Book Review: unChristian
I’ve been giving all of you bits and pieces of this book as I was reading it, so you can scroll down and get a few of the quotes from those days…just a little time-saver in what will already be a long blog.
Anyway, when I saw the book at the local bookstore I had to grab it. I mean, I’ve been fascinated by the interaction of generations ever since I got back into the church thing when I was a teenager. For some reason, a series of older guys took me under their wing during that time…Duffy, Big Dave, Mickey, Bob, Charles…all over a course of about 6 years, but the first four more or less were all working in tandem. Charles went solo the last three years. Anyway, while I had my small group of guys who were peers, that adult/teen interaction seemed a bit more growth-inducing. The reality that these older men took an interest and assisted in my spiritual development has influenced my thinking profoundly.
See, I’ve long thought that the generations need to blend on an organized, grand scale. The idea is that the younger ones would glean wisdom from the more experienced, and the older folks would gain enthusiasm and passion that tends to ride along with youth. I see pockets of it here and there, which is encouraging. For example, there is a group of women who’ve started meeting with some of our high school girls just to get to know them. We’ve had guys take other guys golfing or motorcycle riding or on canoe trips. Every adult who goes to Mexico on our mission trip loves it, primarily because of the interaction of generations. So, I see seeds of it.
In fact, that interest in growing those seeds was a large part of my shift in job responsibilities.
I went all that way to tell you why I couldn’t pass up the book…
…sorry about that.
Anyway, this book sets forth the premise that younger generations aren’t coming to church much anymore. And part of that is the responsibility of church to discover those areas where we’ve made mistakes as a Tribe. So, obviously, the book will focus on the negatives–but presumes some positives, too, which is healthy.
But thankfully, author David Kinnaman didn’t go the route of Georga Barna when he writes books based on his research studies. Barna gets discouraged about what he finds, in my opinion, and goes all Chicken Little on the Church and promotes a more radical response than his protege does here.
Sure, the numbers are discouraging. And there are a lot of them…but not nearly as many as in Barna’s books that can cause your eyes to roll back in your head with overkill. But it’s hard to argue with the author’s findings since the Barna Research Group is very well thought of (if not revered & studied by all poll taking entities) when it comes to methodology.
The findings were placed in six categories, each with a perception that the previous generation has about the Tribe, and follows with a goal to shoot for, or a new perception we should strive for. They are as follows:
Perception: Christians ay one thing but live something entirely different.
New Perception: Christians are transparent about their flaws and act first, talk second.
The strength of this chapter is that Kinnaman distinguishes between hypocrisy (blatantly professing what you don’t really believe) and failure in a moral area. But, he noticed, that hypocrisy is the buzzword that gets used and applied. Unfortunately, he points out that younger people are so jaded that they don’t even care anymore. They just move on when they hear of breaches in integrity these days. They aren’t shocked, but it still is their peception. The proposed solution is to let our actions speak, and be honest when we fail and say we’re sorry…corporately and individually.
Perception: Christians are insincere and concerned only with converting others.
New Perception: Christians cultivate relationships and environments where others can be completely transformed by God.
In other words, we need to realize that the terms we use (“lost”, “unsaved”) put unwanted & unwelcome targets on people’s backs. And the reality is that you can’t fake genuine interest in another person. We have to truly love people regardless of whether or not they ever accept Christ.
One item of particular interest: When a church sends a mailing or gives out Bibles or videos to people in the community, it often has an unintended negative effect. In other words, for every person that shows up to visit your church or responds positively, there will be 3 to 10 NEGATIVE responses or people who will decide to never visit that church (depending on the method/presentation, etc.)
Perception: Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians.
New Perception: Christians should show love to all people regardless of lifestyle.
In other words, Christians focus a lot of energy and effort in “fighting the gay agenda” and overlook so many of the other areas like gossip or anger or whatever else is listed in Scripture. What was interesting in this chapter is that most Christians admit there’s a “problem” in the way we address homosexuality, but less than 1% of believers pray for homosexuals or give financially to ministries that serve the homosexual community. We know there’s a problem, but we don’t really know what to do about it.
One contributing author, Chris Seay, said, “I find it ironic that so many are quick to point out the sin of homsexuality and its connection with AIDS but will gladly overlook the sin of obesity, which is directly linked to the disease of diabetes.”
Perception: Christians are boring, unintelligent, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality.
New Perception: Christains are engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face.
In other words, we need to move WAY past easy answers and bumper-sticker mentalities.
Perception: Christians are primarily motivated by a political agenda and promote right-wing politics.
New Perception: Christians are characterized by respecting people, thinking Biblically, and finding solutions to complex issues.
Basically, we need to break the association of Jesus to any political party or governmental agenda.
Perception: Christians are prideful and quick ot find fault in others.
New Perception: Christians show grace by finding the good news in others and seeing their potential to be Christ followers.
Big picture is that we need to relax on the “minors” (stuff like tattoos and hairstyles and pop culture choices) and focus on areas where the Bible speaks boldly and with authority. They know when the Tribe is making choices about stuff that isn’t really in the Bible anywhere, and will respect others more if they stick to the absolutes found in Scripture.
The solutions the author offers is best summed up by contributing author Jonalyn Fincher, when responding to what she’d like to see by 2030:
“Christians will be known not merely as engagers of culture, but as creators and builders of culture. We will not avoid or fear the marketplace of ideas, the museums of modern art, and the assemblies of diplomacy; we will enter them. Christians will cultivate an understanding of art, science, business, engineering, architecture, and medicine because we know that our work tells the world more of what God is like. When, any field wants a well-informed expert, Christians will be consulted, not as token evangelicals, not because we demanded representation, and not because we are nice, but because we are concerned with excellence.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
And, yes, David Kinnaman admits it will take time. His ideal would be around 2030…but we have to start working now. And, I”m thankful the author didn’t just all Chicken Little and suggest an entire re-working of church and a new way of doing business.
All he discussed was tweaking and focusing our energies on focusing on Christ and loving each other and the world around us. Really loving.
And it’s a choice.
So, a much better read than most…and I’ll lend it to anyone who wants to read it.