Christianity is like… “The Titanic – a ship about to sink but unaware of its fate.”  “A powerful amplifier being undermined by poor wiring and weak speakers.”  “A pack of domesticated cats that look like they are thinking deep thoughts but are just waiting for their next meal.”  “An ostrich with its head in the sand.”  “A hobby that diverts people’s attention.”  Those are images shared by young outsiders in Chapter 6 of  UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Really Matters entitled “Sheltered”.

An idea that was commonly communicated to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (the authors) is that Christians are sheltered.  That perception was shared in a variety of ways:

  • “Christians are out-of-tune, this reputation of being sheltered gives the impression that we are antiquated.”
  • “Christianity seems dull, flat, and lifeless… lacking spiritual vitality and mystery.”
  • “Christianity insulates people from thinking… the perception is that Christians are not thinkers.”
  • “Christians live in their own world… we seem aloof and insulated.”

The authors find this conclusion surprising for several reasons:

  • “Jesus is the legitimate path to the dynamic spiritual world that exists beyond our five senses.”
  • “Christianity offers a sophisticated, livable response to the nature of the world and how we “work” as humans.”
  • “This is a relatively recent development in history… considering all of the contributions that Christians have made in the fields of education, government, literature, music, art, medicine, science, and social justice.”

There are several reasons why a “sheltered” faith is unappealing to Busters and Mosaics:

  • “Trained to believe they have control over just about everything and expecting to participate in reality, young people don’t resonate with a vision of cloistered Christianity.”
  • The “thrive on unexpected experiences and enjoy searching for new sources of input.  Their lives consist of an eclectic patchwork of diversity, perspectives, friendships and passions.”
  • Exposure and access to more philosophies and ideas about life which they can get at a faster pace than any other generation in history.
  • One of the most “protected” generations (car seats, air bags, etc.)… “Overprotection seems to fuel their willingness to defy the ‘safe life.'”
  • They resist simplistic answers to questions that they have.
  • They also believe that humans can not understand the spiritual world with its mystery and complexity.
  • Their perspectives about the world around them are complex, not neat and tidy.
  • They desire diversity.  They like spending time with people who don’t share “their take on life.”

Because of the intense challenges that Busters and Mosaics face, a sheltered faith seems out of touch.

  • They have grown up in a social setting more violent than their parents.
  • Family structures have changed dramatically.
  • More likely to have accessed pornography, engage in pre-marital sex, and to have had multiple sex partners.
  • Increased experience with substance abuse.
  • Profanity has become a normal part of self expression and conversation.
  • Nearly half say they are trying to find a few good friends even though relationships are central to this generation.
  • More likely to seek revenge or gossip than older adults.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds.

How to get past this perception?

  1. We need to engage young outsiders, and not shut them out when we see “moral compromises.”  God works best when lives are messy and out-of-whack..  We have to get beyond our Christian “bubble”.  That may mean less time in church activities (which are good) so we can spend more time with outsiders that we know.
  2. Accept responsibility – Jesus gave us a responsibility to engage our world, (Matthew 5:13-16; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).
  3. We can not be fearful and allow that fear to lead us to barricade ourselves against real and perceived threats.  Perfect love drives out fear, (1 John 4:18).
  4. We need not be offended.  Being offended is the wrong response to the challenges young outsiders face.  The authors ask, “How can we be offended when outsiders are living out their true nature?  Would we be that different if it were not for God’s grace?”
  5. We need to help the desperate.  “God wants to use us in the gritty and raw places of people’s lives, but our usefulness is hindered if we are more concerned about our protection from sin than the effects of sin in the lives of others.”
  6. Be prepared.  We need to continue with our own spiritual growth so we can be agents of transformation.
  7. Keep a balance – we need to have proximity without compromising purity, or as Jesus put it… we need to be in the world, but not of it, (John 17:14-18).

All in all, Christians can not have a fortress mentality with young outsiders.  We must engage, we must seek to understand, and we must help those in crisis.  The cross of Christ should compel us to engage.

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21 comments
  1. Actually, education is the number one force freeing “outsiders” from Christianity. If you want to get them to accept Christianity, you need to bombard them with false information and emotional appeals to their loneliness until they are confused enough that they will accept any (your) guidance.

