Not long ago, I asked Tim Keller to give a guest lecture in a university class I teach, in which nearly all the students come from secular backgrounds. Most have no contact with evangelical Christianity other than what they’ve seen in the news. After rehearsing some of the reputational damage evangelicalism had sustained, especially in the post-2016 cultural environment, one student asked, “Why not just get rid of the word evangelical and call yourselves something else?”
Keller deadpanned: “Because most of us are in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and like the word evangelical just fine. North Americans aren’t entitled to choose what we’re called.” I wondered if being called out for a kind of “America first” colonialism would disorient these students, but instead I saw nodding heads and expressions that seemed to say, “Fair enough.” What I saw as most important in that exchange was not the pros and cons of the word evangelical but the subtle and searching use of the word us.
I thought of that exchange as I read Struggling with Evangelicalism: Why I Want to Leave and What It Takes to Stay, a new book from Dan Stringer, an Evangelical Covenant Church pastor and an InterVarsity campus minister at the University of Hawaii. Stringer comes at the subject with wide-ranging connections to American parachurch evangelicalism (he’s a graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary, for instance). His publisher bio describes him as “a third culture kid” who grew up “in five countries on three continents,” while the book jacket speaks of a “lifelong evangelical who happens to be a biracial Asian/White millennial.”1
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