Beyond Today’s Pop-Soap-Opera Christianity – The 4 Camps of Christians in Their 20s, 30s, and 40s

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“All labels have their problems, and, to be sure, ‘evangelical’ is fraught with them. But I am not giving it up.”

~ Roger Olson

Millennials & The Church: A Different Take

As I pointed out in numerous times on this blog, the center of evangelicalism is collapsing.

Countless evangelical Christians are moving to the left or to the right. Namely, they are moving toward liberalism or they are moving toward high church or low church traditions. They are moving toward individualism or communitarianism.

In this post, we will briefly survey the four major streams within evangelicalism with an eye to Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s – often called Mosaics and Busters or Generation X and Generation Y or Millennials.

My analysis is based on what I’ve observed in my extensive travels worldwide, speaking in a variety of conferences represented by the different streams (wherein I’ve interacted with the other speakers and attendees), and corresponding with thousands of evangelical Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Like anything else, there are always exceptions, overlaps, and sub-groups that don’t fit neatly into these four evangelical streams. So don’t regard this survey as an exact science.

Yet based on my observation and experience, what follows are the four largest and most influential streams within evangelical Christianity today that are populated mostly by people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The characteristics I’ve outlined below represent the tendencies of most of the people within each stream.

Note that the labels I’m using are simply handles I created to communicate intelligibly about the subject. They are necessary for distinguishing each stream from one another. However, they do not represent any denomination or formal tribe. And they shouldn’t be used to denominate any particular individual.

The four streams are . . .

Stream 1: The Systematizers

* political: tend to be on the right.

* appeal: drawn to propositional truths; seek strong discipline and order in their daily lives.

* search: in quest for theological certainty. Systematizing truth in both thought and life attracts them.

* identification: populates much of the “New Reformed/Calvinist” movement. There is a great deal of theological uniformity within this stream.

* reach: very large online presence; above average on-the-ground presence.

Stream 2: The Activists

*political: tend to be on the left.

*appeal: drawn to causes.

*search: bettering people’s living conditions. Attracted to social causes like acts of mercy, social justice, helping the poor, caring for the environment, etc.

* identification: populates much of “the Emergent Church Conversation,” the “New Monasticism,” and a segment of “the Missional Church Movement.” There is a great deal of theological diversity within this stream.

*reach: above average on-line presence; above average on-the-ground presence.

Stream 3: The Emoters

* political: tend to be on the right.

* appeal: drawn to supernatural encounters.

* search: demonstrations of the miraculous; the healing of emotional wounds.

* identification: populates much of the contemporary “Charismatic Movement” in all of its forms. Strong emphasis on restoring the supernatural: signs, wonders, casting out of demons, healing, etc. and what God will do in the future in terms of revival and miracles. There is significant theological uniformity and diversity within this stream.

*reach: weak online presence; very large on-the-ground presence.

All three streams are part of mainstream Christianity. Consequently, each stream has been featured in the voices of establishment (popular) Christian magazines and e-zines.

Each stream holds conferences that receive wide publicity, being advertised in establishment Christianity magazines and e-zines.

Each stream can be viewed as emphasizing mind, will, and emotion respectively in their approach to God. (Systematizers emphasize the mind; Activists emphasize the will; Emoters emphasize the emotion.)

The fourth stream flies under the radar of establishment Christianity because it is not part of it. Yet it’s just as large as the other three streams.

Stream 4: Those Moving Beyond Evangelicalism

*politically: tend to be apolitical, believing that the local ekklesia (body of Christ) is the new polis and the kingdom of God is the true government. Beyond that, their political positions are enormously diverse.

*appeal: believe that there has to be something more to Christ and the church than what the first three streams present.

*search: discovering and displaying Jesus Christ in authentic, deep, and profound ways.

*identification: Most have come out of one of the other three streams. They belong to no particular movement, tribe, or denomination. And they do not belong to any single expression of church. Those who have moved beyond evangelicalism can be found in all church forms and structures.

They are not seeking a theological system (stream 1). Concepts and ideas don’t appeal to them. They are seeking spiritual reality. They view Scripture as fully inspired and true, but approach it as a narrative rather than a system of propositional ideas.

They are not seeking any specific cause (stream 2). Religious duty doesn’t appeal to them.

They view “good works” as being the natural outflow of living by Christ. They regard pursuing Jesus Christ and seeking causes that are related to Him as being two different things.

They are not seeking a supernatural experience (stream 3). They believe that the emotions (as well as the mind and will) can either reflect or hinder the work of the Spirit. One’s feelings are not synonymous with the Spirit’s leading. Miraculous demonstrations don’t appeal to them either, unless they supremely unveil and glorify Jesus Christ.

They are in pursuit of a Person above and beyond ideas (stream 1), activities (stream 2), or feelings (stream 3). They emphasize God’s work in and through the human heart, and believe that mind, will, and emotion are to be governed by the Holy Spirit.

Those who have moved beyond evangelicalism want to know Jesus Christ in reality and in the depths. They aren’t quietists, pietists, passive mystics, or gnostics. Outward activity is important, but it’s like fruit falling off a tree. It’s the natural result of living by the life of Jesus.

As previously stated, those who have moved beyond evangelicalism emphasize four key themes:

Despite the fact that this fourth stream is largely ignored by mainstream Christianity at the present time, it is growing and becoming more visible.

The common link that ties all four streams together is this: Each group believes that classic evangelical Christianity is inadequate. It has failed to give robust answers to their most serious theological questions and depth to their deepest spiritual longings.

