Published by IVP on June 14, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Leadership
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Will future generations find a church worth fighting for?
A great reckoning is underway in the church today: a naming and exposing of the exclusivity, abuse, racism, patriarchy, and unchecked power that have marked evangelical Christianity for far too long. What kind of church will emerge on the other side?
Like many families, the Beaches have been wrestling with this question. Together, Nancy and Samantha represent two generations: Nancy, a boomer, was a key player in the megachurch movement that revolutionized global ministry during the '80s and '90s, while Samantha, a millennial, is willing to abandon those massive buildings and celebrity cultures and find out whether the foundation holds. Each chapter offers their individual experiences and perspectives on a challenge facing the church and considers the way forward.
Filled with deep introspection and keen insight, Next Sunday is a vulnerable conversation about what the church has been--and what it can be.
Where does the church go from here? It seems like anywhere you turn, the American evangelical church is undergoing a reckoning as its abuses, racism, patriarchy, nationalism, and lust for power. People who grew up in the church are leaving. Churches are closing. The public trust in Christianity and its religious leaders are waning. What sort of church will emerge on the other side? In Next Sunday, the mother-daughter duo of Nancy Beach and Samantha Beach Kiley, present readers with an intergenerational dialogue about the future of the church.
Nancy and Samantha are uniquely poised to have and share this conversation. Nancy was a longtime employee of Willow Creek, one of the earliest evangelical megachurches. She is currently a leadership coach and serves on the teaching team at Soul City Church in downtown Chicago. Samantha is the creative arts pastor at Austin New Church. The two represent two very different forms of evangelicalism. One helped give birth to the megachurch movement; the other gravitates toward smaller spaces and congregations. Both have seen the best and the worst of evangelicalism over the past few decades. Both have an important voice in reforming the church as it moves forward.
A lot of what is said in Next Sunday isn’t ground-breaking or revolutionary. It’s simply a commitment to certain postures and goals that evangelicalism has often forgotten about or commodified. The Beaches list seven ways in which the church needs reformed:
- Creating genuine community
- Being Kidcentric
- Having an External Focus
- Developing the Sunday Service
- Men and Women Leading Together
- Reckoning with the Church’s History of Exclusion and Oppression
- Creating a Healthy Culture
As you can see, some of these things are programmatic and others are systemic. The Next Sunday moves from the former to the latter, slowly building from practical to theoretical, small-picture to big-picture, as the book moves along. Rather than combine voices, the book gives Nancy and Samantha their own separate spaces to speak from their experiences and perspectives. Their voices, though connected through a somewhat-shared experiences, do reflect generational and personal differences and serve to model the fact that the answer to church revitalization is going to be intergenerational.
Next Sunday offers good advice and its personal touches give it a sense of memoir and not just church leadership manual. I particularly appreciated the chapter on being kid-centered. I currently live in a small English village with two churches—neither of which are set up for children. (And then they wonder why the church is getting older and dying.) The chapter on men and women leading together offers a gracious rebuttal to the misogyny and patriarchy that’s heralded in some churches.
Particularly from Nancy’s voice, Next Sunday offers the perspective of one who has been through the fire, learned from mistakes, personally felt the harm of some evangelical policies, and yet remains committed to the church. Next Sunday is a statement that there is something in the church still worth fighting for. The Beaches are set to help readers find that and reclaim it.