While on his "Drops Like Stars" tour, Rob Bell spoke with Michael Paulson from the Boston Globe. (Read the full interview.) The conversation turned to the meaning of the word evangelical. Bell provides an interesting, and likely contestable, definition. The excerpt is below.
But the interview raises an important question--has the word evangelical been corrupted? Is it still useful? And do you still embrace the category or have you abandoned it for another label?
From The Boston Globe:
Q. What does it mean to you to be an evangelical?
A. I take issue with the word to a certain degree, so I make a distinction between a capital E and a small e. I was in the Caribbean in 2004, watching the election returns with a group of friends, and when Fox News, in a state of delirious joy, announced that evangelicals had helped sway the election, I realized this word has really been hijacked. I find the word troubling, because it has come in America to mean politically to the right, almost, at times, anti-intellectual. For many, the word has nothing to do with a spiritual context.
Q. OK, how would you describe what it is that you believe?
The effort to remove Tullian Tchividjian from Coral Ridge Presbyterian raises questions about how to heal after a conflict.
by Jim Belcher
By now most of you have heard of the conflict at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, the famous church that was pastored by D. James Kennedy for 48 years. (See the Sun-Sentinel article)
This past March, two years after Kennedy’s death, Coral Ridge appointed Tullian Tchividjian as his successor. Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, accepted the call when Coral Ridge agreed to a church merger with his current congregation, New City Church. He came in with 91% of the vote. Yet six months later, the church (against the wishes of the Elders) held a congregational meeting on September 20th to decide whether to fire him.
What went wrong in such a short period of time? How did the unity of the body become so broken? What does this say about loving and bearing with one another? (See Tchividjian’s interview with Christianity Today about the conflict)
In just a few weeks we'll be down in Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference. And we're excited to announce that Out of Ur will be the official blog for the event. We'll be posting throughout the conference with exclusive access to speakers and leaders. If you're going to be there, keep your eyes open for Marshall Shelley, Skye Jethani, and Url Scaramanga. Until then, here's a video from the last Catalyst West Coast event featuring Craig Groeschel.
A researcher argues that the future of youth ministry will require bringing the generations together.
The statistics are grim. Rainer Research estimates that 70 percent of young people leave the church by age 22. Barna Group argues that the figure increases to 80 percent by age 30. The Southern Baptist Convention recently observed that growth in their churches is failing to keep up with the birth rate. Taken together, these findings suggest a startling fact: not only are we failing to attract younger worshipers, we're not holding on to the ones we have.
As executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary and a former youth pastor, Kara Powell has her eyes on the youth drop out trend. She is currently in the midst of a three-year College Transition Project, a study that involves over 400 youth group graduates and is focused on understanding how parents, churches, and youth ministries can set students on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service.
Where did the now popular age-segmented paradigm of youth ministry come from?
In the 1940s and post World War II, there was a real burst in parachurch organizations focused on ministry to teenagers and young adults, such as Young Life, InterVarsity, and Youth for Christ. In many ways, they led the way for the church in realizing that we need to focus on specialized discipleship and teaching for teenagers.
Why did the church adopt this age-segmented model of ministry?
Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, liked to say, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the gospel." So he developed some amazingly creative models of youth ministry that took root and bore fruit. I think a lot of churches saw the success of groups like Young Life and started thinking, If the parachurch folks are tailoring their ministry toward young people's interests, then we can—and probably should—too.
On my dad's side of the family, there were too many of us to fit in one room or around one table at family gatherings. So we adopted the two table system. The adult table had pleasant conversation, while the kids' table usually degenerated into a Jell-O snorting contest. Theoretically we were having the same meal; but we were having two very, very different experiences. That's what we've done in churches today.
Does a new church rating website help or hurt those seeking a congregation?
by Skye Jethani
I love rotten tomatoes. Not the produce—the website. RottenTomatoes.com is a movie ranking website that aggregates reviews from hundreds of journalists and movie reviewers, and then charts how “fresh” a film is based on the percentage of positive reviews. If a film only racks up 18 percent on the “Tomatometer,” I know it’s probably not worth my time or $20.
The collective wisdom of the masses may be a guide when selecting a movie, but what about when selecting a church? In a day when everything seems driven by polls, rankings, and consumer ratings, we shouldn’t be surprised that a new website has been created to rank churches based on customer—eh, congregational—feedback.
ChurchRater.com allows church seekers and members to rate and discuss their experiences at churches all across the country. It was created by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper—co-authors of Jim & Casper Go to Church. The popular book features conversations between Henderson, a pastor, and Casper, the atheist he paid to visit churches. Based on the success of the book, they’re now branching out by providing a service to both seekers and churches. But is ChurchRater.com just another slip down the slope of consumer Christianity?
Why a new kind of preaching is needed for our post-Christian culture.
by David Fitch
As I have traveled these past few years, I’ve heard the repetitive refrain from despondent pastors: “I always thought that if I preached a good sermon the church would grow.” I heard it again last week so I thought I’d comment on it along with two other beliefs about preaching. Here are 3 dying myths (IMO) of Christendom about Preaching.
MYTH 1: If You Preach a Good Sermon the Church Will Grow
Many a despondent preacher has discovered that this notion is no longer true. It has become a dying myth in post-Christendom. Nevertheless, it gets reinforced by mega churches who leverage (by video screens, etc.) one or two gifted teachers to build crowds coming to consume a good sermon. These examples are largely drawing on the leftovers of Christendom—people still looking for “good teaching” that is portable and user friendly to somehow improve their Christian lives. I take no offense in ministering to those of us who are still part of Christendom, we need to be fed and nurtured too! I just want all pastors who aim their ministries in this direction to realize the pie is getting smaller and the competition hotter. Anyone still holding onto the premise—if I just preach a good sermon, they will come—and ministering in a post-Christendom context, must either compete or be grossly disappointed with the continued dwindling of his/her congregation.
