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The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
Author: Soong-Chan Rah
InterVarsity Press

For over a century, the United States has been the world center of Christianity. The Evangelical movement grew and flourished in this environment, and its Biblicist and Christological center has been supplemented and influenced by its primarily White and Western culture. Evangelicalism in the United States, and in North America in general has, for better or worse, embraced the Western ideals of Individualism, Consumerism, Materialism and unfortunately a subtle (at times not so subtle) racism. While some of these influences have been positive- for example Individualism has helped stress the importance of a personal relationship with Christ and personal responsibility towards God, it has also created negative tendencies such as a loss of community, "church shopping," and a Consumerist driven Evangelical subculture that mirrors the primary Western culture instead of offering a Christ-centered alternative.

However, according to Soong-Chan Rah, Evangelicalism is changing - and it is of the utmost importance for the White, Western stronghold of North American Christianity to embrace "the next Evangelicalism"- or to slowly fade away. What is this next Evangelicalism? The growing, community-driven foreign and immigrant churches, that have achieved phenomenal growth while all other churches in North America have been in decline. These churches form strong community ties, focusing holistically on the whole person and his or her needs, physical, emotional, and Spiritual- but without succumbing to North American Individualism- true fulfillment comes from being in Christ, and in community. While these immigrant churches flourish and others are in decline it is notable that the most well-known leaders in the church are still all white men.

Rah's book is in three parts- the first discussing the "White, Western captivity of the Church," the second discusses the prevalence of this captivity, even in modern movements such as the "Emerging" church (Rah would argue that the true emerging church is in fact the Immigrant Church), and the final section discusses how traditional, primarily white Evangelical churches can learn from and embrace the next evangelicalism.

A book like this is timely and utterly relevant. Rah has exposed to me sin in my own heart, and how while embracing multiculturalism we can still embrace racist tendencies. How many pastors have lamented the decline of the church and its influence in North American society? How many of these pastors have mentioned, or even bothered to learn, that the Immigrant Church is experiencing the exact opposite- healthy growth and massive influence within its community?

However there is one overriding fault in Rah's text, and that is that he complains far too much. It is one thing to point out an error in the Church- it is another entirely to dwell on it instead of on how we can change. The first section of the book was absolutely necessary, but the second seemed superfluous, merely reiterating the main points of the first section in the context of specific Evangelical movements. This entire section could have just as easily been one chapter instead of three, as an addendum to the first section, and not only could Rah have presented all of the same information, but he would have done so in a far more useful and less grating manner-leaving room in the third (most important) section for more examples of how to change and embrace the next evangelicalism. Considering that this is the crux of the book, why does Rah relegate the solution to three chapters, while he continuously states and restates the problem over six? It is truly a shame that there is more focus on the complaining than on the solution- I found myself longing for more- more examples from the Immigrant Church, and more ideas about how to embrace multiculturalism in the church.

The Next Evangelicalism is one of the first books of its kind, and it contains a message that must be heard by North American Christian leaders and laypeople alike. This is most certainly recommended reading, however if you do not have a lot of time, I would advise reading the first and third sections and skipping over the second.

Noah Salo
http://shineisdead.wordpress.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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