Looking for More? 

This post is a full chapter from my book, Beyond Evangelical, which explores these themes in great depth.

Beyond

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Comments

  1. says

    Thought I’d take a break from writing and check out your site. This is a very interesting article.

    I love the description that you are giving for each stream. I go to a church that could be a part of the Emoter stream; however, I wouldn’t classify everyone as such.

    As for me, I seem to be a combination. To some degrees, I do draw from Streams #2 & #3 and I feel more at home in #4. Does this make sense?

  2. Michelle says

    Really liked this post, Frank. I agree with your categories. I’ve seen this in the churches I’ve been a part of or acquainted with. I’m pretty sure I fall into the last category. What I find curious is that one could almost fit each of these categories to one of the personalities in the DISC profile. Systematizers — C, Activists — D, Emoters — I, and Those moving beyond — S.

  3. Jason says

    Hi Frank! Wondering if you’ve spent much time looking at the “confessional Reformed” camp? It’s a group that technically includes groups like the PCUSA, but it also includes non-mainline groups like the Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America, PCA, and Evangelical Pres. Church. I’m 34, a minister in the CRC, and I would say that the first 3 streams are the exception in the majority of the confessional Reformed. Yet those are also groups that possess a passion for reaching non-believers, much like you find in standard evangelicalism. As I was reading over the streams, I found myself feeling weird about the streams 1-3. But when I reached stream 4, I thought, “Duh, this is what I was raised with 20 years ago, and what my dad was raised with 45 years ago.”

    • says

      Jason, thanks for the comment. It’s common for people to read-into statements via their own grid. So I have a suggestion.

      Give a listen to the indwelling life of Christ message – http://ptmin.podbean.com/e/living-by-the-indwelling-life-of-christ/ – and then tell me if you’ve been raised with that message. I’ve not seen or heard it in ANY Reformed camp, including “confessional.” In fact, Reformed Christians tell me frequently that the message is new to them, including seminary trained Reformed folks.

      To wit, have you read “From Eternity to Here” from cover to cover? Listen to what Reformed professor Steve Brown said about it here: http://ptmin.podbean.com/e/steve-brown-interview-clip-the-eternal-quest

      Most Reformed Christians — by their own admission — fall into group 1. Systematic theology is huge for this camp and the eternal purpose is defined by the Westminster confession, which is profoundly inadequate to say the least. Anyways, I look forward to hearing your response to the two audios. You may also want to check out the eBook “Beyond Evangelical” which goes into great depth on the subject.

      • Jason says

        Thanks for your response. I listened to the audio, but I have not hunted down “Beyond Evangelical” yet. Nor have I read “From Eternity to Here.” That said, I do have a few thoughts and I welcome whatever feedback you may have on this (I also want to be mindful not to overtake your blog or time, but I’m looking to learn something, too :-) )

        I didn’t hear anything in any of the podcasts that struck me as problematic or surprising. I was more surprised by Steve Brown’s reaction, actually. For me, it’s just a matter of good Bible reading – at the moment of faith (or whatever exactly you want to call it), God by the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within the believer (Bethany/Bethel), we are made one with God (a mystery that defies human reasoning – that whole turkey with the WWHD bracelet), and experience life NOW! That’s gospel!

        I don’t come out of a Westminster background; we use and look to the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) as our primary confession. We are also heavily influenced by Albert Wolters “Creation Regained” and Abraham Kuyper’s “every square inch” mantra. The result as I experienced it growing up, heard it in seminary, and now practice it in ministry, is a definite focus on the kingdom of God now as the place which believers dwell; the kingdom is our government. Our covenantal perspective forces us to see the Bible as a narrative, the story of God working in and among the lives of his people as he works out his plan to not just redeem and save, but to restore the perfection of Genesis 1-2. We see this as an eschatological concept, but it is something that we do experience on a certain level already. The moralism that dominates much of the “Stream 1-ers” is not something I see. HC Q&A 86 says it well when it deals with deeds; essentially the answer offered is not a WWJD type response, but that our faith, the grace of God, and the Spirit that dwells within us performs these works for the glory of God. Our good works are the natural outworking of our faith (James 2). Our belief in total depravity actually makes it impossible for us to do anything good without God working through us (turkey again). Pursuing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil is pretty futile. Our acceptance of the mystery of God provides a balance to the systematizing that many in the Reformed camp are attracted to. We seek to systematize just as much as Scripture allows us to, while acknowledging that God is too big for us to wrap our heads around.

        Please forgive me if I’m misunderstanding what you’re getting at. I also fully agree that there are many in the Reformed camp who don’t follow the same line of thinking as my particular denomination. But this is the sense of where I’m coming out of, and the sorts of things that were being talked about and discussed and emphasized even in seminary for me.

        What do you think? Am I completely missing the boat here? My hope is that if we’re pretty close, that you would be encouraged knowing that there are some larger, more organized groups who are right there with you on this stuff!

        • says

          Thanks for taking the time. Glad you didn’t find anything in those audios to be surprising or problematic, but I think the original question was – if you knew all that and are walking in it. You had said you grew up hearing/seeing stream 4.

          One observation: You’re speaking in terms of academic, doctrinal abstracts which tends to cause a person to filter whatever they hear or read through that prism. Speaking on the level of LIFE is another dimension altogether. Doctrine and life aren’t the same. A person can have a great deal of correct doctrinal knowledge, but know little about life.

