Tuesday, October 11, 2005



Evangelicalism seems to follow the curvature of culture and reflects culture. And if you look back over the last 50-60 years, culture has actually gone through three very distinct groupings: Boomers, Gen-Xers and now Millennials. It seems to me that as evangelicalism encounters each cultural shift that each cultural shift as they integrate with it gives a different shape and form, not so much to the message, but to the way in which the message itself is communicated. So if you go back to Traditional Evangelicalism, I see it shaped by World War II and post-World War II. And then the Pragmatics, who emerged in the ’80s or so under the leadership of Bill Hybels and others are essentially shaped by the ’60s and the revolution that the ’60s introduced — even though they didn’t begin until the late ’70s and ’80s, they are really children of the ’60s.

Now things are changing again. The rise of the Millennials (who have been born since 1982 — and these are not hard and fast dates) have been shaped by post modernity, and as a result of their cultural interaction with post modernity, they’re beginning to reflect in a different way on what evangelical Christianity looks like.

In Dr. Webber's book The Younger Evangelicals, he talks about how many "younger evangelicals" crave mystery and ancient worship expressions (a la pre-enlightenment). There's a high value on liturgy and connection with worship elements such as the Christian calendar, communion, and ritual.

This has definitely been my experience with the youth and young people that I work with. His thoughts resonate with my context immensely.


Thunder Jones said...

Is that a business in the front, party in the back haircut?

I do wonder if his younger evangelicals are evangelical at all since it is hardly a settled term. Lots of evangelicals would say that the "younger evangelicals" that Webber espouses are too Catholic and in danger of idolotry. It's a dumb statement, but anti-Catholicism runs deep in a lot of evangelical circles.

St.Phransus said...

I wonder if Webbers "younger evangelicals" might actually be post-evangelicals- evangelical in search of a faith without the rigidity of their background.

Scott said...

It could be that the millenials reflect a generation shaped by the brokenness of our culture. Specifically, they live in a time of great flux with frequent moves, divorce is prevalent, jobs change, schools change, communities disintegrate.

I wonder if the desire for liturgy, tradition, etc. is a desire for "roots," for a meaningful story, a deep longing for something bigger than they are that resonates truthfulness.

St.Phransus said...

i think you've hit the nail on the head scott. thanks.


daniel greeson said...

now that gavin is out.. have u thought about inviting Clark?

Andy B. said...

"...not so much to the message, but to the way in which the message itself is communicated."

Amen! from this corner. It is a matter of translation. The church has to continually ask how to speak the Gospel in a language that will be understood.
And I hope my hair looks that good when I am that old ;)
Andy B.

Phil said...

The ancient-future turn, in my opinion might be explained a number of ways.

First, this “ancient-future” turn reflects an abiding concern with what historians call historical memory; evangelicals are clearly attempting to find a usable past.

Second, this move underscores the importance of responsible, honest ecumenism, something some younger evangelicals are open to.

Third, evangelical interest in ancient Christianity documents a latent institutional blasé, or what I call ecclesiological discontent. Some evangelicals are uneasy with the varieties of evangelical ecclesiology, and prefer a return to the early church to remedy this seemingly debilitating deficiency.

Fourth, this moment might be seen as the next chapter in the scandal of the evangelical mind, a trend Mark Noll prophetically noted over a decade ago. (Noll suggested in 1994 that future evangelicals would draw from mainline, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox traditions; no wonder he just published a book on evangelical-Catholic relations(!), a book I'd highly recommend).

gavin richardson said...

ouch! so quickly daniel replaces me..

Zoomdaddy said...

many great comments, many of which resonate with me. the question i have, however, is that in the search for roots, does the hodgepodge borrowing from a multitude of traditions more reflect a search for roots, or a cafeteria appraoch to spirituality?

St.Phransus said...

i think the search for roots shows just how disconnected we've become. i see how you might come to a place where you'd ask that question Lenny. I do think the risk we run in our culture is discovering our traditions and using them as commodity for worship, ie: the next trend. instead tradition can be a gift from our saints to help us bettery embody the community of christ.