  2. Actually, education is the number one force freeing “outsiders” from Christianity. If you want to get them to accept Christianity, you need to bombard them with false information and emotional appeals to their loneliness until they are confused enough that they will accept any (your) guidance.

  3. Actually, education is the number one force freeing “outsiders” from Christianity. If you want to get them to accept Christianity, you need to bombard them with false information and emotional appeals to their loneliness until they are confused enough that they will accept any (your) guidance.

  4. To those who read this blog. This is a common tactic of those who are secular progressives when trying to dispute the other sides argument.

    1. Question their intelligence.
    2. Belittle them.
    3. Call them liars.

    You can call them a few names for good measure. None of which constitute a good argument. Fortunately this is only the second person who has left a post like this on these series of blog posts. The posts on Chapters 1 and 4 also have a great example.

    Let’s forget the fact that this was a scientific survey done with a wide cross section of young outsiders to find out how they really feel about Christianity. It doesn’t paint Christians, evangelicals in particular, in a positive light. We don’t bombard with false information or emotional appeals, but rather we want to share hope, show love in practical ways and be a friend to those who are hurting.

  5. To those who read this blog. This is a common tactic of those who are secular progressives when trying to dispute the other sides argument.

    1. Question their intelligence.
    2. Belittle them.
    3. Call them liars.

    You can call them a few names for good measure. None of which constitute a good argument. Fortunately this is only the second person who has left a post like this on these series of blog posts. The posts on Chapters 1 and 4 also have a great example.

    Let’s forget the fact that this was a scientific survey done with a wide cross section of young outsiders to find out how they really feel about Christianity. It doesn’t paint Christians, evangelicals in particular, in a positive light. We don’t bombard with false information or emotional appeals, but rather we want to share hope, show love in practical ways and be a friend to those who are hurting.

  6. To those who read this blog. This is a common tactic of those who are secular progressives when trying to dispute the other sides argument.

    1. Question their intelligence.
    2. Belittle them.
    3. Call them liars.

    You can call them a few names for good measure. None of which constitute a good argument. Fortunately this is only the second person who has left a post like this on these series of blog posts. The posts on Chapters 1 and 4 also have a great example.

    Let’s forget the fact that this was a scientific survey done with a wide cross section of young outsiders to find out how they really feel about Christianity. It doesn’t paint Christians, evangelicals in particular, in a positive light. We don’t bombard with false information or emotional appeals, but rather we want to share hope, show love in practical ways and be a friend to those who are hurting.

  7. “God works best when lives are messy and out-of-whack.”

    Really, or is that in that condition we notice the reality of a God more? That above statement is false.

    “We have to get beyond our Christian “bubble”.”

    I agree – the faith in a ‘box’ thing is so over – I think many people realize this. We need to get into the places where people actually need the message of hope and life (or salvation) – and do some work there.

    “Jesus gave us a responsibility to engage our world”

    I would go one further – the church as a whole needs to learn what responsibility to one another means.

    “We can not be fearful and allow that fear to lead us to barricade ourselves against real and perceived threats”

    Fear is actually a good thing – in small doses – in huge doses it causes very strange behavior. But the fact is we cannot be controlled by fear – if we are – then we are basically not in control of our lives anymore.

    “The authors ask, “How can we be offended when outsiders are living out their true nature?”

    There is something seriously wrong with that sentence – Shane can you see it? That sentence alone – if said in the manner to anyone – would be offensive. It’s called divisive.

    “God wants to use us in the gritty and raw places of people’s lives”

    True – couldn’t agree more. It’s going to truly suck to see some of the harm people cause themselves – but they need direction and guidance – and we shouldn’t run because we ‘don’t know why’.

    “We need to continue with our own spiritual growth so we can be agents of transformation”

    Agreed – this is something that cannot stop either…if we become stagnant in our seeking of God – then we no longer will grow.

    “we need to have proximity without compromising purity”

    I agree – again depends how we define purity and what is pure. I drink, I smoke, and I swear yet I do not hurt people – that’s always the first of my concerns. To me those three things I mentioned are not ‘sins’ in that they don’t ruin others lives or relationships with people. To be honest, I have broken so many rules the church has held in sanctity – I am not sure those rules have any weight with me anymore – since I saw their hollowness (tested them). But maybe this is the real problem – those rules and how they hold us back from a world willing to talk.

  8. “God works best when lives are messy and out-of-whack.”

