Should Evangelicals Walk Away? Review of “The Great Evangelical Retreat”

The Great Evangelical Retreat-Ed Cyzewski

“We are at a point where it’s fair to ask whether stepping back would be an improvement over our negative impact. Is no influence better than negative influence.”
– Ed Cyzewski

Not everyone will think this is a necessary book. But many will. And all would do well to hear it out.

The book is The Great Evangelical Retreat: Finding Hope in Surrender by Ed Cyzewski. Ed is an avid Christ-follower and a thinker for Christianity in our culture. I’ve read most of his books and I follow his blog here.

One intended audience for this short book? Anybody disillusioned with evangelicalism, but not quite ready to give up on it.

Many of us have had moments of embarrassment over the evangelical community the past couple of years. From leaders’ actions. From political gaffes. From our own improper responses.

So should we just walk away from evangelicalism? 

Ed posits an alternate solution. Because where Christ is, there is always hope for better.

He doesn’t suggest we give up altogether, but he does suggest we walk away for a minute to regroup.

Ed suggests a retreat to the wilderness—not to get away from “the world” or to save our “Christian culture,” but to seek God anew. To be filled with the Spirit, not with our dogmas and institutions.

“By seeking God in solitude and silence, we can retreat from our failures, misconceptions, and misdirections. We can regain our footing on solid ground and seek a path that is grounded in God’s love for all.”

By journeying away for a time of reflection (and what better time than Lent?), we can let go of any opposition against perceived attacks, we can look more objectively at what has been happening, and we can better listen to what is actually being said.

“If evangelicals can step back for a moment from our defensive positions where we want to assert the goodness of our movement, perhaps we will have eyes to see and ears to hear. We need to see reality and the damage we have done. We need to listen to the pain and confusion we have caused.

We can learn ways to reconnect with the good fruit of the movement and let go of the rotten pieces.

“Each evangelical group needs to prove its value through its vitality and fruit, not simply arguing for its existence by virtue of holding onto the accomplishments of the past or maintaining external signs of influence and power.”

We can then better confess what we’ve gotten wrong. Repent of it. Find ways to restore. And redirect our efforts.

“This isn’t a public relations, political correctness, or liberal media issue. This is on us. Occasional moral failures here and there can be understood. These are deeper failures to approach the world with mercy, compassion, and love.”

By the grace of God, we can do this. We can recenter on God. Then proceed with more love for him and more love for others.

The last paragraph of The Great Evangelical Retreat includes these words of encouragement:

“The good news is that those who desire God will find God. Those who seek will find. Those who ask shall receive. . . . We may not find God in the ways that we’re expecting. We may not experience the revival we’ve been promised. We will find a God who has been restoring and leading women and men through the wilderness and in solitude for generations.”

* * *

The book is only 46 pages. That’s another thing I love about Ed’s writings: he doesn’t fluff out a message to fill a standard 240-page book. He says what he has to say, then is done with it.

There will eventually be 7 more books in this series, Evangelicals After the Shipwreck: Toward a Loving and Transformed Church. Book 2, Why Evangelicals Need the Wilderness, is already available here.

For a short daily retreat, read a chapter in the gospels of Mark and John during 40 days of Lent. Get the reading plan from Do Not Depart, #40DaysWithJesus, and join the Facebook community for daily conversations.

Are you fasting or feasting on anything during Lent to retreat in Jesus? Please share in the comments.

28 thoughts on “Should Evangelicals Walk Away? Review of “The Great Evangelical Retreat”

  1. Kristin Hill Taylor

    I recently met Ed briefly at a local adoption party for a mutual friend. Turns out we live in the same small town. I’m intrigued by his book and I love what you shared about it. Thanks for linking up at #PorchStories!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a small world! I’ve never met Ed in person, but we’ve corresponded through blogs and emails for a few years now. I find his writings very real and thought-provoking.

  2. Lesley

    Sounds like an interesting book and I agree, it is important to take a step back at times and focus on God. I’m using a Lent Bible study and a devotional book to try and do this more over the next few weeks.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m doing the same, Lesley. I’m reading through Ordering Our Affections–Lent, by Dr. Melissa Hatcher. She uses a multi-sensory approach in her book which I’m really enjoying. May you have a blessed time in your readings this Lent!

