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The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World Paperback – October 1, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Over a quarter of a century ago, Richard Quebedeaux chronicled the history and prospects of evangelicalism in his sociology of religion study, The Young Evangelicals. Webber, who teaches at Northern Seminary in Wheaton, Ill., offers an insider's perspective on the present state and future of evangelicalism. He contends that the "younger evangelicals" include anyone "who deals thoughtfully with the shift from 20th- to 21st-century culture. He or she is committed to construct a biblically rooted, historically informed and culturally aware new evangelical witness in the 21st century." In this splendid overview of the shifts in the evangelical landscape, Webber examines the differences in theological thinking, worship styles and communication styles; attitudes toward history, art and evangelism; and ecclesiology between "traditional" evangelicals (1950-1975), "pragmatic" evangelicals (1975-2000) and younger evangelicals (2000-). For example, where the traditional evangelicals argued theologically that Christianity is a rational worldview and pragmatic evangelicals contended theologically that Christianity is a therapy that answers needs, the younger evangelicals' theological program involves a return to ancient Christian and Reformation teachings that Christianity is a community of faith. These younger evangelicals, he argues, are highly visual believers, possessing great facility with technology. They are committed to the plight of the poor, multicultural communities of faith and intergenerational ministry, and they recognize that the road to the future runs through the past. Webber's helpful and thorough guidebook offers a generous assessment of the history of evangelicalism as well as a judicious but enthusiastic evaluation of its prospects in the 21st century.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Back Cover
A new evangelical awakening is taking place around the world. And the changes are being introduced by an emerging generation of leaders-The Younger Evangelicals. Who are they and what is different about their way of thinking and practicing church? How are they keeping ministry up to speed with our rapidly changing culture? In this provocative and energizing book, they will tell you.
"If you're suspicious about new winds blowing across the evangelical coastland, please don't criticize until you've read The Younger Evangelicals. It is by far the most thoughtful description of what's going on. If you're not critical but just curious, Webber will give you a thorough immersion into the emerging church. And if you're 'younger' yourself or young at heart, you'll find Webber giving voice to much that you have felt but couldn't yet articulate. Webber proves himself a sagely resource for this fresh, fledgling movement in this wise, warm, timely book."
Brian McLaren, pastor, author, senior fellow with Emergent (www.emergentvillage.com)
"At a time when many graying prognosticators are bemoaning the state of the church, it is refreshing to read a commentator of Robert Webber's stature who is optimistic about the future of the evangelical cause. Webber documents the presence of a cadre whom the Holy Spirit is raising up to lead the church in offering a biblically rooted, historically informed and culturally aware gospel witness. I am personally encouraged by Webber's findings."
Stanley J. Grenz, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Baylor University
"The Younger Evangelicals is an eye-popping, brain-bending look at where the evangelical church must head if it has any hopes of impacting postmodern culture. A superbly researched, foundational work, it is easily the best primer on the emerging church that I have seen."
Sally Morgenthaler, founder of Sacramentis.com, author of Worship Evangelism
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Younger Evangelicals are more traditional, very arts oriented, sacramental/symbolic, less legalistic, and seek meaning, as opposed to entertainment, from worship. They are leaving "contemporary" churches for ones that are more connected to the ancient Church. They are reading their Bibles in less literal ways, and see room for disagreement on controversial scripture passages, including the creation stories. Younger Evangelicals are more likely to take Eucharist weekly than sit through long sermons, and they seek a visible church, as opposed to an invisible one. In general, many young Christians are unsatisfied with both "traditional" and "contemporary" worship, and prefer a blending of the two, where the rich tradition of the Church is alive, but contextualized for each era.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as I do all of Webber's books. Writers like Webber, Thomas Oden, Brian McLaren, and others speak to me as a postmodern Christian. Often Webber's yearnings are my yearnings. His students' concerns are the concerns of many friends of mine, as well as my own. Much of what Younger Evangelicals want is part of the catholic tradition, while evangelicalism, both traditional and contemporary, has been effective at ignoring church history. But it is not just about "going back." It is about rendering the ancient Christian tradition, worship, the Bible, and doctrine in a contextually relevant way. However, rather than change the Church based on culture (as many contemporary churches do to make church "cool"), Younger Evangelicals approach culture, and current humanist disciplines, through the lens of the ancient beliefs and practices of the Church.
