This past weekend I was finally able to purchase a copy of a much anticipated and talked about book. And I am almost through reading it and want to recommend it to you as a tremendous resource book. The book is by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in association with George Barna and is titled, “unChristian” - What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters “ This groundbreaking research reveals that Christianity has an image problem and is disconnected from younger Americans 16-29.
According to this latest “report card”, Christian are failing to represent Christ to the world. Descriptions like “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental,” are the impression of many young Americans regarding Christians. Now, although the media seems to have played some role in the image Christians have in America, most people surveyed pointed, not to the media, but to personal interactions they had experienced from people who claim Christianity.
David Kinnaman described their book as an effort to:
"make sense of the complex and challenging project - both why the problems exist as well as what Christians ought to do in response to the information. We looked for the biblical space in order to respond to the sharpest criticism. Beyond simply reporting the problems that we discovered among a skeptical generation, my partner Gabe Lyons and I want the book to help Christians find a way forward, to read positive examples and find hope that their life can provide a clearer picture of Jesus to skeptical people around them."
So far I am finding interesting the similarities between the views of these young people and the feelings that Jesus expressed toward the condition of Judaism in his day as practiced by the religious establishment. When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was “Christianity is changed from what it used to be” and “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.” These comments were the most frequent unprompted images that young people called to mind, mentioned by one-quarter of both young non-Christians (23%) and “born again” Christians (22%).
The book reveals that the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a “bigger sin” than anything else. They also claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians. (Though it seems like the last sentence is ambiguous - “applying the biblical teaching on homosexuality” could mean a wide range of approaches, I’d guess.)
Now, to be sure, Kinnaman and Lyons do not suggest that Christians back away from Biblical truth in the way we respond to these impressions. They urge us, to see with clear eyes the culture to whom we are trying to reach. To be able to effectively communicate the gospel accordingly. (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
I hope that many Christians and even leaders in the Lord’s church don’t just respond to this study by being defensive or dismissive. We need to always be able to learn from critics, especially those young people who are expressing their frustrations about the state of faith in America. Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend ourselves and demand our rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth? Common ground is becoming more difficult to find between Christians and those outside the faith. When the Apostle Paul advises Christians to 'live wisely among those who are not Christians' and to 'let your conversation be gracious and effective,' (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) he could be writing no better advice to committed Christians in America.
So the bottom line is that I was optimistic coming in for this book and have yet to be disappointed. I’m hopeful that this book will be helpful and useful in my ministry in understanding and reaching this postmodern generation, which at 31, I am basically a part of. Friends, may the Lord help us to have a positive influence on those around us. I pray that God will help us blaze a trail for the truth of Christ, which really is indeed a truth of optimism and hope—the hope of heaven ultimately.
So, what do you think? How can we change and reverse this perception? How can we more effectively impact and reach this younger generation for Christ??
Humbly in Christ,