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The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  565 ratings  ·  79 reviews
2010 Golden Canon Leadership Book Award winnerThe future is now. Philip Jenkins has chronicled how the next Christendom has shifted away from the Western church toward the global South and East. Likewise, changing demographics mean that North American society will accelerate its diversity in terms of race, ethnicity and culture. But evangelicalism has long been held captiv ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 25th 2009 by IVP Books (first published 2009)
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Jun 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
There is something wrong with much of American evangelicalism in its current form. Many churches are declining. We have moral scandals. Evangelicalism continues to splinter into weird offshoots like the emergent church and various other post-modern expressions. And many quarters of society hear the term and revile us (I say "us" because theologically this is where I would truly locate myself) because of our over-identification with conservative political stances and indeed for becoming a pawn of ...more
It's strange to me how often I was warned away from this book by other Christians, given that the most radical aspect of Rah's book is probably the term "Western cultural captivity" as a descriptor for aspects of the contemporary American evangelical church that rightly deserve criticism. Rah painstakingly sets out his own roots in and routes through Western theology and at no point demands a disavowal of the conservative evangelical tradition wholesale. It is unfortunate that his early critics ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
In his book, “The Next Evangelicalism,” Soong-Chan Rah develops the argument that the church in America is held captive to western culture. The church in America is indubitably controlled by white, western, evangelicals. The problem with this captivity, according to Rah, is that the American is more diverse and includes minority cultures who are quickly increasing in demographic size, yet are marginalized in the church: “What we are witnessing in the twenty-first century is the captivity of the ...more
I feel bad about giving this book a two-star rating, because Rah brings many important and valid ideas about race and racism in the white American church. I particularly enjoyed Rah's discussion of how making White Western theology normative suggests that all other theologies (including those that respond to race, etc.) are only to be brought out in special situations, rather than applied throughout our faith experiences. Rah never used the term "white savior," but I also appreciated his thought ...more
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Soong-Chan Rah may not be the voice white Evangelicals want right now, but he is certainly a voice we need. This book was written back in 2009, but it's main points have only become more important and more relevant now in 2017.

Rah's argument is essentially that American Evangelicalism is captive to white American culture. That has led to significant problems in ecclesiology, theology, and missiology. Furthermore, non-white Christian communities have both a tremendous value to add to Christianity
Jodie Pine
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book, and I know I will return to it again and again. So many helpful insights into the Western, white captivity of the church with an emphasis on the need for whites to accept spiritual leadership from non-whites, to realize we have so much to learn from people of color--to recognize and let go of of our prevalent paternalistic thinking that privilege and power give whites the obligation to "help" the marginalized and minorities.

I thought this quote from one of Rah's talks at Whea
Andy Flintoff
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity
A very good book. I would recommend it to every Christian on the earth today.
Michael-David Sasson
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
This is a very interesting and challenging book about how to face the reality of the changing racial composition of the Christian church and provide it ethical, effective, spirit-filled leadership. It's call for leadership of second-gen immigrants and bi-racial people in the next phase of the North American church is fascinating and at odds with other racial justice models that lean more heavily on the experience of the African American church and see that leadership continuing.

I'm not sure I bu
Esther | lifebyesther
In this book, Rah argues eloquently and forcefully for white Christians and churches in America to welcome non-white Christians as equals, to see them as leaders, and to abandon the idea that immigrant or "ethnic" churches require salvation. Although a Christian is often pictured as white, the truth is that the majority of Christians aren't white, and yet panels, boards, and leadership positions in Christian evangelicalism are repeatedly held by white people.

This book spoke to me personally, bec
Tim Lapetino
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Soong-Chan Rah’s book was probably more provocative when it was published a decade ago. In the intervening years, his premise of thoughtful, sensitive racial awareness and reconciliation in the evangelical church has become much more accepted. That is great. That he sowed seeds of thought leadership in this is appreciated.