  3. Dianna

    Lisa, thank you for sharing about this book. I know that I certainly need to take a retreat at times and focus on what God wants rather than what I want. I’m doing that this Lenten season by following the reading plan at Do Not Depart. I included a note about the reading plan in my blog today.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We all need those mini-retreats quite often; I know I do, too, Dianna. I’m glad to hear you’re reading along with the Do Not Depart group! I love that it’s a manageable portion each day, but straight up text about Jesus. Blessings to you, friend.

  4. June

    Lisa, thanks for sharing this and introducing me to Ed. (If you did before, I missed it) I have checked out his FB page and his blog and will be following both. His is a voice I need to be listening to right now. There are so few truly true voices these days. Many are wolves wrapped in sheep’s clothing. Now, perhaps more than ever, we need discernment and a personal walk with Truth Himself to follow the right path. Blessings on your week, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, this is so good, June: “We need discernment and a personal walk with Truth Himself to follow the right path.” I agree with you. The best way to recognize the Master’s voice is to listen to him often ourselves.

  5. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Thanks Lisa. I always appreciate your book recommendations, and I’ve heard of Ed from a # of people. I downloaded the PDF of his book on Evangelicalism and started to read it over tea today. It is really resonating. I’ve found myself not even wanting to claim this name, but simply Christian, Christ-follower. In the truest sense, I am Evangelical, but not in the way the word has come to be associated with a faulty political movement. And even though I’m sensing Ed wants to reclaim the true definition, unfortunately, the negative connotations may be here to stay. Meanings of words change, at least in their connotations, and the Evangelicalism which has emerged (especially since the 2016 American presidential election0, is not one I espouse.

    Anyway thank you so much. I intend to have a month of quiet reflection, and this began today with our attending an Ash Wednesday service and, mercifully, my keeping off TV news, which is very hard for me.
    Thanks again for the recommendation.
    PS If you supply your email to him, he will also send a free PDF on his book on creativity.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I relate to all that you’re saying, Lynn. It’s been a difficult year for the reputation of evangelicalism and it makes me want to disclaim it as well. Maybe it’s a wake-up call though and we can reexamine and reboot more in the ways of Christ instead of the ways of tradition and politics. May you be blessed in your month of quiet reflection. I hope to be more diligent with my practice of daily meditation during Lent as well as steeping myself more in the writings of Jesus. And yes, avoiding TV news as much as possible too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hear you, Michele. I’m guilty of skimming way too many blogs, but Ed’s blog is one that I need to slow down with to really digest. He doesn’t throw words out lightly.

  6. Mari-Anna Stålnacke

    I agree. Any chance starts with us. We can’t force others to do what we don’t want to do ourselves. And we should not force anybody to do anything anyway. It’s God’s job. Our job is to become truly God-centered. The world will notice without us pointing it out.
    Thanks, Lisa, always pointing to God. Blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “Our job is to become truly God-centered. The world will notice without us pointing it out.” That’s a great point, Mari-Anna. We don’t always have to preach with words; our actions speak louder.

  7. Boma

    Retreat to recoup; it’s a simple strategy that works all the time, but one Christians don’t use as much as we’re supposed to. God help us! Thanks for sharing this review, Lisa. Blessings to you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Boma: we definitely don’t use that retreat option as much as we could. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but even mini-retreats can help us reconnect with God more often.

  8. David

    Dear Lisa, for Lent this year I’m fasting on more or less the same things I did last year — only more so. To put a positive spin on it I am trying to be more “mindful” about where I direct my attention. So, I have started reading a new book (Steve Pinker’s “Enlightenment Now”. It’s good!), and I am on my quest for male and/or British Christian bloggers. I’ve started following Ed Cyzewski’s blog and I like his voice).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you’ve connected with Ed’s blog. Hope you continue to get good things from it. I always do.
      I haven’t gotten a copy yet of Enlightenment Now but I look forward to reading it too! I’m glad to hear that you like it so far.

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