          If you heard the entire introduction to the “living by the indwelling life of Christ” course and concluded that everything you heard was “repeat,” and you know how to live by the indwelling life of Christ, you are living by that life right now, and you know how to *practically* show others how to live by His life, then you are the first Reformed Christian I’ve ever met who has had that experience. And I’d be curious to know if those you’ve taught would say, “Yes, I know from experience exactly what Galations 2:20 means practically in my own life.”

          Every other – including those in the other 2 streams – admitted that they don’t and covet to hear the rest of the series. (You can sample more here: http://frankviola.info – if you’re interested.) If there was any book I’d recommend to you along these others to get your reaction, it would be “God’s Favorite Place on Earth.” I think you’ll learn some new things that you’ve not heard before in that volume. Like “From Eternity,” it contains a great deal of the hidden obvious, so to speak. But it’s much shorter and a quicker read.

          Thanks again for the dialogue. Glad you found the blog.

  4. Seth G says

    I am part of an organic church made up mainly of 20 something millennials, and what you wrote here Frank rings very true for my siblings and I! I’ve kept up with this idea through your blog and books and always share anything you write on this topic with my fam. We came out of the other streams you touched on and have never looked back! ok maybe sometimes ;) It is going to be very interesting how my generations shapes the future of the planet. That goes for non Jesus peeps as well. We just see things completely different than most.

    I was just at an Invisible Children conference this last wknd with 1500 other millennials and you wouldn’t believe the passion to see the world globally and outside of the boxes, the security, and nationalism that so many less young people have tightly held onto for so long! Im rambling now, but let me say this…”beyond evangelical” is way more than just a label for us. We usually fight such labels anyway, but for clarity’s sake i can get behind this one ;) It is a way of living, and the only way to live! Thats what we believe and our lives will have to be the testament. We at least want to make new mistakes. And we aren’t scared to try, but we are also smart enough to learn from the old mistakes made.

    Love you all!

  5. Chrysostom says

    I’m about as strong a “1″ as possible. I didn’t know it was a “stream” in any form of Christianity, but maybe that’s because I’m a Catholic. To be honest, I’m repulsed by the “emoters” in general (I’ve known too many of them – I would say that “average Christianity” is almost exclusively “3″, and theologians/the Christian elite are almost exclusively “1″ with the mega-church leaders being both “2″ and “3″) and the “activists” are nothing but the Social Gospel repackaged.

    “4″ is an extension of 2. Not separate from it.

  6. Sean Stewart says

    I didn’t realize that I was “Beyond Evangelical”. I have been dissatisfied with how my walk has developed. Not because of a negative influence from other believers, but because I cannot see that any one approach to Christ (through the first three streams) is the exclusive way to Him. I never understood systematic theology and don’t see a value in taking one or two verses to support an idea of what we think God wants from us (especially when the some of the same verses are used to argue opposing thoughts). I think that this series and e-book will be invaluable to me and to the kids that I am discipling in Kenya. Any other recommendations for me to explore would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jim says

      You’re joking right? I read this post twice and the rest of the series. I don’t see anything unbiblical or “dangerous” about it, instead, it exalts the Bible and Jesus. I’m surprised you would say it’s “against all scripture”. Why do you think that, can you give an example?

  7. Tim says

    I’ve gone Beyond Evangelical. Currently reading “Untold Story…”, then will start on “Epic Jesus”. I’ve read many of Frank’s other books and have learned, understood so many new things. They have helped me on the journey.

  8. Aadel says

    I would consider myself a Beyond Evangelical on most points. I am 29 (about to be 30 watch out!).

    I do want to have a theology- but I tire of the theological arguments. I have room for disagreement and grace within my theological framework.

    My desire is to see the living application of Christ through the body. Does that describe the movement?

    It is funny that I started reading your blog now- as I am teaching Colossians in a women’s bible study. Colossians 1:15-20

    ;0)

  9. says

    This reminded me somewhat of a book with which I am only a little familiar (I heard a sermon once based on one chapter of it, but have not read the book itself) called GodViews.

    Are you familiar with it at all?

    Anyway, I appreciate anything that shows how we are not all the same–and don’t have to be. I do find myself fitting more within your fourth category, but perhaps not completely. Yet.

    • says

      I looked the book up, and have never heard of it. Read the rest of the series and you will better know if you are moving beyond evangelical or not. If you like this blog, then I’d say you probably are without realizing it. ;-)

      • says

        Well, I definitely do like this blog–a lot–so I guess I probably am BE then :)

        I’ll take a look at the rest of the series. There’s a lot of good stuff here I can see that I need to “catch up” on.

  10. Mic Fuller says

    Great post Frank! I only read about the first half dozen or so comments and replies so forgive me if this is redundant, but what has become very evident to me as a part of group 4 is that there is a widespread desire for unity in that group, and this is largely being accomplished as a result of group 4′s interactions with groups 1, 2, and 3. I think an appropriate term for group 4′s might be “God smugglers!”

  11. Terry #2 says

    Hi Frank,

    Interesting post.

    There are some very young voices (under 30 crowd) in the Charismatic movement that are post-evangelical (#4 on your list) and very much Christ centered, but they are not going retreat into the “open but cautious” or cessationist category any time soon. I think of Ryan Rhoades of Revival or Riots, Paul Ellis (Escape to Reality blog), Cornel Marais, Ryan Sletcher, and others.

    [IMO, God's work through me is a supernatural work. It is a supernatural experience. God, after all, is Spirit and above nature.]

