The last chapter of UnChristian: What the Next Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters is called “From UnChristian to Christian.” Kinnaman and Lyons open the chapter by saying:
This book is just the beginning. Now it’s your turn.
A young generation of outsiders is raising significant criticisms of the Christian faith and its people. Knowing the problem and diagnosing the hostility are just the start. How will we respond? What will we do to address the unChristian perception of our faith?
The big idea for this chapter is, “to shift our reputation, Christ followers must learn to respond to people in the way Jesus did.” He presents some insights on how we might go about this.
1. Respond With The Right Perspective
Jesus didn’t seem to be bothered by critics like we can be. We are blessed when we face persecution.
Jesus wasn’t willing to be defined by His enemies. He redefined the boundaries of the debate.
Jesus could distinguish between hostility and hurt. He always addressed the core of people’s spiritual needs.
Like Jesus we have to learn to respond to criticism appropriately and with the proper motivation. Negative responses should not debilitate us; nor should we shy away from tough decisions or unpopular positions. But we should consider whether our response to cynics and opponents is motivated to defend God’s fame or our own image.
2. Connect With People
“Jesus laid the foundation for the church through relationships. His influence was (and is) indelible because he changed people. His focus was on reconciling human beings to a holy God through his sacrifice.”
“God has wired human beings so that spiritual influence occurs most commonly through relationships.”
“The goal of overcoming their negative baggage is not just to make outsiders think pleasant things about us, but to point them to life in Christ.”
“It is also important to remember that Jesus said we would be know by our love for fellow believers.”
Living life together, learning to become the people Christ intended, being real about our faults – and our continual need for Jesus’ grace – are powerful antidotes to unChristian faith among a new generation.
3. Be Creative
“Mosaics and Busters are practically begging for creative expressions of the gospel. To connect with them, we have to find new stories, new parables, new ways of telling the timeless truths of the Bible’s message. Using tired expressions and cliches make us seem not only old-fashioned but simpleminded.”
We can not make assumptions about people’s knowledge of the Bible and communicate in a way the can understand (drop “Christianese”).
We need to be engaged and winsome.
This generation is not interested in “the Bible says so” arguments – we need to find ways to share the Bible’s authority in faith and life in a way that will connect.
4. Serve People
We need to understand and emulate God’s heart for outsiders.
“We need to start trying to be agents of restoration through self-sacrifice and in blessing the lives of outsiders”
There is another reason that serving the poor, seeking justice, and addressing the needs of outsiders are important: Mosaics and Busters, perhaps as much as any American generation before them, need to experience faith that is expressed toward others. They want to do more than learn about their faith; they want to live it.
5. A Lifestyle Of Compassion
The Church needs to regain and hold fast to principles found in Isaiah 58.
“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in, (Isaiah 58:1-12, ESV).
What are some of your ideas? I’d love to hear from you!