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  3. K

    There is not amount of rebranding that will turn people to the Church or to Jesus. Signs and wonders was what drew the people to Jesus. What is the point in rebranding and then denying the power of God. When we begin to see signs and wonders; cancers healed in our meetings; People coming into the Church with depression are leaving healed; and the truth of the gospel preached; then young and old will know that there is one true God, they will repent and we will see Acts 2 played out before our eyes again.

    Revival in America Lord! Amen

    March 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
    • StevenR

      “I hope that we can decrease and eliminate abortion, embrace the immigrant and orphans, end the death penalty in the U.S. and see poor people cared for,”

      Go there and others will follow. Spout hate and ignorance and you are doomed.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • Kafir

      Except that now, people see the "signs and wonders" for what they really are: statistically valid probabilities, smoke and mirrors, confirmation bias, mass hysteria, self-fulfilling prophecies, etc etc etc.

      None of that can ever point to a god any more than it can point to a divine unicorn.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • End Religion

      "Signs and wonders was what drew the people to Jesus."

      In other words, misunderstanding of how the universe works. There are no miracles. Now that the internet is growing as out collective knowledge, faster than ever people are falling out of the ignorance that is religion.

      "What is the point in rebranding and then denying the power of God."

      Soon enough you will find GOP rebranding themselves AWY from religion. It's dying. If they continue to cling to it then they will die as well, which is what is happening. There is no god. If he had any power at all would you be in the trouble you're in?

      "cancers healed in our meetings; People coming into the Church with depression are leaving healed; and the truth of the gospel preached;"

      Your medieval superstîtious bullshît just doesn't cut it anymore. Find a new schtick.

      "then young and old will know that there is one true God, they will repent and we will see Acts 2 played out before our eyes again. Revival in America Lord! Amen"

      The only True God is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Your pathetic weakling god stinks like yesterday's diapers.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  4. lewtwo

    Like a rose by any other name --
    Only in this case one can start with a pile of smelly waste.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm |
  5. steve

    “We must learn to embrace what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called 'religionless Christianity,' ” Hipps says. “These people will press beyond the tired religious categories of ‘liberal’ and “conservative.’ They will see the life and teachings of Jesus not as religious or even spiritual in nature, but rather as fundamentally human.”

    He means leave out the super natural BS, and call it what it is. Young people are thinking for themselves and that is not good for organized brainwashing. No body believes in the planet Kolob unless you are brainwashed. A good student of history can easily see through the BS. The world would be a better place with out the business of religion. Why can't you respect the teachings of Jesus Christ without making hi some super natural power?

    March 27, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  6. Jack

    Rick Warren certainly doesn't speak for Christianity. I can wear an orange robe, shave my head, chant and call myself a Hare Krishna. But, unless I'm LIVING OUT what they truly believe, I would be a fake and doing damage to who the Hare Krishnas really are. It's the same with Christianity. Not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually IS a Christian.

    God is unchanging. He's the same yesterday, today and forever. There is no "rebranding" or "making religion relevant to the times." God's word stands firm. Every person either accepts it as the Truth or rejects it. There is no in-between. And, as with life, with every choice we make, we are also responsible for the consequences that come with them. Every person will be held accountable for what they decided to do with Jesus. Accept Him or reject Him?

    Anyone who thinks they'll rage at God, argue their case or any other such nonsense will have a big surprise in store for them. As they lay prostrate before Him, they will KNOW they are guilty and deserving of hell. The time for repentance is now, while God's grace and mercy can be found. That time is running out and time is not on your side anymore. REPENT!

    March 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • Madtown

      God's word stands firm. Every person either accepts it as the Truth or rejects it
      I want to accept it. Where do I find it?

      March 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • Kafir

      Yes, and let's make sure no god-fearing, gay bashing, shellfish abstinent, disobedient child-murdering, unmixed fabric wearing, sabbath observing christian ever forgets it.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
    • james

      madtown, go to jw.org if you are sincere about what you seek and you will find.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Mr. Reality

      Deserving of hell jack, really? what and where is this place you call hell?? Repent?? God is unchanging huh...how do you know this??

