During the past thirty years the American religious landscape has undergone a dramatic change. More and more churches meet in converted warehouses, many have ministers who've never attended a seminary, and congregations are singing songs whose melodies might be heard in bars or nightclubs. Donald E. Miller's provocative examination of these "new paradigm churches"--sometimes called megachurches or postdenominational churches shows how they are reinventing the way Christianity is experienced in the United States today. Drawing on over five years of research and hundreds of interviews, Miller explores three of the movements that have created new paradigm churches: Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel. Together, these groups have over one thousand congregations and are growing rapidly, attracting large numbers of worshipers who have felt alienated from institutional religion.
While attempting to reconnect with first-century Christianity, these churches meet in nonreligious structures and use the medium of contemporary twentieth-century America to spread their message through contemporary forms of worship, Christian rock music, and a variety of support and interest groups. In the first book to examine postdenominational churches in depth, Miller argues that these churches are involved in a second Reformation, one that challenges the bureaucracy and rigidity of mainstream Christianity. The religion of the new millennium, says Miller, will connect people to the sacred by reinventing traditional worship and redefining the institutional forms associated with denominational Christian churches. Nothing less than a transformation of religion in the United States may be taking place, and Miller convincingly demonstrates how "postmodern traditionalists" are at the forefront of this change.
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(229mm x 152mm x 19mm)
University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
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US Kirkus Review »
One of the most engaging, insightful discussions yet of American Protestantism's recent trend toward "postdenominational" churches. Miller (Religion/Univ. of Southern Calif.) uses his sociology training to contextualize a phenomenon that scholars have too breezily dismissed: Americans are leaving the mainline churches in droves, and many are finding spiritual homes in what Miller calls "new paradigm" churches that often rent space in shopping malls and warehouses because they have no facilities of their own. These churches, like the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, CaNary Chapel, and Hope Chapel, emphasize a common evangelical theology. But they have resisted incorporation into denominations, reflecting their baby-boomer leaders' distrust of established institutions. Dress is casual, ministers are often untrained, and adherents are encouraged to take an active role in congregational growth. Miller maintains that the burst of new paradigm churches represents nothing less than a second Protestant Reformation; these churches are abandoning the staid cultural forms of traditional Protestantism (organs, choirs, and vestments) in favor of newer ones that young people find culturally relevant (guitars, small support groups, and beach baptisms). New paradigm churches have reinvigorated Luther's "priesthood of all believers" with their stress on lay-led Bible studies and healing circles. One reason Miller's study works so well is that he takes these new rituals seriously and claims that they fill a very real spiritual need. In particular, where traditional Protestantism has emphasized the rational at the expense of the experiential, new paradigm churches fill this void through physical healings and deeply felt personal conversions. This elegant book offers something for everyone: Scholars will appreciate Miller's well-conceived sociological positioning of this phenomenon (with particular nods to William James and Robert Bellah), and other folks will value the compelling personal testimonies. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Donald E. Miller
Donald E. Miller is Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California. He is coauthor with Barry Seltzer of Homeless Families: The Struggle for Dignity (1993) and with Lorna Miller of Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide (California, 1993).