Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Effect

Written by: on February 19, 2015

Phil Struckmeyer, in his book, “Evangelicalism in Post-Modern Society: A History from the 1990’s to the 2030’s”, writes of how the new Evangelicalism version of Protestant Evangelicalism was created by Globalization.  From the philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, and politics of the day, Struckmeyer tells of the radical moulding and remoulding that took place in the Christian Evangelical faith as small remnants, followings, and leaders emerged to keep a continually modified version of Evangelical Christianity alive.

Just kidding.  No way.  No how.  I do, however, believe this is what D.W. Bebbington in his book, “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730’s to the 1980’s” accomplished.  While covering an incredible span of time with intriguing detail, D.W. basically told the story of how Evangelicalism rose and morphed as culture shift happened due to socio-economic and politico-cultural change.  Be it the Enlightenment, the influence of Romanticism, the Victorian era, or the Industrial Revolution as culture shift, trends and movements occurred, Evangelicalism was the response of a branch, becoming branches, of Christianity.  “Conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism form the defining attributes of Evangelical religion”1 that D.W. defined as the pillars of the faith expression, but even they as the core were greatly modified over the course of Evangelicalism’s history.  As D.W. states:

Evangelical religion in Britain has changed immensely during the two and a half centuries of its existence.  Its outward expressions, such as its social composition and political attitudes, have frequently been transformed.  Its inward principles, embracing teaching about Christian behavior, have altered hardly less.2

I guess what took me by surprise in this very enjoyable and interesting read, was how the culture shifts that took place were the cause of Evangelicalism emerging and developing versus Evangelicalism being a force that was causing culture to change.  In a sense Evangelicalism wasn’t a cause of change in the world, it was the result of a Christian faith trying to stay relevant and alive in a sea of societal swings and change.  D.W. writes through the Enlightenment, “The Evangelical version of Protestantism was created by the Enlightenment.”3

I believe I have always liked to think of Christianity as a proactive faith that is on mission, and yes while it operates in an existing culture and socio-climate, I guess I haven’t realized how much morphing, adapting and changing took place.  As I think about our current societal state of affairs, I see the need to hold fast to our faith and think the church is doing that but when you look at what is taking place with the gospel and the morphing, adapting, repackaging, restructuring, there is a way that looks proactive and creating a leading edge of change, but it is really reactionary to the greater waters we are swimming in.

I think this is a big shift in approach and could affect the strategy the Church chooses to navigate our current day waters.  D.W. writes, “Changing socio-economic and political conditions affected Evangelicalism and its potential recruits in ways that drastically moulded its size, self-image, strategy and teaching.”4 I guess what this book has me thinking about is what line is Evangelicalism going to hold on it’s core attributes of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism?  As I agree, our expression can change, do we and how do we hold to our core attributes that set us apart as Evangelicals.  How will we respond and what will be the fractions and factions that arise as we respond to globalization and the culture issues of: inequality, same-sex marriage, immigration, religious extremism, broken politics, pandemic disease outbreak, racism and hate, etc . . .  I guess what I am wondering is will we do anything to “cause” real change or will we just end up being the effect, morphing our faith into something we can still believe with all the change and culture shift taking place chasing the life we are trying to live?


1 D. W., Bebbington. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. New ed. n.p.: Routledge, 1989. 4

2 Ibid., 270

3 Ibid., 74

4 Ibid., 272

About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

13 responses to “The Effect”

  1. Jon spellman says:

    Phil you said: “In a sense Evangelicalism wasn’t a cause of change in the world, it was the result of a Christian faith trying to stay relevant and alive in a sea of societal swings and change.” Holy cow! Great observation.

    Can we see ourselves making any further adaptations? Is there any time left? Or is Jesus’ return going to halt any future shifts?


    • Nick Martineau says:

      Phil & Jon,

      I pulled out the same quote Jon pulled out. Really great observation.

      “In a sense Evangelicalism wasn’t a cause of change in the world, it was the result of a Christian faith trying to stay relevant and alive in a sea of societal swings and change.”

      But is it that easy? I’m not sure it is as easy as saying we are just trying to stay relevant. I think there is a lot of truth in that but what would happen if evangelicals were nonexistent? Again, maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think evangelicals haven’t completely failed throughout the years and have shaped culture and lead the charge on more social issues then we probably give ourselves credit for.

      To answer Jon’s question, “Or is Jesus’ return going to halt any future shifts?” Come Lord Jesus, Come….but if He doesn’t return in our lifetime I think we have history to show us that evangelicals will continue to move forward…sometimes morphing to stay relevant, sometimes leading the way.