    Anyway I like your statement:

    “Beyond Evangelicals” are in pursuit of a Person above and beyond ideas (stream 1), activities (stream 2), or feelings (stream 3). They emphasize God’s work in and through the human spirit, and believe that mind, will, and emotion are to be governed by the Holy Spirit.

    “Beyond Evangelicals” want to know Jesus Christ in reality and in the depths. Yet they aren’t quietists or passive mystics. Outward activity is important, but it’s like fruit falling off a tree. It’s the natural result of living by the life of Christ.”

    —-

    Just curious: I wonder to what extent you would view Steve McVey, Brennan Manning, Andrew Farley, Mick Mooney, or perhaps others writing on the radical grace and life through Christ as informing group #4?

    • says

      It’s not my place to put an person who is alive in one of these streams. They can do that themselves. However, I do know that when I published Beyond Evangelical: Part I, McVey read it and said on his blog that he identified with it. Part III will be posted tomorrow (Tuesday). Also, “post-evangelical” and “beyond-evangelical” aren’t the same. I discuss this in Part I.

  12. Don says

    Very good post. I definitely fall into #4 stream. It has been a journey for me being schooled in #1, worshipping as #3, watching out for #2 and waking up as #4. I have come to the place of seeing the church with it’s many streams as the complete body of Christ, my brothers and sisters. There are many from these different streams who I can have a meaningful fellowship. Others think I have lost it. It is strange that they can not grasp the truth that Christ is all. They believe it, but they miss the true meaning. They have a veil over their eyes that only the Lord can remove.
    A B Simpson was one who hit a grand slam with his writing, ‘Himself’. Everything is Christ, everything. I have come to understand that the Lord has to deal with our desire to live by law, to be achievers, and to have emotional highs. It is all a desire to be good enough for God. I had to come to a place that there is nothing in ‘me’, that is in my flesh that can satisfy God. It is only Jesus Christ.
    I now see life so differently. The gospel is so much bigger and fuller. The ‘agape’ of God is more meaningful. I shared one time with a Buddhist of this life within, she was intrigued and said she had never heard it explained in that way. I was not bible thumping as other christians had done. I guess the beyond evangelical in me wants to share life and not just the letter. It truly has been a journey to get to my present state of just wanting Jesus.
    The lesson now is to be patient with the brothers and sisters we meet with as a fellowship. There is so much to share, yet only as the Holy Spirit directs. There’s that #4 coming out again.
    Blessings!!

  13. Micky Jones says

    I am seeing number 4 within AMiA and other missional Anglican movements, The Anchor Fellowhip and others who have decided to live in community with other believers while reaching out to the world around them. I am at a point where I find I can barely stand the term “evangelical” because of the internal (within Christendom) and external meanings and attachments.

    I strongly identify with #4 and (strangely, maybe) have found a home in the Anglican church. What drew me to the community of believers I am with now though, had nothing to do with being Anglican (in fact I had to work to get past that) and had everything to do with the love, care and community I felt with the people that are a part. Of course, solid theology and a commitment to “unity in the essentials, in non-essentials liberty and charity in all things” combined with the community and desire to love our town that drew us and continue to keep us committed to our little community of believers.

    Glad I hopped on over from Rachel Held Evan’s blog. Many of your books are on our shelf (and it was great to hear you and meet you in a small Nashville gathering a few years ago) and you have been a very influential voice in our journey with Jesus. God bless you!

    • says

      Micky: I appreciate your post as it underscores a point I’ve made repeatedly. That is, “beyond evangelicals” can be found in all different church structures, forms, and denominations. Indeed, many are Anglicans such as yourself. Hope you’ll continue to be part of this blog community. I appreciate your voice.

  14. says

    Interesting analysis, though as someone reading this from outside the U.S., I’m disturbed that each section starts with political ideology, as it places unwarranted emphasis on a non-theological, non-ecclesiological part of life.

    • says

      Paul: The list of categories implies no particular priority. If it began with a different category, someone else would grip about that. :-) Interestingly, in the eyes of the USA media, “evangelicals” are regarded as being synonymous with the religious right. This is a shame as it’s not accurate.

  15. Jeff Rhodes says

    Great post, Frank. Good to have you back in the Saddle again. I have nothing profound to say or add, just wanted to encourage and thank you, brother! Holla!

  16. Brett says

    ‘”Beyond Evangelicals are not seeking the supernatural…”‘ Couldn’t agree more with this one; our soul is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Many charasmatics make a division between “heart” and “mind,” but in reality there is no division. We all operate out of our heart (emotions, feelings, passions, etc.) and our will and mind, whether we perceive or understand it, and to what degree, or not. And this is how God made us. The scriptures reveal that our hearts can be woefully deceptive and much of what many Christians claim is Holy Spirit leading or instruction, is not. They may Believe it is, but that doesn’t make it so. Any many “manifestations” attributed to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, are equally questionable; Satan is an angel of light after all, and I believe many in the last days will be decieved by such things which many seem to so easily equate with the presence or power of God among them. Do not be deceived; and do not allow your faith to be judged by others experiences; your relationship with God is yours alone and He relates to his children in different ways and means – as different as the diversity of His creation itself. Even this division of “streams” above is somewhat too neat, too catagorized, some might think, judgemental. We have to let our soul be taught, guided, directed, comforted, and protected by the Spirit, the spirit of God that has been made alive in us through our new birth – that involves our whole being, our conscience if you will, where all these things converge; and that engages our mind, our thinking, our daily decisions and actions, which is our witness of faith and our true “worship.” Believe me, this worship means more to God than any “praise and worship” that happens on Sunday morning! He is interested in worship that is in Spirit and in Truth. Our heart – our feelings, emotions, passions, etc., often get in the way of our spirit walk. The old saying, “follow your heart” is really very bad advise! If you have been born in Christ, you are a new creature, your mind has been renewed, and so, for the believer, our conscience should be a reliable compass, if you are listening to and following it! How often have we not done things we know we should have, or said things we know we should not have, and vice versa on both? Living in the presence of God is living in the fullness of our spirit conscienceness, because the kingdom of God is within us; Christ is in us. You are a royal priest of the Kingdom. Believe it, live it, walk in it; do the things that Jesus did, and even greater? We should always be open to the supernatural however, rather, it will be a part of our daily lives. That is my prayer for you and me! Don’t really care what “stream” that falls into!

