Am I one of Frank Viola's Beyond Evangelicals?

Frank ViolaFrank Viola may have broken some kind of record by starting his series Beyond Evangelical with part I on 5th May last year and continuing it only today, more than eight months later, with Beyond Evangelical: Part II. But it was well worth the long wait to read more of what Frank has to say on this important subject.

Frank’s basic point in Part II is that there are “four major streams within evangelicalism”, especially among “Christians in their 20s, 30s, and 40s”. These are:

  • “Systematizers” – largely Calvinists, including the “young, restless and Reformed”;
  • “Activists” – more politically left leaning evangelicals, some in the “Emerging Church”;
  • “Emoters” – charismatics;
  • “Beyond Evangelicals” – the group for which Frank is a spokesman.

Frank sees his “Beyond Evangelicals” as a “fourth stream [which] flies under the radar of establishment Christianity because it is not part of it.” But this stream, he claims, is large and growing, as people come out of the other streams and join it. Their defining characteristic:

“Beyond Evangelicals” are in pursuit of a Person above and beyond ideas (stream 1), activities (stream 2), or feelings (stream 3).

This could, I suppose, look a bit like a “motherhood and apple pie” definition, something which every Christian group would claim. But I think Frank has identified a real fourth stream here. As for how significant it is, perhaps only time will tell.

Where do I stand in all this? Well, I am not in my 20s, 30s or 40s, and not North American which is presumably Frank’s focus here. So it is not surprising that I don’t fit clearly into any one of the streams. As a young Christian I was a Systematizer, but have definitely left that behind. In some ways I am closest to the Emoter stream, but not entirely at home there. I also have a lot of sympathy with the Activist stream, and politically I fit in best there.

So should I identify myself now as a Beyond Evangelical? I would fit well with most of Frank’s description of this stream, but not with “tend to be apolitical, believing that the local ekklesia (body of Christ) is the new polis.” Also I don’t want to reject the charismatic movement, while being aware of its imperfections.

One thing I am sure of, that I want to read more of Frank’s series, which will I hope continue rather more quickly.

7 thoughts on “Am I one of Frank Viola's Beyond Evangelicals?

  1. “Beyond Evangelicals are evangelical Christians who emphasize four key themes:

    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.
    Living for the eternal purpose of God.”

    I read this on Viola’s post…and was somewhat puzzled…mostly because I think that I could personally mention friends of mine who would fall in streams 1, 2, or 3 who would also then fit his definition of stream 4. I guess they way that he defines ‘beyond evangelical’ to me suggests that most people who profess to be Christians fall in that category. Or perhaps the people that I know are just anomalies. *shrug*

  2. Rhea, I take your point. Frank’s definition is a bit too general. I suspect he wants most Christians to think that they are in that stream, or at least would like to be, and so to follow his leading. But I think that is going in a generally healthy direction, although not one popular with church leaders.

  3. Doug, I’m sure Todd Bentley would count as an Emoter, with “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.” But I don’t want this thread to be diverted into a discussion of Todd, and particularly of any of his indiscretions (or worse) which would be completely off topic here.

  4. I guess this is what happens when we try to box something as amazing as man – in the image of God.

    Almost as bad as boxing God 😀

    Though there is a place to see where you fit, and what the issues and strengths of that place might be. I know mostly what my biases are, and try to either use (if profitable) or minimise (when not so much) as much as possible! I can certainly say I’ve been in all but one of those groups…

  5. Drewe, I don’t want to box people in any sense of constraining them or prejudging them. But sometimes it does help to classify them, to see where they fit in with broader movements.

  6. You are right – it does help. Maybe I’m just too pessimistic, but sometimes even set boxes are hard to work out – there are 3 baptist churches near me, and they are SO different, they should all have different names.

    Oh well.


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