New Book Examines the Culture Influencing Evangelicalism

Next Evangelicalism cover

Professor Soong-Chan Rah unpacks the Western ideologies shaping the North American church

CHICAGO, IL (May 5, 2009) – Moody Radio’s “Prime Time America” will broadcast an interview this week with North Park Theological Seminary professor Soong-Chan Rah about his new book, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity.

Rah, the Milton B. Engebretson Assistant Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, maintains that the North American church is captive to Western cultural ideologies of individualism and materialism. These trappings have ensnared megachurches and emergent churches alike.

In articulating his thesis, Rah has divided the book into three equal sections: The Western, White Cultural Captivity of the Church; The Pervasiveness of the Western, White Captivity of the Church; Freedom from the Western, White Captivity of the Church.

The evangelical church must also change to better reflect the demographic shifts that are increasingly making it multiracial. He notes that people recognized as leaders of American evangelicalism are white and that only a small minority of faculty at Christian schools represent other ethnic groups. “The consistently poor record of minority faculty hires at Christian colleges and seminaries is not only disappointing, it is irresponsible,” Rah writes.

He expresses his dislike for the term “emergent church” as it most frequently is used, explaining, “the real emerging church is the church in Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” which now makes up 60 percent of the world’s Christian population.

If evangelicalism is to reflect the body of Christ, Rah says, it must draw from the experience of Native Americans, as well as the minority and immigrant churches. The resulting change will include incorporating a theology of suffering as well as a theology of celebration, he adds.

Rah also serves on the board of Sojourners and formerly taught at Gordon-Conwell's Center for Urban Ministerial Education in Roxbury, Mass. Before moving to Chicago, Rah pastored Cambridge Christian Fellowship Church in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Mass., for more than a decade.