  17. says

    Thanks for the post, Frank. There’s always a danger in taking deep and profound spiritual truths from the realm of intuition into the realm of words, but you are doing a great job. I think one of the things that distinguishes the fourth stream from the first three streams is its inability to provide one with a tribal identity and its accompaniments, like elitism, pride, group think, degrees of tribal status and so on. You really have to come to the end of yourself to fully embrace it, which is perfectly Biblical.

  18. Dan Tyler says

    I’m preaching a series on Colossians where I’m getting after the idea that Paul arguing for the ontological root of the gospel.

    The Gospel cannot be rooted pragmatically (stream 2) – the Judaisers in Pauls day were getting people to root their gospel in what they do and Paul was livid with them.

    The Gospel cannot be rooted epistemologically (in thinking or systemising – stream 1). That is what Paul is arguing against the danger of when he says to beware of the philosophers.

    The Gospel cannot and must not ever be rooted existentially (stream 3) – Paul leaves no space for that sort of pursuit in Colossians 3.

    The Gospel must be rooted ontologically. It must be rooted in who Jesus is, who we were and who we now are. Being a Christian must be a continued pursuit of the person of Christ (stream 4). We must treasure his very being above all. A changed ontology will profoundly affect the other three areas but it has to be this way round.

    Christ is our salvation and in Him all things hold together.

    In him,
    Dan

  19. Dana says

    Frank, excellent post! I appreciate your ability to state observations and convictions without being elitist or arrogant. I’ve cherished your writings on unity. Your observations are accurate without insulting any group as “worse” or elevating any group as “better.” Obviously you belong to the 4th catagory for it’s the name of your blog. Thanks for stating your convictions (and ours who agree) without doing it in an offensive or dividing way. Your graciousness toward those who disagree is what caused me to start reading your work.

  20. Ant Writes says

    I saw myself as number 1, but I was never Reformed/Calvinist. But then as I read, I fit #4 better :)
    Great to have you back Frank!

  21. Terry says

    Nice sections laid out, especially noting there is obviously some overlaps. After 32 years as an associate pastor, the last 5 were frustrating as I started seeing some Bible ideas that my group was not following. I think I evolved over several years and grew OUT of the group I was in. I am at least heading toward group 4. I have experienced tremendous mental stress and temptations after leaving the church position. Apparently the groups 1-3 get a severe hold on people and make it hard to change, and survival in group 4 is tough without others to aid in it. I imagine many go back to more easily grasped group situations. This blog is encouraging by showing the group 4 growing. The same thing every week got to me. There has to be something greater for me in Christ!

  22. Robyn says

    I’m again encouraged by the validation the Holy Spirit gives, through you and many others, of the “unified” desire those in Stream 4 represent. As you also recognize, it is the desire of many who are still swimming against the current in the other streams. Their heart is swimming towards it’s desire while the flow of the stream they are in rushes against them. I felt like that Salmon swimming upstream, the salmon striving to perpetuate life, and now am learning to embrace the peace and light yolk of a more peaceful river :) Keep teaching…keep encouraging…keep pressing on…

  23. says

    Welcome back, Frank!

    When I look at the four streams you’ve highlighted, I get a strong sense of isolationism. If someone finds themselves defending others or supporting causes, then they find their way into stream 2 (often after being ostricized in stream 1 or 3, or feeling that they don’t fit in). Same for the other streams. Personality, experiences, family, etc draw us into a narrow stream that emphasizes and accentuates a dominant characteristic.

    I’m reminded of Paul’s illustration of the human body, imagining a group of isolated hands, or feet, or ears. Obviously, this makes no sense, yet the fallen mind tends to move in this direction. The beauty of the body is the joining of the different parts together, functioning together with the head.

    I’m excited that stream 4 is more diverse than 1-3, and even draws on that diversity to know and express Christ more completely. I’m excited that there is a move of the Spirit to go “beyond” the walls of denominations and streams to focus on Christ instead of ourselves.

  24. Jennifer says

    Brilliant post Frank! You managed to give clarity to an issue without causing division or labeling any person. I am familiar with all four streams and you’ve put words to how I feel. Looking forward to seeing the other part of the series. Love your blog.

  25. says

    Frank,

    First, welcome back. Glad to see you posting again.

    I’ve observed a passionate desire for intimacy with Christ particularly among those I know in the late 20′s and early 30′s. I find the intensity of their pursuit refreshing, encouraging, and empowering. Most fit squarely in your description of stream four, but those with gifts of leadership have an overwhelming desire for the miraculous, to see the power of God made manifest, for healing, spiritual and physical, for evangelism and witness, for encounters, and not for self-edification, but mostly just so that God would glorify Himself and make His name known.

