Here is an insightful article by David Gibson over at Beginning With Moses:
“You may have heard the story of the Mennonite Brethren movement. One particular analysis goes like this: the first generation believed and proclaimed the gospel and thought that there were certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and advocated the entailments. The third generation denied the gospel and all that were left were the entailments.”
Though every situation is different, the pattern is rather simple…
“Proclaiming, assuming, denying. This description of a movement’s history is admittedly something of a caricature – any such development would always be the result of many complex factors. Nevertheless, it is a useful way of attempting to identify defining decisions that profoundly shape a movement’s evolution and it has lessons for us about the dangers and challenges facing other similar movements.”
What does this look like?
“Assumed evangelicalism believes and signs up to the gospel. It certainly does not deny the gospel. But in terms of priorities, focus, and direction, assumed evangelicalism begins to give gradually increasing energy to concerns other than the gospel and key evangelical distinctives, to gradually elevate secondary issues to a primary level, to be increasingly worried about how it is perceived by others and to allow itself to be increasingly influenced both in content and method by the prevailing culture of the day.”
“It is relatively straightforward to point to individuals, churches, movements and institutions that are clearly either proclaiming the gospel or denying it. However, it is extremely difficult to spot assumed evangelicalism and to evaluate and critique it. The reason that it is so hard to evaluate and critique is precisely because it is assumed evangelicalism. In other words, it acknowledges all the right things. The theology of assumed evangelicalism could well be faultless and, when asked to do so, is probably able to articulate itself in an exemplary way. The danger of assumed evangelicalism is precisely the fact that it has come from somewhere very distinct and is heading to somewhere very distinct but the in-between-ness of it makes it a lot harder to evaluate clearly. The crossing of boundaries is notoriously hard to see until you have arrived on the other side. This means at least two things…”
He concludes this way:
“But for each of the areas it is vital to realise that the temptations we face are often exceedingly subtle. Some evangelical biographies and histories give the impression that difficult decisions only need to be made when we reach a watershed moment, a clear-cut choice between truth and error. In reality, such crisis points come about because of daily decisions, made on a minute scale and over a period of time, to either assume evangelical distinctives or actively articulate them. Individually, every day, we face the choice whether to sit under the Bible alone, to run to the cross alone and look to Christ alone or to begin to shift our gaze on to other things. Once we begin simply to assume these truths, then we are already beginning to stop ‘acting in line with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal. 2:14). The potential consequences for ourselves are harmful; for the generation following us they are disastrous.”
There is much more to the article. I would recommend you read the whole thing…It’s worth it.