I struggled from the outset with this book because, well, I was born in 1975.
I was born in modern clothing, and though I reacted negatively to the church when I came of age, I was then "converted" in Bible school and for all intents and purposes put on the clothing of the traditional church. In time I also took on the clothing of the pragmatic church (ie. the worship-driven, seeker-sensitive model). But I can tell I was born in 1975 because while this made sense to me I always felt like there was still further to go.
The Younger Evangelicals is telling me what I've felt all along. It's not that I'm smart. Its just uncanny and amazing to find that so many my age and younger are way ahead of me and yet are articulating what I've had such a hard time putting my finger on.
The younger evangelical is interested in building organic Christian communities, not huge Wal-Mart churches that deliver a full range of Christian consumer goods.... [When given the option to plant "Gen X" churches within the existing ones, however, they are increasingly] uneasy with the "church within a church" approach. This younger generation wants the widom of other generations; they don't want to be separated out as a group with characteristics they "will grow out of and graduate from". Instead, writes Zander, Xers have "the very characteristics that the church ought to grow into."... It is interesting [though] that for the most part younger evangelicals are committed to start-up chuches. Many existng churches, most perhaps, still function in the modern established pattern and are fearful to take the kind of risks it takes.... [and the younger evangelicals] feel the investment of time it takes to change an existing institutional church is hardly worth it.
This is perhaps where my age separates me a little from those younger than me. I feel it has to be worth it. Maybe I have a bit more faith in my predecessors, but I don't want to be a church planter. However, I wonder if my predecessors will have any faith in me, let along those younger than I.
I am not interested in dissing the older generations, partly because I have to look at myself and see that I am part of them, and I like a lot of what they gave me. After all, they are the ones getting me to read these books! Let's give credit where it is due! But there is a definite need to move forward, past modernity. Take the good, leave the bad. The rationalistic, conversion centered approach is waning in its ability to communicate the Christian story with clarity or conviction today. We need to progress, or, to put it in the terms of the younger evangelicals, we need to regress--get back to our roots, recover the ancient Chrisitan tradition, and embody it in a new day and age.
If too many churches are too afraid to go forward with the younger evangelicals then I fear that in twenty years we will be relegated to the sidelines of Christianity or even cease to exist altogether. I share many of the same fears of the older generation about some of the new trends in theology and practice, believe me, but I am less scared of it the more I understand. And (maybe because I was born in 1975, I don't know) I share the vision of the younger evangelicals. So I'm stuck in the no-man's land. I understand the reservations but I also understand why people are leaving in droves.
I read a book like The Younger Evangelicals and I can imagine my denomination the Christian & Missionary Alliance being revived for an exciting new chapter, one that is much like its first. After all, our founder AB Simpson was all about this stuff.