  26. Jon Soriano says

    Hello There Frank. It was a good and sound analysis of the streams you presented. However, here in the Philippines we seem to somehow struggle with “dichotomized” categories like the one you have neatly presented above. What you mentioned about the mind, emotions and will and how it could be hindrances to the work of God, maybe right – but as an asian and a Filipino we do not think of this categories as separate. We think more wholistically. We deeply resonate and are passionate about The centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ; Living by the indwelling life of Christ; Experiencing church as a Christ-centered, shared-life community; and Living for the eternal purpose of God. As we pursue these things in our lives the natural expression are manifested in such processes like that one found on the 3 other streams. When we say to love God with all our heart (emotions), mind (intellect), soul (our whole being), and strength (will), we naturally see the need to theologize (specially seeking to articulate our faith that is culturally relevant) and develop local theologies and de-westernize some of our thinking. We are a people strong in feelings and intuition. God works and speaks to us through how he wired us as a people. And because we love God and neighbor, it is but natural to us respond to our people’s ordeal specially in our country living in the context of too much poverty. And poverty to be addressed should be attacked in many angles, e.g. Justice issues, political and economic issues and environmental issues (now that we have had traumatic experiences in the past several years of unusual calamities brought about by climate change). As Jesus is being revealed to us in much deeper ways, we are inspired by Him to respond in variety of ways to bring His kingdom and salvation to people, whether it be from calamities, poverty, addictions, and sin. So I think, in our context we seem to struggle with such dichotomies or trichotomies. We see Jesus giving us life and its fullness (we don’t think in terms of spiritual life as different to our work life, but see it both as Life). In Him we live and move and have our being, wether we eat, drink or whatever we find our bodies doing is our act of spiritual worship. Our work can be an expression of our prayer and worship.

    Thank you for the post and God bless you brother.

    • says

      Jon: I like your point about being holistic. Scripturally, this is accurate. According to my analysis, the first 3 streams put mind, will, or emotion in the ascendancy where the spirit is the cart following behind. Biblically, the order should be reversed. T. Austin-Sparks’ little book, “What is Man?” is the best treatment I’ve seen on this subject. http://www.ptmin.org/top100 – albeit, I take a functional approach to the human spirit, not a structural/mechanistic one. The latter, I believe, is unfruitful and leads to introspection and paralysis.

  27. Adam Shields says

    As with any grouping there are exceptions. But here are my thoughts. It is clear to me you favor group four. And that is probably most what I lean toward. But I do like to systematize. Not to create black and white, but to think through options. I react against people that only want the system without the thinking, so I would not be a part of 1. I have some activist tendencies and clearly am left leaning, but I do not agree with many activist strategies, so I tend to be a non-participatory activist (or someone that doesn’t actually do much to oppose the things that I oppose.) I personally am not a part of 3, but I have been and really do support many that are. I keep my lines of communication open with them.

    But I feel like I am too political and too thinking for your group four. I read and think and do some writing. I want to encourage the local church and mentor younger Christians. And I know you are trying to describe and not prescribe, but a movement that does not value thinking through ideas (even if it is not focused on enforcing those ideas) will end up in the ditch before long. There are too many powerful forces in the world that will push and pull away from Christ’s leading. We have the Holy Spirit to empower us to follow, but if your descriptive reality is true then I am more not less concerned about the future of the church.

    • says

      Adam: Thx. for the comment. My blog is called “Beyond Evangelical” because it gives a voice for those who are in group 4. However, “beyond evangelicals” aren’t against ideas, activities, or feelings . . . the wording is “beyond and above” . . . meaning, that these three things don’t drive the horse, they follow it.

      Also, while beyond evangelicals are “apolitical,” they are equally all over the map when it comes to voting or not voting, who to vote for, etc. They are not monolithic on those questions. Instead, they believe that the ekklesia is the true “polis” and the kingdom of God is the true government. And that is where their allegiance lies.

      There will be more to come that develops all of this further . . . this is only part 2. My book “Jesus Manifesto” is really a manifesto for beyond evangelicals as it articulates the 4 keynotes that they promote.

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment.

    • says

      Leanne: I’m not aware of any polls that show the percentages of any of these streams. Denominations are easy to calculate, but movements are almost impossible. And I wouldn’t even call these streams “movements” in the technical sense of the word.

      • Leanne says

        I was wondering then how you were able to determine that Beyond Evangelicals were “growing.” I would really like to believe that, yet everyone I talk to warns me about getting ‘too far from Scripture.’ Arrrgh.

        • says

          The data I used for this survey: conferences, the readership of this blog, my correspondence, book sales (of my own, “Jesus Manifesto,” “From Eternity to Here,” “Revise Us Again,” are books that stress the four notes of beyond evangelicalism), etc. Those of us who have moved beyond evangelical are firmly committed to the Scriptures. Interestingly, I think classic evangelicalism has put human tradition above Scripture in many respects. For instance, just ask the typical evangelical what God’s ultimate purpose is, and you will virtually always get an unbiblical answer. Beyond evangelicals have a very high view of biblical authority as well as embracing the content of the orthodox creeds of the church.