      March 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jack, what are you, 9 years old? Your god is imaginary. Grow up already. There's no judgement awaiting anyone, fool. Go worship your puny godling in your basement somewhere and quit pestering the world with your psychotic fear mongering.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
    • Madtown

      go to jw.org
      No. Don't sales-pitch me. Tell me in your own words where I find the word of God.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • james

      madtown, I have come to know where to find people that teach the truth about the word of God and after much searching only Jehovah's Witnesses have explained the truth of God from the Bible. I was sending you to their web site jw.org in case I did not hear from you again. Also when they come to your door please just give them your sincere questions and if you really want to learn what the Bible teaches listen to them or go to the Kingdom Hall near you if they do not come by soon. At least twice a week you will find them there studying and teaching the true Word of God. Please give them a little of your time and you will not be sorry and it is free of charge unlike others.

      March 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • Madtown

      the truth of God from the Bible.
      Sorry, that won't work for me. I am aware that the bible was written by human beings. It was also edited, transcribed, translated by humans, and they selected the independent individual works to comprise the total work of the bible, leaving out other relevant works of the time that arguably should've been included. Not to mention the numerous re-releases with different versions. I struggle to understand how someone who has even the slightest grasp of reality, can recognize this yet still call the bible the "word of God". In fact, I'd guess that God wouldn't be too pleased with humans going around crediting him with creating a work so completely touched and manipulated by the hand of man. Why all the change, why all the editing, why the council to decide which works to include in the bible if it's the work of God? Wouldn't it be perfect from the start? Why would God entrust fallible humans to create this work, knowing the humans create nothing that doesn't include all their human fallibilities?

      March 27, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
  7. tony

    Wow cant we all just get along lol.. Ive never read so much hate, an disrespect in my life!! Respect one's opinion an keep it moving. Everyone has their own definition of truth, Respectfully disaggree an leave it at that. In time we will all know the truth : )

    March 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • lolwut

      Apparently this is your first time on the internet...

      March 27, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

      There is no other truth, but truth absolute, Lord GOD of universe. rest of them are hinduism absurdity of hindu secular s, filthy self centered to hind fool humanity in to hinduism, racism.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      As we rot in our graves we won't have a functioning brain and so won't know anything.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  8. SFerny

    Sin is Sin

    March 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • SCal

      Religion is stupid.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
    • Alex

      The problem is, everyone will define "sin" differently–even churchgoing Christians.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • clarity

      ESPECIALLY churchgoing Christians.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  9. kickgas

    Take the money out of it and Preachers would be digging ditches or flipping burgers or some other honest living.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • SCal

      Nah, a lot of them would be in lives of crime. They're already good at deception, live it all day long.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  10. BMP

    You can't "rebrand" hatred.

    March 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Jack

      Speaking from experience I see. Funny how everyone says Christians "hate" yet the hatred towards Christians rages on and "doesn't count."

      March 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • SCal

      Poor widdle Christians. Did the big girls bully little Jackie?

      March 27, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Jack

      @SCal – Right back at you. You guys have done DECADES worth of whining and crying about God and His followers. But, it's different when it comes from you. Right? (Hypocrisy at it's finest. Thanks for proving that point.)

      March 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jack your religion is dying. We're taking it from you, snåtching it like your mommy snåtched your security blanket when it was time for you to grow up.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  11. SFerny


    March 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  12. JJ

    Religions always evolve to try and stay relevant. One would think that if they are right why would they ever change at all? Only gullible sheep fall for these con men.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      Religions evolve ?
      would that be your micro evolution or macro evolution ??

      March 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • PaganScorp

      I couldn't agree with you more. If they're right, they're right. Did god tell them that he/she has changed his/her mind and to go out and give the "new" good news?

      March 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
  13. El Flaco

    There have been a number of Christianities, not one.

    During his lifetime, Jesus imagined that God would destroy the monarchy, expel the Romans, and rule Israel. That would be heaven. Jesus was just a guy, not a god. Jesus was certainly not a Christian. He was a Jew and never anticipated founding a new, non-Jewish belief system. Jesus had absolutely no interest in the world outside of Israel’s boundaries. Christianity was invented after his execution.

    After Jesus was executed, his followers invented Christianity 1.0, which consisted of waiting for Jesus to return real soon. The Christian teaching of love and kindness was an interim teaching just to keep early Christians cooperating with each other until Jesus returned – something every Christian expected to happen in his or her lifetime. There was no Bible.

