Tanya M. Luhrmann writes about the nature of American evangelical spirituality in her book “WHEN GOD TALKS BACK Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God” with the nondenominational Vineyard evangelical church as the study sample space. Luhrmann an anthropologist, approaches are study from a scientific place which means she will be rational in her presentation and not pastoral. Yet as I read along, I wondered “what would Jason Clark say” about certain points Luhrmann makes?” since Dr. Clark is a Pastor of a Vineyard Church and even distinctively in the United Kingdom. Assuming Luhrmann studied the same Vineyard umbrella, I think it would make for a good chat! I’ll save it for Hong Kong.
In the mean time, while Luhrmann was embedded in a Vineyard Churches in Chicago and Palo Alto for her research, who is also from a mixed-faith background, she was fascinated by the idea of the Vineyard members’ personal relationship with God. She was ultimately interested in both the psychological and cultural nature of Vineyard American evangelicalism.
The Stanford anthropologist focuses on Christians who claim to have an intimate relationship with God and writes of her experience with the believers in the Vineyard Church:
Once I noticed this personal, intimate connection, I began to listen to the music. Here in these songs, the remarkable God of this kind of church shines forth. Rarely do you hear of his judgment; always you are aware of his love; never, ever does a song suggest you fear his anger. He is a person: lover, father, of course, but more remarkably, friend. Best friend. One song begins with breathless amazement that God pays attention to the singer, that he hears the singer, thinks of the singer, loves him or her… This God is intensely human in this music, and the singer wants him so badly … but this God is also a supernatural substance”
Luhrmann’s experience seems typical of the general modern evangelical ethos. How can a person be an evangelical without claiming a personal experience with God the father? Yet I was struck with how far removed the modern evangelical expression is from some of the points Jason raised in a presentation titled “Whats the point of Church?” in Cape Town. Jason invoked history noting; “in the third century AD, Cyprian of Carthage was very clear on his understanding of the point of Church, that “outside the church there is no salvation.” Extra Ecclesiam null salus” This goes to show how the church movement has evolved since the Cyprian times to various forms of evangelicalism, whose central signature language carries the modern motif of namely “a personal relationship with God”. It appears from Luhrmann’s reports and stories where churches goers talked about how “God showed up”, that the Chicago Vineyard Christians where making an argument for the fact that inside the church there is a personal experience with God, thus there is salvation inside the church.
The author caused me to ponder on when this shift happened. In step with the material recorded in Noll’s, Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Lewis and Pierard’s Global Evangelicalism, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age and Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori’s Global Pentecostalism; Luhrmann touched on the shift in American evangelical culture in 1960. The author writes, “The evangelical interest in the direct personal experience of God exploded in the 1960s.” 
Jason also observes: Much of the Church in history moved away from Cyprian’s self-understanding, its identity becoming too intertwined in the institutions of government and state. The Church in large measure ended up controlling salvation – Christendom.
The Christendom era also underwent its subsequent transformations and continues to as Jason ably put it:
Protestants and then Evangelicals reacted against this control of salvation by the Church. They developed new understandings of the Church where the Church became a vehicle to support the processes of salvation. Yet this response continued on an untended trajectory, where salvation became something non-ecclesial i.e. outside of the church. The measure of church for Christians became how helpful it was in in helping people with their private salvation. Jesus ultimately became a private savior accessed through believing the correct things about him, to meet personal needs. Church became about the ‘dispensing of religious goods and services’ for the construction of private salvation.
Luhrmann too locates and links the Vineyard’s blooming environment within the past waves of the great awakenings then to the Azusa revival, the hippie -Jesus People of the 1960. The author is captured by how some Vineyard members’ prayer interaction with God even involves what to shop and to wear. Luhrmann reflects about the Vineyard and traditional Christian prayer approach where say the Roman Catholic Church prays “to know more from the inside what Jesus had felt and tried to teach,” while the Vineyard’s method is “to experience God directly”.
It seems to me that Luhrmann allowed herself to experience the Vineyard context even to points where she also cried and felt certain emotions and she notes, “In my own way I have come to know God, [but] I would not call myself a Christian” How does she know God? Does God talk to her?
So what would Jason say? I am yet to find out more, but I am also left to reflect on Luhrmann’s testimony of knowing God without going by the title Christian. Another thought I’ll be processing is Jason’s take on salvation. His summaries:
Salvation (a good Evangelical might argue) is not something for the church to own and dispense to others, yet it is equally not something for individuals to possess and use for their own lifestyles. Instead, salvation is “a distinct form of social existence. To be saved is literally to be made part of a new people and a new social body – the body of Christ.” Salvation is not a primarily guarantee of a way of life for individuals; rather it is a way of life with God’s people in the world, bringing a new way of living to the world.
 Tanya M.Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 5.
 Tanya M.Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 14.
 Tanya M.Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 177.
 Tanya M.Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), 325.