Unfortunately, the supporting framework that underpins his main points hasn’t aged well at all. His examples are often weak and lack the substantial detail I craved. Further d
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I very much recommend this book. Like everything else I've read by Dr. Rah, it's keen and thoughtful. This would be a good place to start for someone who is just beginning to come to grips with how strongly Western cultural norms have shaped the current major brand of American Evangelicalism.
Lori Neff
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Insightful. I've wanted to read this for a few years now - glad it was required for school. It's feeling a little dated now, but the core holds and it was really helpful to read as I consider the history and future of the church.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
There are a number of good, critical reviews of this book on I'm not going to attempt another. I will say that I'm in agreement with much that is said in this book but the author probably does not do much to further his cause by the way that he says it. The author points out the captivity of the white, Western portion of the evangelical church to individualism, consumerism & materialism and racism. I'm not sure that whites and Westerners have necessarily cornered the market on materi ...more
Benjamin Alexander
This book was incredibly hypocritically racist. The fiercest racism I've seen in my life has not come from whites. The repeated use of the phrase "white cultural captivity" was obnoxious.

The very same things the author attacked in whites he himself committed throughout the book.

...At the same time, I'm glad I read it. Aside from author's poor immaturity and victimization complex it helped -even still- to open my eyes to see the world from a non-white perspective. Many interesting stories and goo
Will update more later, but I basically dog-eared every other page in this book. Written by a Korean American pastor of a multi-ethnic church (Cambridge Covenant Fellowship Church in Boston). Pretty well-read, good list of sociological resources as well. Desires to see the old things of America pass to let God work through the Kingdom using new things, i.e. multiethnic, immigrant, and ethnic churches that aren't bound in western, white captivity.
Paul Herriott
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rah wrote this not long after President Obama was elected, he could not have foreseen all the ways this book on division and oppression would be so applicable today. There are parts of this book that have gotten better with age, while a few aspects are already outdated. It catalogues the numerous ways white-western cultural and religious practices are hampering the growth of what could be a diverse expression of the church in America. Recommended for all.
Jim Herrington
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful read by a third generation Korean immigrant who offers a prophetic critique of the church in America.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
A powerful, thought provoking read. While some of it can seem pretty outdated, most of the time I was marveling how what was written 10 years ago felt like it could have come out yesterday.
Adam Ross
Jun 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
First-generation Korean immigrant Soong-Chan Rah, who founded a multiethnic church in Cambridge and now teaches at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, believes that white, middle-class Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christianity is dying out. In this he is not without his allies, and his book The Next Evangelicalism joins a growing body of literature arguing this case.

It is in many ways a convincing (and convicting) treatment. Following Phillip Jenkins' now-regarded classic, The Next Christendom
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. I wanted to like this book; I got a copy after it was recommended repeatedly by Rachel Held Evans. Rah makes an important argument, that the Western evangelical church is clinging to a white-centric paradigm while the growth in the church is happening among other racial groups. I picked this up thinking that it was going to be more of a sociological explanation of trends in church growth both in the United States and worldwide; that was my interpretation of how Rachel had referenced i ...more
Bryce Van Vleet
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm recommending this primarily to my church leader friends, be them on church staffs, volunteers, or congregates.

I had the honor of hearing from Dr. Rah first-hand at an annual conference my school hosts. Rah was our keynote speaker, and his lecture seemed to highlight much of what I had thought was wrong with the American Church but was unable to state. The Next Evangelicalism names the institution responsible for much of the brokenness "white" American evangelicals have perpetuated - White
Elisha Lawrence
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Next Evangelicalism is written by Korean American Soong-Chan Rah. He paints a picture of the future of Evangelicalism in America where the growth is primarily coming from immigrant churches. Sadly, this is a development of which I was completely unaware. Immigrant and minority congregations are the primary churches growing in America right now. As a white male who had only been mentored by other white males and went to a seminary where the vast majority of my professors were other white male ...more
Nathan Tornquist
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book shows its age. It was written in 2009, before white privilege and the cultural conversation was at the forefront of daily discussion. I believe that this book was relevant and useful at the time it was written, but it has certainly not aged well.

