Sociological changes in Evangelical Protestantism.
Turned off by the programmatic thinking and watered-down preaching of many boomer churches, a new generation of evangelicals is forging a new breed of church.
"Doubt Night" at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., promises an evening of brutal honesty and searching. Rob Bell, the church's 33-year-old teaching pastor, fields questions about anything related to Christianity and life. One night last December, a brave young woman put Pastor Bell on the spot: "I doubt that God will forgive my sins, when I can't forgive a babysitter who raped me repeatedly when I was 10 years old." And so it began. The young woman that evening raised the first of many deeply personal issues ranging from suicide to addictions.
Mars Hill started with a small group in 1999 and five years later claims more than 10,000 weekly attendees. Church leaders say such growth was not the result of a grand master plan. "Doubt Night" displays Mars Hill's emphasis: the Bible applied to real-life situations with a level of authenticity not previously found by a new generation of churchgoers.
This church is not an anomaly. The rise of young pastors like Mr. Bell and others of his generation represents "a new period in evangelical history," says Robert Webber, author of The Younger Evangelicals: Facing the Challenges of the New World.
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