Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Next Evangelicalism

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah.

This book, critical as it is of American white evangelicalism (and therefore also of NZ white evangelicals) sparks a strong critical review from one Amazon writer, an Assemblies of God pastor. His biggest concern is that Korean-born Rah sees the white culture as one big negative. For him, Rah forgets the very many strong and positive traits of Western civilisation, and lumps all white Christians together as one homogenous group.

That aside, however, he has some good things to say about the book, and admits that in spite of its ‘flaws’ it points out something that is needing to be said in regard to the group that is 60% of the world’s Christian community: the Africans, the Asians and the Latin Americans.

“No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't escape the conclusion that Rah - to a significant degree - is right. The American evangelical church is declining, or at least its Anglo component is. But as Rah points out, the non-Anglo component of the American evangelical church is thriving. This is true in my own denomination, the Assemblies of God.

“…the Anglo evangelical church in America declining, it is guilty - in various parts and to varying degrees - of practicing an individualistic, consumerist, materialistic, and racist form of Christianity. Why do we focus on personal evangelism rather than also on social transformation? Why do we think the three B's - buildings, bucks, and butts in the pew - are indicators of a church's success, if that's even an appropriate word for a church to use? And why do we presume that non-white culture is a mission field that needs our contributions and competence, rather than the other way around?”

To sum up, “correction does not mean the total negation of the one culture nor the total affirmation of the others. It requires a balancing off of weaknesses and strengths.”

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