If you no longer find meaning in your church, but don't want to give up on Christ, perhaps you are a postmodern in a modern church. Reading this book will be a start to rediscovering Christ in your own era. However, postmodernism is so broad, nobody will agree with *everything* Webber says (that would be rather modernist). For evangelicals under age 30, this book will provide some framework for what you probably already believe, and for people over 30, it might be a bit frightening.
There is a book you need to buy. No, it isn't one of my own books-I don't use the Tuesday Column to promote books-not even my own. I review them sometimes (but that only makes it easier for you not to buy them-since my reviews are pretty complete.) I'm breaking my own rule today-I found a book every person over 30 interested in church ministries need to own.
This book is about the twentysomthing crowd Well, not exactly them, but about an emerging movement in the church made up of mostly Twentysomethings. That crowd might not like this book because the book tells us boomers all their secrets. In fact they hate being labeled at all, and hate it doubly when Boomers do it. But since they are no longer reading this and are off reading something else by now, let me tell you over-30 folk why this book is so important.
If you are a regular reader of my "Tuesday Columns" you already know I often knock us boomers for our generational arrogance. We think we are so cool, so "contemporary." We think our ways of doing church are so wonderful and we assume we've made something lasting. I often warn us that our churches are headed to becoming "Boomer nursing homes" where we continually congratulate ourselves on how cool we still are, while totally losing the next generations and the world and never noticing!
Finally there is a book that explains what is happening in the massive generational shift. So far there have been bits and pieces here and there, but now Robert Webber has put together a book outlining the secrets of this enormous shift in thinking that involves younger people mostly, but many older folk as well. Using the term "Younger Evangelicals" instead of "post modern or some other silly term, he outlines in chapter 1 the recent history of evangelicalism since 1950 in the most concise way I've seen anywhere-take that Martin Marty! That chapter is worth the first ten dollars of the book's ...price tag. But the rest of the book outlines chapter by chapter the immense shifts in the world under our boomer feet. Most boomers reading this book will feel like they are still leading singing in a "praise team" in a church with mauve carpeting while using colorful sponge covers on their individual microphones. Be careful-this book will make you feelout of date out of touch and out of coolness. If you are a "successful pastor" you'll hate it more-because some of what is happening among the next generation are things you spent ten years overthrowing when you were younger. You'll say, "well, this is only a trend among the younger folk-they'll change eventually" (what they said about us!)
In this book you'll discover in easy to read format how communication has changed, how the view of history has changed, how propositional theology is in total meltdown, how apologetics has shifted, how ecclesiology has shifted shockingly. And you'll find out how the view of the church as a marketed product has shifted, how the role of the pastor-CEO has become laughable, how youth ministry is switching from parties to prayer, [how] education is changing, the new way to see spiritual formation, how worship leadership has shifted, how art is being renewed, how evangelism is altered, and how activism happens in a new way.
Boomers don't have to read this book. We've got our churches going nicely now, we've constructed our cool wraparound-the-stage worship centers and have a good giving base so we can essentially blow of the next generations and the world and happily sing our way into retirement bringing our "sacks of rice on trays" every Sunday. We can survive into retirement singing and preaching to ourselves. A few of our parent's churches did that-they are still around full of "the Greatest generation" wondering what happened in the 1970's that seems to change things. We can do that and survive.
But if we are interested in the enormous shifts that are taking place in our children and their friends-and we seriously want to know why they think the way we do church stinks and they feel compelled to plan "authentic churches" then this book gives away their secrets.
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