  28. Steve M says

    Some interesting observations here although I do get the impression that many of them are very US-centric and do not translate easily into the British church-scene. For example I, along with very many others in the UK, received a very beneficial upbringing with the Plymouth Brethren which causes me to incline towards the more systematic and orderly tendency of Stream 1. Nevertheless I have also enjoyed the freedom and inspiration found in the Charismatic movement which only gets a mention in Stream 3 and although I do not seek supernatural experiences I do not reject them out of hand. I also believe that the emotions (as well as the mind and will) can either help reflect or hinder the work of the Spirit – “Too much Word – you dry up; too much Spirit – you blow up; balance them both – you grow up” could be a useful motto. I may not quite fit into the description that you give of a “Beyond Evangelical” – but does that really matter?
    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your books and articles but expect to have to do a bit of “cultural translation” for this side of the Pond!

  29. says

    Thank you for an interesting analysis, Frank. I feel most at home in the fourth stream, although I also feel a connection and unity with the other three streams. I generally dislike labels other than belonging to Jesus Christ, but I can clearly see the necessity to use them in discussing the subject. In reality (Christ) we are one in the Spirit.

  30. Derek says

    Hi Frank

    Thanks for your deliberations that demonstrate the effects that mans soul can have over God’s church.

    Well written Frank, great insights, you have taken from years of experience, learning, and have assembled into an ever increasing focus on events within the life of the church body for today.

    I have lived through much of what has been expressed here in streams 1, 2 and 3. I see now and am walking through and learning the value of 4 but only because of God’s grace has lead me here.

    Its not so much of what we do for God but how its done. If its God’s work, then its Gods direction, His initiative, His enabling that we need to do the Good works that God has prepared for us. Like Paul said, “I worked harder than you all, yet not I but the Grace of God that so powerfully works in me”.He was enabled by God to do the things that were in line with His eternal purposes.

    Jesus himself said that he only says what he hears the Father saying and only does what the Fathers is doing. He lived out of the Father Life through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    “Our life” does need to be brought undone when it comes to living out of the facilities of the human soul as you indicate Frank, Mind of man, Will of man and Emotions of man and for each believer to begin to learn to walk not relying on these, having no confidence in the flesh. Learning to live by the indwelling Life of the Spirit. When we submit all under Him we will truly begin to do the Good works that He has prepared in advance for us to do.

    Blessings In Christ

  31. Tony Marotta says

    Excellent article brother. The one thing that will make some precious brother or sister from one of the first 3 streams leave is a Holy Spirit unveiling in their heart of the SON as the Father knows and loves Him.Everything becomes NEW , including a different seeing of the Scriptures , The Church which is HIS Body, and even ourselves.Everything is now in , thru , and summed up in Jesus.The Father loves to reveal His Son, but only to those who can admit they are blind.I know this by experience. I have delved into all 3 streams and only when those things didn’t “produce the goods”(satisfy my soul) was that I cried out in despair and Jesus was revealed in and to me. All is now new to me and HE is now the lens thru live is lived and seen. I love all my brothers and sisters in any stream but my hope and prayer is they will cry out to our Father and their world will be rocked by The Revelation of JESUS CHRIST :)

  32. Dona Leah says

    I don’t quite understand why the article is limited in this way: “…with an eye to Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s –…” Am I misunderstanding something? I’m going to be 59 in a few days but have been flamboyantly a part of stream 4 since the very early ’70′s. Don’t I count? (Although I admit I sometimes FORGET how to count….)

    • says

      Dona: No worries. The *majority* readership of this blog are Gen Y and Gen X. And I have a special interest in looking at the future of the church. At the same time, there are plenty of older AND younger people who read this blog. So there’s no need to feel “uncounted.” The survey is not a contest, just a logistical survey.

  33. says

    I seem to be a combination of 2 & 4 – I fit into 2 well except that 2 is too narrow to describe me. I fit into 4 except that I am political (even though I could buy into the idea that the body of Christ is the new polis) and I don’t view Scripture as fully (fully being the word I have trouble with) inspired and true.

  34. Luis says

    Frank, Great post and I can’t agree with you more. I think that “Beyond Evangelicals” are basically seeking more than what “mainstream Christianity” has to offer. Personally, I don’t want a “sugar puffed” version of the gospel; just tell me how it is. Keep it real!

  35. says

    Christ is all. My wife and I have been having a conversation of late that revolves around how people would summarize their faith in one word. That one word speaks more than a thousand words, if you ask me. I imagine that the groups would summarize as:

    Group 1: “Grace” or “Truth”
    Group 2: “Love” or “Mission”
    Group 3: “Spirit” or “Power”
    Group 4: “Jesus” or “Christ”

    Is there any word that should summarize our common faith than His Name? I think not.

    Great breakdown Frank. Glad you’re back to blogging!

    (On a side note, I have trouble loading your website every time. It appears that the server is running slowly many times and I have to reload the page multiple times before loading. Just a heads up. Blessings!)

    • says

      Jonathan: Thanks for your comment, bro. I like the word break-down you put together. It resonates. I assume that a lot of people are loading the same post at the same time … ? But I’m no expert. As far as I know the page is optimized. But maybe someone else can instruct.

    • Mick Green says

      Thanks for the one word faith defintions. Recenlty the ‘Grace or Truth’ group used those exact words to critique my pastoral care re: a GLBT seeker among our faith community.

