Finding Protoevangelical Faith: A Summary of Four Ethnographic Studies

in Ecclesial Practices
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This article presents a summary of the findings from four ethnographic studies of postevangelical groups interpreting and applying the theology and praxis of Dr. Dallas Willard. Willard’s works have become increasingly attractive to emerging generations of so called “postevangelical” Christians protesting the perceived excesses and hegemony of mainstream evangelical religion in the United States. Willardian theology is seen as providing a positive alternative to contemporary versions of evangelicalism. For increasing numbers of disaffected evangelicals with postmodern sensibilities, Willard’s “protoevangelical” vision offers a more robust doctrine of God, a return to the primacy of discipleship to Christ, and the experience of a holistic and integrated life in the Kingdom of God.

Ecclesial Practices

Journal of Ecclesiology and Ethnography




Conrad Hackett and Brian J Grim, Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population (Washington d. c.: The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, December, 2011).


 See Tom W. Smith, General Social Survey (Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 2009), and Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, American Religious Identification Survey (Harford, ct: Trinity College, March 2009). These studies also revealed, when comparing other Christian religions, a higher percentage of evangelicals left their faith than other Christian religions.


Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church: Insights From Emerging Generations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2003), Mark Scandrette, Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus, (San Francisco, ca: Jossey-Bass, 2007), Tim Celek and Dieter Zander, Inside the Soul of a New Generation: Insights and Strategies for Reaching Busters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).


Julia Duin, Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do About it (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008), Drew Dyck, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith-- and How to Bring Them Back (Chicago, il: Moody Publishers, 2010), Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, (New York: Doubleday Religion, 2010), David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity – and Why it Matters (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2007).


Anselm L. Strauss, Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), Mike Crang and Ian Cook, Doing Ethnographies (Los Angeles: sage, 2007), 143.


Roger E. Olson, Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2007), and "Postconservative Evangelicals Greet the Postmodern Age," The Christian Century Vol. 112, no. 15 (May 1995), 480–483. Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World (Grand Rapids, mi.: Baker Books, 2002), and Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evange­licalism for a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003). Finally, Dave Tomlinson, Postevangelical.


Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco: Harper, 1996), chapter 3.


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