    Really, or is that in that condition we notice the reality of a God more? That above statement is false.

    “We have to get beyond our Christian “bubble”.”

    I agree – the faith in a ‘box’ thing is so over – I think many people realize this. We need to get into the places where people actually need the message of hope and life (or salvation) – and do some work there.

    “Jesus gave us a responsibility to engage our world”

    I would go one further – the church as a whole needs to learn what responsibility to one another means.

    “We can not be fearful and allow that fear to lead us to barricade ourselves against real and perceived threats”

    Fear is actually a good thing – in small doses – in huge doses it causes very strange behavior. But the fact is we cannot be controlled by fear – if we are – then we are basically not in control of our lives anymore.

    “The authors ask, “How can we be offended when outsiders are living out their true nature?”

    There is something seriously wrong with that sentence – Shane can you see it? That sentence alone – if said in the manner to anyone – would be offensive. It’s called divisive.

    “God wants to use us in the gritty and raw places of people’s lives”

    True – couldn’t agree more. It’s going to truly suck to see some of the harm people cause themselves – but they need direction and guidance – and we shouldn’t run because we ‘don’t know why’.

    “We need to continue with our own spiritual growth so we can be agents of transformation”

    Agreed – this is something that cannot stop either…if we become stagnant in our seeking of God – then we no longer will grow.

    “we need to have proximity without compromising purity”

    I agree – again depends how we define purity and what is pure. I drink, I smoke, and I swear yet I do not hurt people – that’s always the first of my concerns. To me those three things I mentioned are not ‘sins’ in that they don’t ruin others lives or relationships with people. To be honest, I have broken so many rules the church has held in sanctity – I am not sure those rules have any weight with me anymore – since I saw their hollowness (tested them). But maybe this is the real problem – those rules and how they hold us back from a world willing to talk.

  9. “God works best when lives are messy and out-of-whack.”

    Really, or is that in that condition we notice the reality of a God more? That above statement is false.

    “We have to get beyond our Christian “bubble”.”

    I agree – the faith in a ‘box’ thing is so over – I think many people realize this. We need to get into the places where people actually need the message of hope and life (or salvation) – and do some work there.

    “Jesus gave us a responsibility to engage our world”

    I would go one further – the church as a whole needs to learn what responsibility to one another means.

    “We can not be fearful and allow that fear to lead us to barricade ourselves against real and perceived threats”

    Fear is actually a good thing – in small doses – in huge doses it causes very strange behavior. But the fact is we cannot be controlled by fear – if we are – then we are basically not in control of our lives anymore.

    “The authors ask, “How can we be offended when outsiders are living out their true nature?”

    There is something seriously wrong with that sentence – Shane can you see it? That sentence alone – if said in the manner to anyone – would be offensive. It’s called divisive.

    “God wants to use us in the gritty and raw places of people’s lives”

    True – couldn’t agree more. It’s going to truly suck to see some of the harm people cause themselves – but they need direction and guidance – and we shouldn’t run because we ‘don’t know why’.

    “We need to continue with our own spiritual growth so we can be agents of transformation”

    Agreed – this is something that cannot stop either…if we become stagnant in our seeking of God – then we no longer will grow.

    “we need to have proximity without compromising purity”

    I agree – again depends how we define purity and what is pure. I drink, I smoke, and I swear yet I do not hurt people – that’s always the first of my concerns. To me those three things I mentioned are not ‘sins’ in that they don’t ruin others lives or relationships with people. To be honest, I have broken so many rules the church has held in sanctity – I am not sure those rules have any weight with me anymore – since I saw their hollowness (tested them). But maybe this is the real problem – those rules and how they hold us back from a world willing to talk.

  10. Society – I should have phrased that “God works best…” comment better. I agree with you. God can work in whatever situation we find ourselves in, but we are more in tune with him when we are going through painful circumstances.

    I think we are mostly in agreement with the exception of what is sin – I agree with you drinking is not a sin with this caveat – if you are of age and don’t get drunk, the Bible does speak against drunkness. The Bible doesn’t really say anything about smoking either, but one could look at that being a stewardship of their body issue. Which we are told in scripture that our we are not our own, we were bought with a price so we are to honor God with our bodies… but one should also look at diet and excercise. You don’t really hear too much about gluttony from pulpits, but we should, LOL.

