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This will be my final column for Christianity Today—for a while, at least. After writing Back Page columns since 1983, I have decided to take a break. Since this magazine describes itself as one "of evangelical conviction," it seems appropriate to use this last column to make a few overall observations on the movement.

Evangelicalism has become a global phenomenon. In the past year I have visited the Middle East, India, Africa, Latin America, and Europe as the guest of churches and ministries. In each place, evangelicals exude life and energy. While staid churches change slowly, evangelicals tend to be light on their feet, adapting quickly to cultural trends.

The Jesus movement, the house-church movement, seeker-friendly churches, emergent churches—evangelicals have spawned all of these. In their wake, worship bands have replaced organs and choirs, PowerPoint slides and movie clips now enliven sermons, and espresso bars keep congregants awake. If a technique doesn't work, find one that does.

Although I admire the innovation, I would caution that mimicking cultural trends has a downside. At a recent youth workers conference I attended, worship meant a DJ playing techno music at jet-engine volume while a sweaty audience crowded the stage, jumping up and down while shouting spiritual one-liners. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I couldn't help questioning the depth of worship. Seminaries now recommend 15-minute sermons in light of shorter attention spans. Publishers want slimmer books, with simpler words and concepts. Will we soon have a 140-character Twitter gospel?

Perhaps we should present an alternative to the prevailing culture rather than simply adopt it. What would a church look like that created space ...

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November 2009

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