  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Jon and Nick,

    I would say the effort to “stay relevant and keep our faith alive” is in thinking that relevant would mean contextualizing the gospel with great passion and cause. I don’t think I mean a small effort to be noticed. But again, some the the radical stances that were taken and did make a difference, but I think from the reading the cause of the Holy discontent was often the social shifts and swings. I am really trying to see how, when and where we are doing that in this era of globalization. ??? I do like how you are broadending my view and motive for Jesus’ return beyond just my usual thoughts of that occurring before my 11 year old daughter gets any older. Thanks fellas!

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Maybe we’ve just become too weary and don’t have any more adaptations left in us? It seems that we are able to make adjustments and adaptations when the context is relatively localized but is this new world we live in where EVERYONE is the neighbor, do we have it in us to adapt? Are there any meaningful innovations left?


  3. Mary Pandiani says:

    I did a double-take when I first read the beginning of your post…then I realized, “wow, one day I am probably going to read a review of Phil Struckmeyer’s book (whatever it might be; perhaps, “Don’t Buy Roses Online”).
    I appreciate your engagement with whether we can continue to bring real change into a world that is fluctuating so much. Will the evangelical world have a voice that speaks truth with love into a culture that is rapidly changing?
    But what struck me most was your concept of whether we will be a “cause” or “effect.” Very western 🙂 Perhaps it may be more of a ying-yang of one impacting another where we won’t know which came first.
    By the way, I just discovered a book “Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization” that might be another title for your book someday. 🙂

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Good words Mary, The ying-yang thought is great. And speaking of ying-yang, good news on the flower front, I checked my bank account and the full $78.52 has been returned. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    God bless you Phil, you had me going. I like how you picked up on how socio-economics has played a part in how Evangelicalism has morphed and developed into what it is today. May concern is that with the ever changing time we live in and the acceptance of things that are not biblical, that the church might not be morphing into something positive. I just seen a mega-church pastor (he is not pastoring now but he has a great following) say that gay marriage is right at the doors of the church. He went on to say that he believes that we should not be stuck in things written over 2000 years ago. And that we should embrace people who love each other and dont want to be alone. I find this disturbing. Contexualization does not mean we make the Bible fit our time. Our time has to fit in the Bible thats the way i see it!

  5. Dave Young says:

    Phil… Sometimes it seems like we want the tail to wag the dog, we want the church to reshape American life or at least have a significant impact on the story that culture is telling. But then again the church has been making its way through the world for some 2000 plus years – so maybe we’re the dog??? I need more coffee.
    Anyway, I think we will do plenty to cause real significant change. Everytime we change a person’s trajectory from away from God, to towards God. There entire experience with culture and the world has fundamentally changed.

    • Brian Yost says:

      “Everytime we change a person’s trajectory from away from God, to towards God. There entire experience with culture and the world has fundamentally changed.”
      Great way to put it. If people are changed, the world in which they interact will begin to change.

    • Jon spellman says:

      What if we had both? What if the church and culture were engaged in Meaningful conversations where the end result would be that each has a formative impact on the other? This would require the church to have a firm grasp on what really is essential, what is the irreducible core of church? Everything else could be fodder for conversation! What if we were less hung upon “who is shaping whom?” And more interested in actually engaging in conversation? I’ll bet if the Holy Spirit were invited into that conversation, we’d be pretty happy with the outcome, and not so afraid of losing fidelity…

  6. Brian Yost says:

    “In a sense Evangelicalism wasn’t a cause of change in the world, it was the result of a Christian faith trying to stay relevant and alive in a sea of societal swings and change.” Phil, this is one of my favorite quotes from your book.
    I have spent a lot of time with people who study the great christian movements of the past and wish God would do it again. They study, talk, complain, and sometimes pray for it, but they do not exhibit the change in their lives. The more we as christians allow God to transform us, the more we will be helpful to others who are seeking God’s power of transformation. We do not have to wait for God to “do it again” in our contemporary world, we can begin living it now.

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Brian, Thanks for reading my book! You have now officially not only talked about a book you have not read, but you have talked about a book that has not been written. That is awesome. Maybe I can get away with just writing book titles and never having to actually write the books.

      I do agree the Church has a great opportunity in the midst of globalization to be and create change that does make our world a better place. I think I need to ditch my messiah complex and leave the saving of the world the Jesus and focus on a faithful and obedient life. That is a great enough challenge I think;)

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