Robert Webber’s book, Younger Evangelical captures what he calls, “the thinking of the college and seminary student, and in particular, the ‘Twenty-Something’. A major concern of this book is where these movers and shakers are likely to lead the evangelical community in the next 25 years.”
Webber breaks down the major cultural and religious shifts into three categories: 1. Traditional Evangelicals (1950-1975)…Modern Worldview/Industrial Society/Post-WWII, 2. Pragmatic Evangelicals (1975-2000)…Transitional Paradigm/Technological Society/Vietnam War, and 3. Younger Evangelicals (2000-)…Postmodern Worldview/Internet Society/War on Terrorism.
He attempts to present the differences between traditional, pragmatic, and younger evangelicals, and he addresses how each group approaches many aspects of the Church (e.g. theology, apologetics, youth work, evangelism, and so forth). Below are some of Webber’s thoughts on Worship, Theology, and Ecclesiology.
*(make note that Webber states that these declarations are not of ‘absolute accuracy’, but are intended for thought and discussion).
1. Theological Understanding:
-Traditional Evangelical: Mostly affirm the purity of the church
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Great Commission ecclesiology
-Younger Evangelical: Incarnational ecclesiology
2. Theology Commitment:
-Traditional Evangelical: Christianity as a rational worldview
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Christianity as therapy, Answers need
-Younger Evangelical: Christianity as a community of faith, Ancient/Reformation
3. Church Polity:
-Traditional Evangelical: Mostly denominational
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Mostly congregational but creating new fellowships
-Younger Evangelical: Mostly congregational but networking with all Christians
4. Church Eschatology:
-Traditional Evangelical: Has an eschatological view, Mostly pre-millennial
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Indifferent to eschatological views
-Younger Evangelical: Seeks to be an eschatological community living out the future in the present
5. Ecclesial Paradigm:
-Traditional Evangelical: Constantinian church, Civil religion
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Culturally sensitive church, Market driven
-Younger Evangelical: Missional church, Countercultural
6. Leadership Style:
-Traditional Evangelical: Pastor centered
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Managerial model, CEO
-Younger Evangelical: Team ministry, Priesthood of all
-Traditional Evangelical: Traditional
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Contemporary
-Younger Evangelical: Convergence
-Traditional Evangelical: Traditional program
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Contemporary presentation
-Younger Evangelical: Liturgical, Ancient/Future, Contemporary
-Traditional Evangelical: Thematic
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Topical
-Younger Evangelical: Triune
-Traditional Evangelical: Primarily congregation singing
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Singing choruses
-Younger Evangelical: Highly interactive
-Traditional Evangelical: Rows
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Theatre seats
-Younger Evangelical: Relational configuration
-Traditional Evangelical: Organ and brass
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Bands
-Younger Evangelical: Eclectic use of instruments
-Traditional Evangelical: Traditional hymns
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Contemporary choruses
-Younger Evangelical: Eclectic use including ancient forms of singing
-Traditional Evangelical: Traditional choirs, Presentational
-Pragmatic Evangelical: No choir, Worship leader teams
-Younger Evangelical: Singing serves the text, Strong emphasis on congregational leadership
-Traditional Evangelical: Didactic
-Pragmatic Evangelical: Therapeutic
-Younger Evangelical: Narrative with an emphasis on obedience and Christian living, Interactive
So, what do you think?
1. Do you agree with Webber’s assessment?
2. What category do you personally fall into [not by age, but by practice :-) ]? Do you personally favor the Traditional, Pragmatic, or Younger Evangelical?
3. What category best represents your local church?
4. How do these findings influence how we ‘do’ church, as well as ‘being’ the church…both now and in the years to come?
(also, check out The Wonder of Worship, by Keith Drury, Worship Old and New, by Robert Webber, and Emerging Worship, by Dan Kimball)