There is currently a buzz of discussion about the future of "evangelicalism" due to a blog written by Michael Spencer, entitled The Coming Evangelical Collapse. You can read his three posts here. A condensed magazine version is here. I actually heard him interviewed on two Christian radio programs last week. The article is an interesting appraisal of what is going on in the American Evangelical scene.
Some of what he says is spot and all of it offers rather compelling insight. But the article also illustrates one of the fundamental flaws of this type of effort. There is, in fact, under all these issues a more core problem. Spencer seems to sense this; he even seems to be searching for is; ultimately he is himself a victim of evangelicalism's core failure and hence misses it. Let me explain.
He is doubtless correct when he states that "Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism." It actually already is. Look at any representative Evangelical Church and even if it doesn't do the "charismatic-spiritual-gift-displays," it will still be dominated by the charismatic movement's music/worship style, atmosphere, programs, etc.
This is exactly what J. C. O'Hair predicted in the 1940! O'Hair was a champion of the distinctive ministry and message of the Apostle Paul. He heralded this truth as he pioneered in Christian radio, through literature, foreign missions, aiding in establishing educational institutions and fellowships of grace believers and preachers, all the while leading an aggressively evangelistic/Bible teaching church in Chicago.
As the tide of Fundamentalism began to shift toward rejection of a clear stand for the distintive ministry commited to the Apostle Paul (the cost simply became too high when traditions like water baptism were threatened), O'Hair issued a warning to his brethren. I don't have the exact quote in front of me, but the gist of it went something like this:
"If fundamentalism continues to refuse to embrace the importance of the distinctive ministry of the Apostle Paul the church will be scourged with the rod of Pentecostal fanaticism."
I have a few more things to say about Spencer's article, but this is the core problem--the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about (too often, even those who know/embrace it). The answer will not be found in the dust; the answer is in the cause of the dust swirling so thickly in the air.