  36. says

    Frank, have you seen the old groupthink video about the space shuttle Challenger? Here’s a link to an abbreviated version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYpbStMyz_I

    It’s gotta be Peter Boyle’s second best acting job ever (behind Young Frankenstein, of course). I think the “Beyond Evangelicals” may have come to some of their conclusions because of similar organizational dysfunctions. I suspect that, in many ways, “classic evangelicals” have imported their functional philosophies from sources that are subtly at odds with the gospel of grace, and this has fostered, in part, the exodus we are seeing. BTW, I don’t fit perfectly into the 4th category, but pretty close…

  37. says

    When we started our Cowboy Church here in Colorado, we had a denomination willing to hand me a $50,000 check to get started. But I didn’t want to do things they way that the institutionalized church had always done things.

    The “events” that I wanted were the ones that came from changed lives because someone had a deep personal relationship with Jesus.

    The “worship” that I wanted wasn’t one where people got an emotional high from loud music or fancy talking, but worship that lead them to the foot of the cross.

    The “focus” didn’t need to be on programs or buildings, but solely on Jesus Christ and the love that he has for us and we have for Him.

    …and God is blessing it, just like he promised if we would offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

    I don’t know how to say “Beyond Evangelical” to a group of cowboys, but I’ll figure it out.

    • says

      Elizabeth: yes, I believe there is. I analyze this in detail in REVISE US AGAIN – in general, feelers, thinkers, and doers are attracted to three distinct types of Christian “tribes” and they also tend to use three different kinds of communication styles when discussing spiritual/theological issues: charismatic, quoter, and pragmatic (Ch. 4). So it seems to me anyway . . .

  38. says

    This is, I believe, a very important blog post. Frank, you have clearly identified four major group here – I am absolutely sure your analysis is correct.

    I’d put myself firmly in the ‘beyond evangelical’ group and it’s quite easy for me to classify a whole bunch of friends and family. It’s a fascinating exercise!

    But there is something that troubles me. As far as I can see there is little evidence so far that these groups are working together, loving one another, or encouraging one another. We also need to hear the Spirit’s voice drawing us to be one body, one people, one living temple. Instead I wondering if we’re rejoicing in our distinctiveness.

    Do you have any evidence of serious mutual respect and love between the distinct ‘streams’? Is anyone calling for oneness?

    • says

      Chris: Concerning what you wrote, the problem today, I believe, is that many people equate the Internet world with reality and as representative of what’s happening on the ground in the real world. This is especially true for Facebook (and Facebook groups). But such an assumption is largely an illusion.

      For instance, I know a number of groups that I’d put in the fourth category and that fit your description, but they are largely under the radar on the Internet. Also, I (along with many others I personally know) have a good relationship with people in streams 1, 2, and 3, even though we ourselves would fall into stream 4. And we’ve been calling for oneness for sometime (my book REVISE US AGAIN goes into this). And future blog posts will as well. So the answer at the end of your comment is “yes, absolutely.”

      Remember though: beyond evangelicals are in all different church structures and forms. I don’t want people to confuse them with a certain form of church because it’s far broader. Also, it’s not to be confused with “evangelism” . . . evangelicalism and evangelism are two very different things. (See the first post in the series.) I say that because a few people who are new to the blog have confused them.

      As I say in the post itself, the fourth stream is largely ignored by establishment Christianity. But that’s starting to change. That could be a good or a bad thing. :-)

      • says

        Well, absence of evidence is certainly not the same as evidence of absence and it’s encouraging to hear that you and others have good relationships with some in the 1, 2, 3 categories.

        I hope and pray for a real blossoming of unity – and soon! Whatever differences there may be, they seem insignificant in the Light of the One. Truly he is magnificent!

        Sometimes I think we’re like planets in orbit around him, kept at arms length by our own careering motions. If we could just slow down (or better, be still and know) there would be nothing to hold us away from him and we’d spiral in.

        Now I’m rambling… Thanks again for the post.

  39. pat says

    WOW Thanks Frank! I am definitely in the Beyond Evangelical Stream. I am in pursuit of a Person and His name is Jesus!!!

  40. ed cyzewski says

    I think 2 and 4 belong together. There may be some groups who fit the 2 classification by itself, I don’t know too many folks who would be in group 2 if it weren’t for the things you mention in 4. In fact, 2 by itself strikes me as an incomplete characterization.

    Having said that, making broad classifications like this strike me extremely difficult. I’m sure we all have our own anecdotes and experiences.

    I also am concerned about creating more groupings and categories. If we’re using them just to help us organize a little better, then great. If we’re using them to create more barriers and subgroups, then they become problematic.

    • says

      Ed: Thanks for the comment. 2 and 4 are not the same at all. They are quite different. And there’s been a lot of debate/dialogue between the two groups of late. This will become clearer in future posts, but re-read the section after stream 3. It may help. In short, group 2 is mostly on the left and strong on the will . . . group 4 is neither. And they don’t emphasize the same things. I addressed the “grouping” concern at the beginning of the post knowing that some people would flip out over it (not suggested you are ;-). Again, there is overlap with some folks within each stream. Thx. again for the comment.

  41. Kyle says

    As I was reading, I found myself agreeing with all the first three except the political side of any of them. When I read the fourth, I realized were I fit in the mix. My only theology comes from the direction that the Holy Spirit and God’s word directs me. I agree with many causes but just because I agree with their mission and not because I believe it will draw me closer to God. I believe miracles still occur but the occurrence or lack of occurence of miracles does not affect my relationship with my King! I really don’t believe that the evangelism that worked for my parents or even for me will work for my kids so as a member of the biggest generation making up the body of Christ, today I have to ensure that progress is made so my children will experience the same life I am experiencing.

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