Saturday, October 20, 2007

When People Say No to Christianity

For some years I have spent considerable time looking at the culture and society around us. Occasionally I find a book of rare value to this study. The one I am suggesting to you today is just such a book. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in association with George Barna, have given us an eye-opening volume, worthy of reading more than once. The book is titled "UnChristian." That is what outsiders think of Christianity.

They perceive that Christians are hypocritical, too consumed with converting, too judgmental, sheltered, and anti-homosexual. Their perception comes from the baggage they carry after they had attended church for a while. They are skeptical and bored with Christianity. They believe that the Christianity they have seen is both shallow and unbelievable.

They regard Christianity as too much of an enterprise. Too many "feel good" things to make a lasting change in one's mindset and life. They have little regard for Christ when they make life-decisions, even though they believe religion (Christianity being just like all religions) has good teaching and values. There is much to learn from their perceptions, if we are intending to help them find a meaningful relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Any Boomer evangelist struggles with how to reach a postmodern generation (ages 16-29) that has a mindset far different from the one we learned. God no longer has a serious voice today, since many people are listening to their inner feelings as to what "feels right" to them.

One of the reasons logic doesn't work well today is that young adults are mosaic in their thinking rather than linear. The live in a contradictory world with multiple voices and feel the need to give attention to a bigger picture than mere Christianity.

The parable of the soils (Luke 8) has never been more true than it is today. For many the seed is already stolen. Others pass through Christianity till it demand something from them. Still others are too busy with life to give their faith the attention it deserves. They don't produce much.

I have taught the course in Church Growth at NSOP and will always be interested in the literature in this field. This book should be required reading.

Now, for the folks who have all the answers, help us all to discover how to approach the outsiders aged 16-29! If you have positive suggestions, please share them. If you are only wanting to slap the church, then re-write your post. I do not mind honest criticism, but I have little patience in people who only want to slap. The question is how to do we make things better. I have not seen any evidence at this point that imitating the enterprise denominations or community churches is working. Many of the back door outsiders went to churches like that.

let's think together,



Terry said...

I don't have all the answers, but I have learned a few things by my failures. I remember talking to a co-worker in her 30s a few years ago when the subject of faith in Christ came up. She stopped me immediately. "I don't want to hear how good your church is. Everybody thinks their church is the best," she said. I was a little shocked, because I had never heard that message before (and I had not even told her a thing about the church I was a part of at the time...she had no idea what my church affiliation was).
I learned that actions must back up our words. People are not interested in our message until they see strong, humble, compassionate Christians who will run to them when they are in trouble. We must be the people who call and visit our co-workers and neighbors when they face cancer. We must be the people who offer help when they are dealing with drug and alcohol addicitions. They may not be impressed with our Savior at first, but they will remember who was at their side when they were at their lowest points in life. They notice people who really care and who have the courage to get involved in the difficulties of their lives. Then, they become more interested in the One who motivates us to act, and we have an opportunity to tell them his message. At least, that has been my experience.
I apologize about how long this is, but I could not think of an easy and short way to answer.

Richard said...

I don't know any more answers than you do, I expect. One thing I do know is that they demand genuineness more than maybe previous generations have. They want to know that you actually care about them and following Christ. Sadly, though, their standards of what is required in these areas are often sporadic and not based on clear Scriptural standards.

Studies have shown that this generation is very interested in religion but not doctrine.

Thanks, Phil for the post.

Kent said...


While I rarely agree with you I appreciate your willingness to take on this subject because I think it is of utmost importance. The fact is that too often Satan gets us involved in discussions about doctrine (not saying they're not important because they are) that cause us to go around in circles while the world around us is hurting and dying and getting farther away from us. We in the church should make reaching the world our number one priority and as you suggest, the world is changing. I don't have the answers but I know that we can't keep doing what we're doing now but we have to do something. Listen, the gospel doesn't change. I am more progressive in my thinking than you but I believe that. However, the methods in which we present the gospel to the world have to change or else we are going to be too late. I will be interested in what comes out of this discussion. It is a discussion all of us in the church should be having together, no matter how far apart we are on other issues.


Anonymous said...

I read UnChristian just this past week and was really impressed with what I read. Some of the same ideas have been expressed in other books dealing with Postmodern thinking but this book was different. Most of those other books advocate softening of biblical doctrine (on homosexuality, for example) to be more appealing to outsiders but UnChristian does not advocate that approach.

In fact, I was so taken with the book that I did something I've never done in nearly 20 years of preaching. We had a song service tonight with a short message from me. I used the PowerPoint slides that can be downloaded from and just gave the congregation a brief overview of what the book contains.

Then, I told them I think this book is important enough that anyone who wants to learn how to reach their friends, coworkers, etc., with the gospel should read this book and that there was a signup sheet in the lobby. I just ordered a case (40 copies) of the books for $9 each plus shipping. Those who signed up gave me $10 for their copy. We had 30 people order a book and the other 10 copies will be gone quickly, I'm sure.

Michael Ray

Kathy said...

I attempted to comment earlier, but I'm not sure it went through, so I'll try it again. But if it did go through, just choose which of these you wish to post.

The other day I heard/read two people commenting on the problem stated above. They both seemed to think that when we show the power of God working in us by living the true Christian life, that would make a difference. One went on to add that churches today are often focused on proclaiming our weaknesses and the fact that we are all sinners in order to show relevance to the world. It is true we are all sinners and we do need to acknowledge that, but it doesn't go very far in proving the living God to a doubting generation. Proclaiming our victories and showing real transformed lives may be the better way.

Matthew said...

This is a great blog post. Some just rail against Post-M, but it is here and we must learn to deal with it in teaching the truth.

K. Rex Butts said...

I would agree that the general "community" church model is not a model for reaching the postmodern generation. In fact Professor Eddie Gibbs in his book "Church Next" suggest that we should be cautious in upholding the Community Church Movement as the missional model for church growth since this movement has yet to reverse the trend of secularization among culture.

The more I read scripture and reflect upon where culture is at, the more I am convinced that a much more primitive model is necessary. The model is Jesus! When we learn to build relationships, serve, accept people as they are but not leave them as they are, sacrifice self, embrace the marginalized as Jesus, love, etc... do all these things as Jesus did, then perhaps we might lead some into the redemptive kingdom life God has prepared for them. Yes, I know that we will all fail in some way at doing everything like Jesus. But when we make our business to be about reproducing the life of Jesus in our own lives, then we will see the kingdom growth we long for.

The things observed by outsiders are realities that are born because too many Christians, myself included, have mistaken following Jesus with following culture, following church, following religious social-club mentality, following politics, etc... You name it and it has been billed as being Christian when in fact it is very far from being Christ-ian. In a book I am reading by Eugene H. Peterson called "The Jesus Way," he suggests, refering to John 14.6, that Christian have adhered well to the "truth" of Jesus but failed miserably at adhering to the "way" of Jesus.

Reproducing the life of Jesus in our own lives... I am far from perfecting such task. However, when I have done better at it, it has worked to lead people into a redemptive relationship with God. It worked in Searcy, AR, Memphis, TN, and even in Ithaca, NY -- Three very different cultures. Amazing!

mtnman said...

Here's a disturbing story about moral complacency at a Christian university in Nashville:Belmont Story. This is really sad.