Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue About the Future of the Church

Reviewed by:

Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue About the Future of the Church

Authors:

Nancy Beach and Samantha Beach Kiley

Publisher:

InterVarsity Press

Publication Date:

June 14, 2022

Format:

Paperback

Length:

192 pages

What will church look like after the pandemic? How will the next generation deal with the often-fraught relationship between politics and church administration, and the ongoing debates about sexuality and race? In Next Sunday, Nancy Beech and Samantha Beach Kiley tackle these questions as a mother and daughter team, each devoting a chapter to their perspective. Together, they consider topics like:

  • Creating Genuine Community
  • Raising Children
  • Men and Women Leading Well Together
  • The Church’s History of Exclusion and Oppression
  • Creating a Healthy Culture

Within the discussions, they combine their own personal stories with anecdotes about lessons learned and mistakes made as church members (and leaders). Working together, these chapters create a portrait of where the church has been, is at the moment, and we’ll have to go next.

At its core, this book is a combination of discussing the generational shift (“what will a young Millennial/Gen Z Christianity look like?”) and discussing topical church concerns that have bubbled to the surface in the last decade (especially since 2016). Several books have addressed these two discussions, usually separately. There have been professional studies on the generational shift (You Found Me, Not Done Yet, How to Revive Evangelism) and scholarly anthologies considering where the church is going next (Breaking Ground, Uncommon Ground). Beach and Kiley cover a lot of the same territory as those books, and reaffirm some of those books’ conclusions. For example, they agree with Springer’s conclusion in How to Revive Evangelism that Gen Z Christians are interested in causes first, church membership second.

What Beach and Kiley uniquely bring to the table is their own stories. Beach belonged to the founding generation of Willow Creek Church—she talks about meeting Bill Hybels in his early days, moments when the megachurch movement worked, and her realization that things had to change. Kiley discusses her experience with Willow Creek’s theater space and how her mother’s desire to get artists involved in church positively influenced her. Then they each talk about the pain they experienced. Beach discovered Hybels’ misconduct and became one of the women who reported his behavior to the Chicago Tribune. Kiley helped her mother deal with the backlash, and went on her own journey as a “recovering child of the megachurch movement” who struggled to find other Christian spaces that valued her artistic skills.

Because storytelling communicates ideas not only in different language, but also communicates unique information that an essay or study literally can’t provide, personal stories bring something new and vital to discussions. Thus, Next Sunday sits alongside the aforementioned books, providing a great new way to engage with these questions.

Unusually, Next Sunday is also a story about artists hurt by the church, but not beyond repair. Most discussions about artists and Christianity in the last few decades have been about artists who got ostracized because they wouldn’t follow formulas (Mark Heard), or became semi-outsiders (Rich Mullins). There have been a lot of great discussions and contributions by people burned by churches (or more broadly, evangelicalism), less about how to belong to churches while still navigating the messy past. Beach and Kiley present a bittersweet but redemptive image of being Christian artists who recognize what churches have done poorly without forsaking the assembly.

All told, a very compelling, well-told narrative about recognizing the American church’s past mistakes while seeing the potential good that the future can bring.

ASSESSMENT

Rating:

5 out of five stars.

Suggested Audience:

Christians interested in how to navigate generational changes within churches, and current concerns about gender roles, racism, sexuality, and power.

Christian Impact:

The authors exude a vision for church defined by love and wisdom, charity and discernment, mourning and hope.

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Next Sunday: An Honest Dialogue about the Future of the Church


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