    Regarding language James 3 (or 4?) talks about our tongue. We are also exhorted in scripture to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. Anyway, seeking purity is just desiring to be more like Christ and part of that is how we treat others too.

  11. Society – I should have phrased that “God works best…” comment better. I agree with you. God can work in whatever situation we find ourselves in, but we are more in tune with him when we are going through painful circumstances.

    I think we are mostly in agreement with the exception of what is sin – I agree with you drinking is not a sin with this caveat – if you are of age and don’t get drunk, the Bible does speak against drunkness. The Bible doesn’t really say anything about smoking either, but one could look at that being a stewardship of their body issue. Which we are told in scripture that our we are not our own, we were bought with a price so we are to honor God with our bodies… but one should also look at diet and excercise. You don’t really hear too much about gluttony from pulpits, but we should, LOL.

    Regarding language James 3 (or 4?) talks about our tongue. We are also exhorted in scripture to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. Anyway, seeking purity is just desiring to be more like Christ and part of that is how we treat others too.

  12. Society – I should have phrased that “God works best…” comment better. I agree with you. God can work in whatever situation we find ourselves in, but we are more in tune with him when we are going through painful circumstances.

    I think we are mostly in agreement with the exception of what is sin – I agree with you drinking is not a sin with this caveat – if you are of age and don’t get drunk, the Bible does speak against drunkness. The Bible doesn’t really say anything about smoking either, but one could look at that being a stewardship of their body issue. Which we are told in scripture that our we are not our own, we were bought with a price so we are to honor God with our bodies… but one should also look at diet and excercise. You don’t really hear too much about gluttony from pulpits, but we should, LOL.

    Regarding language James 3 (or 4?) talks about our tongue. We are also exhorted in scripture to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. Anyway, seeking purity is just desiring to be more like Christ and part of that is how we treat others too.

  13. That’s all too ticky tacky in my opinion…people will get drunk during a celebration, smoking is actually never mentioned biblically (stewardship of body thing is a stretch possibly), and maybe James makes some good points about unwholesome talk (agreed there). I really should watch my mouth – my humor is a little weird – but no one is offended by it.

    I think I might do a blog on this next – just to see how accpeted in a church community I would be.

  14. That’s all too ticky tacky in my opinion…people will get drunk during a celebration, smoking is actually never mentioned biblically (stewardship of body thing is a stretch possibly), and maybe James makes some good points about unwholesome talk (agreed there). I really should watch my mouth – my humor is a little weird – but no one is offended by it.

    I think I might do a blog on this next – just to see how accpeted in a church community I would be.

  15. That’s all too ticky tacky in my opinion…people will get drunk during a celebration, smoking is actually never mentioned biblically (stewardship of body thing is a stretch possibly), and maybe James makes some good points about unwholesome talk (agreed there). I really should watch my mouth – my humor is a little weird – but no one is offended by it.

    I think I might do a blog on this next – just to see how accpeted in a church community I would be.

  16. I think it all comes down to self control. I drink occassionally in certain circumstances, but somehow I manage not to get drunk ;). I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.

    I’ll check out your blog, it’s been awhile, I’m behind in my blog reading.

  17. I think it all comes down to self control. I drink occassionally in certain circumstances, but somehow I manage not to get drunk ;). I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.

    I’ll check out your blog, it’s been awhile, I’m behind in my blog reading.

  18. I think it all comes down to self control. I drink occassionally in certain circumstances, but somehow I manage not to get drunk ;). I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.

    I’ll check out your blog, it’s been awhile, I’m behind in my blog reading.

  19. “I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.” (Shane)

    Of this I am not sure – Jesus does turn water into wine in a wedding in Cana – for what reason – celebration. I am guessing a lot of people in that passage had a lot to drink and were enjoying the day (and yes I think they may have gotten drunk).

  20. “I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.” (Shane)

    Of this I am not sure – Jesus does turn water into wine in a wedding in Cana – for what reason – celebration. I am guessing a lot of people in that passage had a lot to drink and were enjoying the day (and yes I think they may have gotten drunk).

  21. “I don’t think celebrating gives one license to be drunk.” (Shane)

    Of this I am not sure – Jesus does turn water into wine in a wedding in Cana – for what reason – celebration. I am guessing a lot of people in that passage had a lot to drink and were enjoying the day (and yes I think they may have gotten drunk).

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