Global Evangelicalism is a textbook, complete with a glossary, written for the university or seminary student. Divided into three sections, the book tackles theoretical issues (chapters 1-3), five regional studies (chapters 4-8), and a couple of current cultural issues (chapters 9-10). This collection of essays will find a home in my library as it will no doubt prove to be an invaluable reference text for me as I continue to pursue authentic evangelical leadership in this globalized modern world. Here are my reflections on three highlights.
Who is an evangelical?
Defining evangelicalism is a lot like herding cats. Who’s in, who’s out? Who’s left? Who’s back? As an example of the difficulty surrounding this word, the two evangelical seminaries I’ve attended in my life both made statements recently regarding even having the word evangelical in the name of the seminary. One has chosen to drop it (http://www.georgefox.edu/journalonline/winter16/notes/seminary.html) and the other adamant about keeping it (http://fuller.edu/communication/post-election-evangelical–a-statement-from-mark-labberton-and-richard-mouw/).
Mark Noll’s, “Defining Evangelicalism” (chapter 1) is helpful to me here for three reasons. First, while staying true to Bebbington’s Quadrilateral (You know it made you feel good to be reminded of Bebbington!), Noll creates room for Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, and Charismatics. This encourages me and helps me create a large net to catch who is an evangelical. One huge effect of making room for a variety of evangelicals is that it helps towards how we love our Muslim neighbors. Saying all evangelicals are the same is like saying all Muslims are terrorists. Second, I appreciate the section in this chapter on history. Stories are powerful and important and it is always healthy to remember that evangelicalism has been around a long time before us and will continue for a long time after we are gone. Third, this chapter places evangelicalism as a worldwide tribe without a center. This is so freeing! I think it will do churches in the USA to learn over and over that there are more evangelicals outside of our country than there are inside of it. In my own branch, the Vineyard, a movement that started in the United States, we currently has more churches outside of this country than inside.
Global Global Global
Much like attempting to define evangelicalism, globalization “has become a much-contested term” (61). Donald Lewis’ essay, “Globalization, Religion and Evangelicalism” (Chapter 3) is a highlight to me. Lewis describes six characteristics of globalization, each of which could be their own blog, and uses Marshall McLuhan and Anthony Gibbens as talking partners to flesh-out what globalization actually means. I wish I would have read pages 69-70 a year ago when we were reading Weber. The synopsis of The Protestant Ethic is clear and concise and looks an awful lot like the notes I took from our Campfire when we discussed Weber. 🙂
Because like everyone else I want to know the future, I especially liked Lewis’ discussion of the three trends he sees. First he surmises that there will be continued international migration. This means the church I pastor and the students I teach will continue to increasingly be non-white-anglo-saxon-protestants. This international mix excites me and makes me want to learn how to be a more capable leader. Another trend is the importance of “global cities.” Los Angeles, albeit not everyone’s favorite, is a truly global city. This past year I’ve been praying Jeremiah 29 over and over, I am praying for the welfare of Los Angeles. The final trend described is that protests against the dark sides of globalization will continue. Globalization has her dark sides and I am happy that Lewis acknowledges them. A huge riddle that will have to be solved by pastors is how to care for our congregants who are feeling the negative impact of “social dislocation accompanying these global trends” (78). Currently the Hub does an International Sunday each year when we celebrate everyone’s home culture and practice having every tribe and tongue worship Jesus. After reading this chapter, I know we have a long ways to go in this area. As a multiethnic and multigenerational church, my vision for the Hub is that there are spaces throughout the year where people can speak and hear their heart language. For the immigrant this is the language of their parents and their first language learned. The challenge in a globalized reality is to find true identity in Jesus as new creations who are neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, while hanging on to the redeemed aspects of the God-gven cultures of our birth.
Part of my research last term was birthing a theology for bivocational pastors based on Dr. Emma Percy’s book, Mothering as a Metaphor for Ministry. Because of this, I went straight to the last chapter “Evangelicals and Gender” by Sarah Williams. I was hoping to find some more nuggets for my next academic essay. Unfortunately, Williams’ chapter focusses on five assumptions found in the historiographical writings about gender and evangelicalism. Although informative it was not what I was looking for. However, the basic thesis that assumptions shape literature and then burrow in deep and wide constructing worldviews that can be damaging can be translated to bivocational pastors in America. In this example, bivocational pastors can claim a bit of each of assumptions on which Williams sheds light. Like evangelical women in 19th century England who had their place in Sunday School and the home, many denominations box bivocational pastors in a corner.