    After three centuries of Jesus being a no-show, Constantine invented Christianity 2.0, which consisted of being a member of the Catholic Church and going to heaven when you died. Faithful Catholics marched from cradle to coffin under the watchful and benevolent eye of the Church’s leadership. Constantine ordered the assembly of a Bible.

    Martin Luther invented Christianity 3.0, with the Protestant Reformation, which consisted of being a good person and doing good deeds so as to earn your membership in Heaven. Protestantism was a big improvement over Christianity 2.0.

    Modern televangelists and Evangelicals have invented Christianity 4.0, which consists of little more than dialing a toll-free number with one hand while holding your Master Card in the other in order to live forever. Most modern con-artists carry a Bible in one hand.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Seth Hill

      I'm sorry to say that you got Martin Luther completely wrong; he taught salvation through faith, not through good works.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Russ

      Get a copy of any major accredited history of Christianity.
      Any secular historian can help you see: you have missed on virtually every major point above.
      Disagreeing is your American right – but it helps to actually accurately depict your opponents' positions.

      A few examples...

      When Peter took up his sword to 'overthrow' Rome, Jesus told him to put it away – NOT expel Rome.
      And there was a Bible at this point – it's called the Old Testament. Jesus repeatedly said "it is written..."

      Constantine did not 're-invent' Christianity. After 300 years, 40% of all of Rome's urban population was Christian. He simply saw what was coming.

      Martin Luther's PRIMARY thesis: you CANNOT earn favor with God. You state directly the opposite.
      The cry of the Reformers was "to the sources!" Their goal was not to re-invent Christianity, but to go back to the roots.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Bec

      Sola gratia...through grace alone
      Sola fide...through faith alone
      Sola scriptura...through Scripture alone.

      This was Martin Luther's motto. Are you honestly telling me that Luther thought good works would get you into heaven? He nearly killed himself as a monk trying to do good works, and found that through Christ alone he could find the way to heaven.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • lolwut

      OP fails religious history forever.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • mark1020

      "This was Martin Luther's motto. Are you honestly telling me that Luther thought good works would get you into heaven? He nearly killed himself as a monk trying to do good works, and found that through Christ alone he could find the way to heaven."

      Luther trusted his baby baptism for salvation. He stated over and over again that without his baptism, he would not have been able to believe. Baptism is a work.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Theology is just a bunch of hot air. Because there is no supernatural world, no gods, no devils, and no immortal souls, theology is just intellectual noise.

      I am no historian, just a guy with a library card, so I can't speak with authority. But, I've read a few books and thought about things a bit. Something happened to the European mind when it became infected with Protestant fever. Suddenly, a work ethic came into being. Protestants got the idea in their heads that God expected good things of them, but mostly the kind of good things that are the result of hard work rather than spiritual contemplation. The Christian personality changed from an introverted one into an extroverted one.

      All that aside, I think there have been four distinct Christianities and one pre-Christian belief system.
      0. Jesus tried to bring the Kingdom of Heaven into existence but, to his surprise, he was executed. His bones now lie beneath some parking lot in Jerusalem.

      1. Waiting for Jesus to return (but he never does).
      2. Catholicism
      3. Protestantism
      4. Fundamentalist/Evangelical Dingbatism

      It's just my opinion.

      I could be wrong.

      For the first time.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • StevenR

      Hey! Cut him some slack. His points about the EVOLUTION of Christianity are essentially correct. Early "real" Christianity, Constantine's "Catholisized" Christianity organized around a Pope and Martin Luther giving it back to the people with the "vulgate".

      All of it beyond the first century is a bag of drivel concocted or at least used by the powerful to keep the masses happy (their "opium"), the women in line and the children terrified.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Russ

      @ StephenR:
      Jerome translated the Vulgate (Latin version of the Bible) in the late 4th century.
      Martin Luther pressed for the Bible in the vernacular over a millennium later (1500s).
      why? he wanted to get BACK to the original.

      again, you can argue for the evolution of a faith, but it is imperative to your argument (changes over time) that you have your historical timeline right.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  14. CP in Tampa, FL

    I guess it is time for the churches to rebrand since people are figuring out that there is no god and the teachings of the bible are hogwash. Instead of going to church and praying people are using their limited time more wisely. Science may not have all of the answers yet but each day we are getting closer to understanding the origins of the universe and there is no magic sky daddy involved. Religion is the oldest scam.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • kickgas

      Well stated

      March 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • lolwut

      This comment is fresh and original!