The author goes between condemning white churches that have grown (because it's all fake and materialistic) and praising Korean churches that are doing the same (because it's obviously completely driven by the Holy Spirit). As someone that isn'
Brandon Wilkins
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Eye-opening. Clearly written. So helpful.

I would say people of my ethnicity and culture (white) really struggle with understanding what 'white culture' even is, or whether it is there at all. We often assume that we are culturally-neutral, seeing matters of ethnicity, culture, and race from an unbiased 'view from nowhere.' We are the modernists as relates to cultural vantage point. If it doesn't make sense to us, it can only be because it doesn't make sense, not because we have blinders on.

But i
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had the privilege to meet a interview Dr. Rah while working at Logos Bible Software almost four years ago. He was encouraging when I moved to Korea a short time later. I began following his ministry then though I am only now reading a book of his. As a second generation American he has a very experienced perspective on issues of race and society, and race and the church. As an accomplished churchman and theologian he has a well researched analysis and hope for the future of evangelicalism. Thi ...more
Oct 15, 2017 added it
Shelves: faith
Throughout this past year it was becoming more and more clear that much of Christianity in America was not “culturally neutral” as it might have viewed itself but an Americanized version of Christianity. While I had learned a lot from it, there is much to criticize about this Americanized Christianity with its lack of sensitivity to racial justice, conflation of patriotism to faithfulness, hyper-individualistic perspective. This book helped me clarify the ways that Christianity in America had be ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
For those of us navigating life and vocation in relationship to the American evangelical church, "The Next Evangelicalism" is a bracing mixture of prophetic critique and grace-filled wisdom. It is not an exaggeration to say that the words of Dr Rah have redrawn the boundaries and rewritten the definitions for me in a number of significant ways.

In this book, Dr Rah points out the evangelical captivity to the sins of individualism, consumerism and materialism, and racism, and uncovers a crippling
Tyler Brown
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a helpful read. Rah helped me think through the ways that White/Western culture has merged with American Christianity and what steps may be necessary to separate them. The demographic information in this book is very helpful and his expansive citations from non-white theologians and thinkers helps model his vision of a diversified church in the US.

I did have a couple hesitations. There is very little exegesis in the work, and his dealing with the Tower of Babel is fairly weak. The chapt
Jul 26, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an important book and worth the read, but I also found it hard to get through and a little uneven in quality. The parts that focus on the author's own experience in ministry are great, as are the chapters on the history of the church growth movement, the theology of suffering vs the theology of celebration and holistic evangelism. But, some other chapters where Rah seeks to synthesize other's work and writing are clunky and hard to follow. More of the book could have focused on what a ch ...more
Anna Lewis
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: need-to-read
Soong-Chan Rah brings humility and conviction to a topic largely avoided by most white, middle class, American evangelicals. Each chapter clearly outlines the diagnosis of current symptoms of western cultural captivity, and leaves the prognoses open ended, dependent upon what we are willing to change as a community of Christ followers. His suggestions for change are straightforward and doable, but require repentance of corporate sins that have been ignored for decades, and genuine humility to st ...more
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Soong-Chan Rah (ThD, Duke Divinity School) is Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of Prophetic Lament, The Next Evangelicalism, and Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, as well as coauthor of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith and contributing author for Growing He ...more

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“In another important area of church life, the worship life of the congregation, the Western priority of the individual determines the approach to worship over the biblical guidelines for worship. Worship in the white captivity of the church is oftentimes a collection of individuals who happen to be in the same room. Worship is just between the individual and God, and the church service exists to help facilitate that individual communion.” 1 likes
“The individualized narcissism of our society translates into our church life in not only our self-absorbed worship and our longing for sermons that speak to us or bless us personally but even in how we live out our church community life. A therapeutic culture translates into the context of the local church with an individualized and personalized approach to counseling and self-care. Community is lost in the process of a highly individualized approach. Even small group ministry, which is supposed to be the primary expression of community life in the American evangelical church, often yields a narcissistic, individualistic focus. Small groups become a place of support and counsel rather than a place where Scripture challenges the participants toward kingdom living.” 1 likes
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