Eugene Cho

‘the next evangelicalism’ & the changing face of christianity

soong chan rah

Soong Chan Rah isn’t a household name that rolls off your tongue like others in the larger Western evangelical world.  But if you’re at all interested in Christianity and it’s engagement with Justice, Urbanism, and Multi-ethnicity, you’ll want to bookmark his website/blog and take a look at his new book entitled, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church From Western Cultural Captivity.

Umm, I don’t think he got the memo that ‘happy titles’ sell more books.

the next evangelicalism

Since he’s a professor at North Park Seminary in Chicago, he was one of my primary hosts when I visited and spoke at the seminary couple freezing winters ago.  I recently had a chance to chat and interview (video below) Soong Chan about his new book, the changing face and supposed decline of Christianity and the Boston Red Sox, Cubs, and Seattle Mariners.

Listen to what he’s trying to say about the changing face of Christianity. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, I’ve been saying that as well.  Not to sound ominous, but getting this and learning to be better listeners, engagers, and neighbors will partly determine Life or Death for the future Church including potentially, your church, tribe, affiliation, or denomination.

What do you think about that statement?

I haven’t finished the book yet and there’s stuff I agree and disagree with but that’s good. For two good reviews, I’d direct you to Wayne Park and Julie Clawson.

Here’s the video:

If you’re reading this via an RSS reader, you can click here to watch the video.

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11 Responses

  1. justin says:

    p.rah once preached about post-modernism and used star trek as an illustration… that was over a decade ago and i still remember that sermon. pe, we need more star trek illustrations at quest. haha.

  2. As folks are reading the book, I’d love to hear feedback and reflections. Even if you haven’t read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the title and thesis of the book.

    Soong-Chan Rah (www.profrah.com)

  3. daniel says:

    Eugene,

    Your comment about Life and Death of the Church is a little over the top but I understand what you’re saying. The Church will never die but churches will die unless they open their eyes and their hearts.

  4. Jeff Lam says:

    soong chan rah came and spoke at an IV conference several years ago, where he talked a lot about the future of the church. he definitely caught everyone’s attention when he said the “white church is dying.” i thought he was smart and provocative, and even people who disagreed with the things he said felt a great deal of respect for him.

  5. me says:

    @jeff: well, i would disagree with scrah. the white church isn’t dying. it’s a large segment but parts of it are certainly dying or in decline.

  6. Andy says:

    I got the book and plan to start reading soon. From previewing the book last night I could see I’m going to probably agree with much of his thesis. I took about 50 pages in my dissertation making some of the same critique, following a thesis Lesslie Newbigin made about Western Christianity as falling into an “advanced form of syncretism.” I’ve worked abroad for 11 years of my adult ministry and found, upon returning to North American, that much of the church culture seemed out of whack. The way forward requires a serious re-reading of scripture while engaging culture missionally.

  7. Wayne Park says:

    You know I’m starting to think that Rah is doing for Asian-American Christianity what Cone did for the black church and Gutierrez did for Latin Am / Hispanic church…

  8. Kacie says:

    Wow, Marinkina’s comment looks interesting!

    I LOVE some of scrah’s ideas, and I think that the evangelical culture that inextricable from the American suburban white culture can die and I will not miss it.

    However, it’s tough to try to pull our faith and churches away from the dominant culture here at the same time as we are trying to enculturate missions and church overseas. We recognize the need to be rooted in the local culture all around the world, but we’re not okay with our own?

    So yeah, I think there’s a balance. When we don’t recognize that our churches are highly influenced by our culture, we are unable to weed out what is culture and what is orthodox faith. In that sense, it’s very important for us to grasp some of the things scrah is saying, and for American churches to adjust to the increasingly diverse American culture rather than getting stuck in the past.

  9. me says:

    @kacie: sorry, spam

    @everyone: i’d be curious to hear from any of the anglo readers of this book. i asked him on the video interview but as you read it, does this come across simply as bashing “white culture.” this is what a friend emailed today:

    “Several of us here who read the book have all felt that (“anti-white culture) came across as a strong sentiment in the book.”

    thoughts?

  10. […] Pastor Eugene Cho and Wayne Park have recently written reviews of this book. You can find them here and here, […]

  11. J.Ben says:

    I would love to comment from an anglo-perspective. Wow, I don’t get to say THAT very often.

    Anyway, I loved it. Totally prophetic and right on. I help lead an InterVarsity Fellowship at Oregon State and I am considering making it required reading.

    As to the “white culture bashing,” I think critics may have a bit of a point, but I also feel that if Rah had spent a good deal of time writing about the good contributions of white evangelicalism, he would have undercut himself. I felt that he was never out of line and he needed to be a bit controversial to get his point across. I felt that all of Rah’s observations were dead on.

    I didn’t for a second think that he did not appreciate his white brothers and sisters and he even gave a shout out to churches that have embraced the next evangelicalism. I believe the people who used to have your church were some of those people right?

    If people want a good book that deals with being white in an increasingly multi-ethnic context, I would recommend “Being White” by Doug Schaupp and Paula Harris. They give a chapter to the good gifts white culture has to offer.

    At the end of the day, this book is much needed and important. I am glad he wrote it and glad I read it. Now I am going to go try to live it.

    Peace!
    Ben

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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