      March 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • JKL2512

      ...said every critic of Christianity for the past 2000 years. People should understand that "science" is also a religion and requires faith, in many cases "blind" faith.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • StevenR

      Only the ignorant trust science blindly. The beauty of science can be appreciated by ANYONE with a reasonable brain. It is unfortunate that most of the beauty is missed by being blinded by religion.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm |
  15. DE

    Hypocrites, all.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  16. ER

    OK crazy...

    March 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  17. Anthony

    "Rebranding" aka " we are losing money and the pastor cant afford that new BWM he so desperately covets

    March 27, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  18. brandynnez

    2 Corinthians 6:17, Jesus says to believers, ' Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. ' God wants believers to be active in the world but as Colossians 2:8 says in Gods word, ' Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, AND NOT AFTER CHRIST.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Care to translate this bit of 1st century mumbo jumbo I assume is from that work of fiction, The Babble?

      March 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • dumbasfock

      HotAir (fitting moniker btw) I'm going to reply to this in the event you honestly cannot discern what was typed above you. He is basically making the point that we arent supposed to rebrand Christianity or water it down to make it more palatable. We are supposed to stick to the doctrine of salvation and people can either believe it or choose not to. Taking a popular stance on gay mairrage may get more people in the door but it will also ensure more souls are lost, ensure the congregants are confused and make sure the Bible is now rendered inaccurate and a "dalmnation" (where you pick the spots you personally like and discard the rest. Christians cannot water down scripture and still follow scripture. Its not up to us to make Gods word more palatable...its up to us to share Gods word. Does that make sense?

      March 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • De Odorizer

      And you're saying What?????????????

      March 27, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Fernando

      Aw c'mon Brandynnez! You really ought to contemplate other religions. Did it ever occur to you that everything you experience, everyone you know, and the entirety of your observable universe is only a projection created by your spirit which exists in a world where there is no time, space or anything except your consciousness and that over an infinite infinities and for an even longer future you will be "existing" on this stage where you're the director, actor and set? Brandynnez, YOU even created this message and this message is enlightening you that you ARE God, but now a self-evolved and self-aware God.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I understand the words but the message is meaningless because most likely there was not a divine jesus.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  19. palintwit

    Evangelicals and tea party patriots alike gladly crawl a mile over broken glass just to sniff the tire tracks of the truck that took Sarah Palin's dirty underwear to the laundry.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • A Conversation

      That is so true...or not.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  20. dennis

    If for nothing else, even without the world focusing on SSM, look at our society! We are a hopeless, helpless mess. So as degradation develops even further, what is the world's next platform? Will we marry animals? Will we turn off all the traffics lights because they trespass against my freedom? Will nudity become the norm? No telling what is on the horizon of our Babylonian culture. I will not stand complacently by and watch and do nothing.

    March 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • Fernando

      That's kind of scary. Do you see yourself as one of Jesus' soldiers?

      March 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Anthony

      i feel nothing but sad for you. your religion has tought you to look at nothing but the negatives in life. Wake up and step away from the fear it is a very dangerous and mind controling thing. no one is going to marry animals. why do you people always rely on EXTREMES to bring your point across. who ever said about marrying animals. and what is wrong with the human body? it is a beautiful, it literally comes in all shapes and sizes. News Flash Adam and Eve, they were nude all the time.

      and if you really cant stand this world, please feel free to relieve your self from it, after all dont you christian spend your entire life wanting to be in heaven with god, why are you stopping yourself?

      March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • CP in Tampa, FL

      dennis = religious nutjob

      March 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Tracy

      1) Animals are not people and cannot consent to marriage. Everybody who uses that argument is dumb.
      2) Nudity *is* the norm. We are all naked under our clothes. and Any person who's ever been in nursing/healthcare/childcare knows that. Anyone who fears nudity has no experience helping others.
      3) Traffic lights?
      4) Sooo, Is that a veiled threat of some kind? Nice. Glad your are so one with Jesus' message... People don't do what you want, threaten.

      March 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • mark1020

      "That's kind of scary. Do you see yourself as one of Jesus' soldiers?"

      Everyone is a soldier...to someone.

      March 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.