What the Next Generation Thinks of the Church

Posted by Sam Hailes  ·  Be the first to comment

David Kinnaman’s ground breaking book, UnChristian, reveals an unsettling analysis of the views of young Americans. In the majority view, 16-29 year olds see Christians as hypocritical, anti-homosexual, and judgmental.

Seeing Ourselves As Others See Us

The results are disturbing to say the least. But the authors, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, are clear: if individual Christians and church leaders fail to understand the culture they’re seeking to reach, their overall effectiveness will be minimal.

Much of the book is alarming. Research showed that many young Americans see Christians as insincere, solely concerned with converting others. Worse, only one third of non-Christians (referred to as ‘outsiders’) believed that Christians genuinely care about them. Yet most Christians (64%) believed that outsiders would see their efforts as genuine.

This, the authors claim, must cause Christians to re-think both their motives and their methods. Their argument is simple: if Christians want to see progress they must be willing to alter their methods. Only in talking to them can Christians discover that what outsiders are hearing is different to what is intended.

Only Concerned With Being Good

The authors haven’t hidden from controversial elements of their faith. The chapter on how Christians are viewed as anti-homosexual is not a call to liberalism, but points out that Jesus was more likely to offend religious people rather than outsiders.

While some sections do not translate to the UK, most chapters ring true on this side of the Atlantic. Christian adults identified their number one priority as living a morally good life and not sinning. “Being good” was the primary way Christians defined themselves.  One quarter even admitted they served God out of “guilt and obligation rather than joy and gratitude.”

“Our passion for Jesus should result in God-honouring moral life-styles, not the other way around”. - from the book.

Yet outsiders view Christians as being over-obsessed with morality; so much so that rules are all that Christians seem to have on offer. The cart is being put before the horse.

Matching Methods With Purpose

Only one quarter of those surveyed said they were looking for a faith that connects them to God. But 71% of Christians cited their own decision to follow Christ as directly due to another individual’s personal evangelism. So when Christians put on big events or stop people in the street looking for a one-time conversation with no follow up, what messages will people hear?

David Kinnaman writes: “It pains me to discuss this research, because it is not flattering, yet we have to be realistic.”

“Older born-agains need to look more carefully at what Jesus teaches; that spiritual maturity is demonstrated in a life as an outcome of the condition of a person’s heart and soul - that behaviour follows belief. And younger born-again Christians need to take an honest assessment of their lives and realise that they are an increasingly poor witness of a life and mind transformed by their faith.”

Hear The Outsider - Listen To God

The book will not be without its critics. Ultimately, the question boils down to how much you're willing to let outsiders’ views on evangelism influence your own methods. If you think it’s possible to do this without compromising the gospel, you'll love this book. - Sam Hailes

8th November

November 8th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes

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