Having said all this, the “great halls” (stadiums) of preaching distribution will not connect to the lost souls of post-Christendom. Post-Christian people are not attracted to the sermon as the first place to go in their spiritual distress. We must help leaders understand that if you spend 35-40 hours a week in your office preparing a good sermon on Sunday, making it not only theologically competent (which is worthy) but slick, you are ministering to the dying vestiges of Christendom.
Wanna reach young adults? McKnight says to just give them Jesus.
by Scot McKnight
The following is an excerpt from Scot McKnight's cover story in the summer issue of Leadership Journal. You can read the entire article at LeadershipJournal.net.
When I saw the title of Alan Mann's book, Atonement for a Sinless Society, I knew he was onto something. The intent of evangelism that focuses on preaching the law and God's holiness, wrapping those two elements into a vision of God's wrath and hell, is to stimulate a cry for salvation out of a sense of guilt over who we are and what we have done. This model still works for some. But it may not be the wisest model for iGens.
One of the most insightful elements of Mann's book is whether iGens feel guilt. For a person to feel guilty, that person must have a sense of morality. But morality requires a potent sense of what is right and wrong, and it needs a powerful sense of what is true and false. Contemporary culture does not provide the average iGen with a profound grasp of what is right and wrong apart from the conviction that assaulting the self is clearly wrong.
Yet deciding to stake one's life on Jesus and the cross requires a sense that we are wrong, that we need Jesus, and that his saving death and resurrection can become effective. Mann claims that iGens are neither moral nor amoral. Instead, because of trends like the self-esteem movement and the impact of relativism, he concludes that iGens are pre-moral. Mann suggests that they do not feel guilt as much as they feel shame for not achieving what they are designed to accomplish.
Weakened by the economy, African-American and white churches merge to survive.
by Brandon O'Brien
A year or so ago, when gas prices were over $4 per gallon here in Chicagoland, something remarkable happened: people started driving the speed limit. Despite the threat of traffic tickets, commuters regularly speed by 20 miles per hour or more on our highways. But for that few months, people cruised at a modest and efficient 55. One of my colleagues put it this way: “What the law has been unable to do, high gas prices did overnight.”
I guess there are times when the promise of saving money gives us just the boost we need to do the right thing.
More recently, the current economic hard times have given a couple of churches in Louisville, Kentucky, a good excuse to do something they might not have done otherwise. St. Paul Missionary Baptist church, a predominantly African-American church, and the mostly white Shively Heights Baptist Church have merged.
Are church leaders critical of the multi-site movement just insecure?
The validity of video-based preaching has been a matter of debate on this blog. Some, like Bob Hyatt, are critical of the trend believing it puts even greater distance between the teacher and the taught. In addition, projecting one preacher to many locations may hinder the development of other Bible teachers.
Others believe video is a powerful and useful tool as we seek to carry the gospel into every corner of our culture. It allows for churches to grow more rapidly by removing a common bottleneck in the church planting process--finding a gifted expositor.
In this video, Perry Noble jumps into the fray with his own opinion as to why some church leaders are critical of video-based multi-stie churches. Forget about theological considerations, the development of spiritual gifts, or congregational health--Nobel goes for the jugular. Do you think he's right?
The President's address to students has stirred controversy. How should church leaders respond?
Al Mohler, the outspoken president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written about the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's address to school children today. Normally Out of Ur doesn't venture into the political fray, but in this case Mohler models a thoughtful and moderate response--one that might be helpful to other church leaders struggling to communicate with their congregations about the matter.
Here's an excerpt:
Much of the controversy is reckless, baseless, and plainly irrational. Some have called the speech an effort to recruit America's children into socialism. Others have argued that any presidential speech piped into classrooms is illegitimate. But a presidential speech to students is hardly unprecedented. This speech by this president has led to an unprecedented uproar.
At this level, the controversy is a national embarrassment. Conservatives must avoid jumping on every conspiracy theory and labeling every action by the Obama administration as sinister or socialist...
Book review of "The Next Evangelicalism" by Soong-Chan Rah.
By Greg Taylor
My life and worldview will never be the same after living seven years in Uganda. My wife and children, our mission team members, and I all made friends with and learned from people who were struggling out of poverty but still lived full of joy and hope.
Unfortunately, few Western Christians have the opportunity to learn from believers in other cultures. As a result, we impose our own perspective on Christians worldwide.
In The Next Evangelicalism, professor and pastor Soong-Chan Rah says the evangelical church has been held captive to Western-white power and must be released in the same way the early Christian church was released from Jewish ethnic control. Nearly 95 percent of Christian churches in America have more than 80 percent of one particular ethnic group. Most evangelical churches are white monoliths.
"Racism," he says, "is America's original sin." Our culture and economy were built on the backs of Native Americans and black slaves. But American individualism and consumerism keep Christians from understanding and confessing corporate sin.
According to Rah, today's "slavery issue" is immigration.
Urbanites answer, "What is Consumer Christianity?"
Last month we invited Urbanites to answer this question: What is Consumer Christianity? Your response has been surprising and creative. Some submitted definitions, others sent in pictures that made us laugh and grieve. A few even composed songs and lyrics. Thanks to everyone who participated.