The evangelicals I wish the world would see

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I consider myself to be an evangelical Christian. I believe I meet the definition as put forth by the National Association of Evangelicals. I’m saddens me that the term “evangelical” has taken on an increasingly negative connotation, especially among younger people. I had a recent experience in an academic context in which the charge of being an “evangelical Christian” was levied against me by someone who thought my beliefs should disqualify me for a leadership position that would have represented a significant promotion.

The evangelicals I know care about the people and causes that Jesus cared about during his earthly ministry. They may not necessarily fit the narrative that many in the media would like to propagate about our community. I can’t help but think that evangelicals would have a very different image in our larger culture if more people had the opportunity to get to know some of the folks I was surrounded by during the last three days.

I was fortunate to have been invited to be part off Evangelicals for Life, a conference that took place this past weekend in Washington D.C. under the sponsorship of Focus on the Family and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. I was honored to be among so many faithful and compassionate Christians who live out the Gospel in so many different settings.

I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Brown, a photographer from Nashville, and his wife, Ruth who shared the story of their daughter (Pearl) in words and pictures. Pearl was diagnosed in utero with Alobar prosencephaly, a condition resulting from the complete failure of the brain to divide into right and left hemispheres and there is a single brain ventricle instead of two.

 Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

Speaker after speaker at the conference talked about the importance of caring for the vulnerable during every stage of life. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC opened the conference by sharing teaching on Matthew 14 in which he observed that ” a culture of life cannot coexist with a culture of porn or a culture of abuse”  and that ” the pro-life witness will never flourish where women are not valued.” Jim Daly, the President of Focus on the Family, spoke openly about his experience in foster care and the ministry he and his wife share as foster parents. Benjamin Watson, a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens who is a finalist for the NFL’s Man off the Year award in part because of the work that he and his wife have done in partnership with the International Justice Mission to combat human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor.

I had the privilege of participating in a panel on special needs and mental health with Kelly Rosati. Kelly has served for a number of years as the Vice President of Community Outreach for Focus on the Family. During our panel discussion (unfortunately, there is no video available), Kelly shared perhaps the most powerful illustration I’ve ever heard from a parent struggling to care for a child with mental illness of the importance of support from the church. Kelly did share some of her experiences in a presentation that was videoed on The Challenges and Rewards of Foster Care.

 Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

Screenshot courtesy of ERLC

While the conference has ended, video of all of the main stage presentations is available for free on demand by clicking here.

I wish the men and women I was surrounded by for several days this past week were the public face of evangelical Christianity. Their lives reflect religion that is pure and undefiled.
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Key Ministry encourages our readers to check out the resources we’ve developed to help pastors, church leaders, volunteers and families on mental health-related topics, including series on the impact of ADHDanxiety and Asperger’s Disorder on spiritual development in kids, depression in children and teenspediatric bipolar disorder, and strategies for promoting mental health inclusion at church.