When I was in Gosselink’s Christian Bookstore in Pella a few weeks ago with my intern, Tim, I noticed this book and the title caught my eye so I decided to purchase it after looking it over.
A few days after that, with this book still on my bookshelf unopened Brandon Barker highly encouraged those who attended the September M.A.N.Y. (Metro Area Network of Youthworkers) meeting to read it. He also plugged it on his blog.
So I finally started to read UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters by David Kinnaman of the Barna Research Group and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project. This book was the result of a study of older Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) and younger Busters (born between 1965 and 1983) so they surveyed primarily 16 to 29-year-olds outside the Christian faith. This being so they have applied the label “outsiders to this particular group. This group represents 40% of an age group that consists of 24 million people in the United States.
Kinnaman and Lyons said that their research of this group shows:
“That many outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders. They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.”
This is in stark contrast to the esteem that the early followers of Christ had when God was adding to the Church’s number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47). The first line of the book proclaims that, “Christianity has an image problem.” They further explain.
“Often outsiders’ perceptions of Christianity reflect a church infatuated with itself. We discovered that many Christians have lost their heart for those outside the faith. The negative perceptions are not just ‘images’ conjured up to debase Christianity.”
When we lose our heart for those outside we no longer seek to engage. We don’t show compassion. We become “cactus Christians” or as Jesus would say, “we lost our saltiness”, (Matthew 5:13). The issues are complex with this group and the authors go on to say that it isn’t always our (Christians) fault… we cannot, however, ignore our part of the problem.
“We are not responsible for outsiders’ decisions, but we are accountable when our actions and attitudes misrepresenting a holy, just and loving God – have pushed outsiders away…. the title reflects outsiders’ most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity is our society is not what it was meant to be.”
Kinnaman and Lyons state that in order to engage nonChristians and point them to Jesus, we have to seek understanding and engage them based on what they really think not our assumptions about them. Ignoring their perceptions will not help to overcome their hostility. “We need to understand their unvarnished views of us.”
They also share what, as Christians, our task should be.
“Our task is to be effective agents of spiritual transformation in people’s lives, whatever that may cost in time, comfort, or image. Yet we have to realize that if the enormous number of Christians in this country has not achieved the level of positive influence hoped for, it’s not the fault of a skeptical culture.”
They also shared that UnChristian is “designed to be a mirror for you to see yourself and your faith reflected more clearly.” Are we ready for what we see?
I want to encourage those of you who read this post and the ones to follow to comment and engage in a conversation with me regarding the implications of this book for the Church and its approach to evangelism. Some questions that I have that I’d love comments on are:
If you are one of those that Kinnaman and Lyons would describe as “outsiders” how do you feel about this label?
What is your perception of the Church and Christians?
If you are a Christian, how is your heart toward people outside of the Church? How is your local church’s heart toward those who don’t know Christ?
General comments are always welcome as well!
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