Gabe Lyons is the author of two groundbreaking books that are challenging the way Christians think about their faith and the way it impacts society. The host of Q: Ideas for the common good the New York Based author is upbeat about a "great shift" currently underway in the church across the Western world.
1. You’ve said there is a “great shift” happening in the church. What is it?
One of the great reformations the church is undergoing right now is the shift from the person sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning receiving spiritual nourishment from the pastor to that pastor turning everybody outward saying what do the next six days look like? Where are you going to be? How can this church support you?
I wouldn’t say this is happening in mass yet but it needs to be because this is where things are headed.
2. How will this happen?
It’s very hard functionally for the church to actually do this.
It takes leadership and a pastor that’s not insecure about the importance of their role but is also able to elevate and affirm the role of other believers who are in different vocations to suggest they are possibly going to be able to have more influence for the gospel than the pastor will.
3. What is UnChristian about?
The book came out in 2007 and outlined the top six general perceptions that non Christians had about Christians, specifically in the 16-29 age group.
The research showed 91% believed Christians are anti-homosexual, 87% Christians are judgemental, 85% Christians are hypocritical, 75% Christians are too involved in politics 70% Christians are proselytizers only interested in getting people saved and not interested in authentic relationship and 78% that we were out of touch and sheltered.
It was like a mirror, holding it up and seeing ourselves for the first time in this light of a non believer.
4. What has been the reaction to that research?
Some people’s reaction to that was defensive, ‘that’s not me, I’m not living that way’. Others would be supportive of it and suggest Christians are supposed to be disliked in our society and we’re supposed to be hated. Jesus tells us we will be persecuted, we will be hated so we wear this as a badge of honour that people see us this way.
The group that probably most benefited from this were the majority who read the book and humbly said: ‘Maybe this isn’t exactly who I am, but I’m going to take this as a learning experience and ask God to convict me of where I’ve been wrong and where I’ve contributed to people thinking this is what Jesus is about.’
5. How can we change people’s perceptions of Christianity?
We’re not going to change these perceptions by making Christianity cool or hip or more accessible. The reasons these perceptions exist is because we’ve got the gospel wrong.
We’ve misjudged what Jesus came to do and we’ve actually become a religion and become self righteous.
This is what the Pharisees were 2000 years ago. You become self righteous, better than everyone else when you feel like you’ve got the answers to life and everybody else is wrong and they are the problem. You forget what mercy and grace felt like when you were first converted. That’s the biggest indictment.
When I read this research the easy thing to do is look at others and point fingers at the older generation. The reality is it’s all of our problem.
The sooner we root out this judgmental mentality we’ve carried with us, only then will we heal and start to become the people of God that I think Christ dreams of us being in our world today.
6. What is The Next Christians about?
The Next Christians pointed a new way forward. What does it mean to be faithful to the gospel but credible with our colleagues? What does it mean for us not just to be antagonistic to the world that we think has got things wrong and is in sin and become contributors to what that world ought to look like?
I lay out seven ways that I have found that are consistent among Christians who are trying to engage in a new way for a new time and are finding great traction in doing so.
The gospel is going forward by people realising the gospel wants to show up in the place where God has already gifted them, using the industry he’s put them in and letting them get creative with how transformation might take place.
7. Do you have any examples of this?
Catherine was a venture capitalist in New York, going out finding funds and giving them to entrepreneurs with great promise and who had all the talents and the works to create a great business.
She went to a prison as part of a ministry, in doing so she saw these men who were lonely and hollow, had no hope and lost a sense they could do anything good. She sensed a burden and brokenness. She realised this isn’t the way it ought to be and God cares about these people.
She took all the talent she had in understanding potential in an entrepreneur and said 'lets start doing a business plan competition in prison, lets get prisoners who are about to get released to go through a program that will help them know when they are released how they can start a business.'
She brings in the top business schools and top fortune 500 CEOs fly in and mentor these guys and girls. One of them wins a prize but all of them get the support of people and resources as they leave prison.
In the process, scores of people become Christians not because it was a “Christian” program but because it was a good program where she as a Christian was faithful.
8. What will the next Christians be like?
I can’t predict the future but I certainly hope the next Christians will be people who are a part of our society and a vital fabric of our world that’s making this world a better place.
A faith that 20 years from now will have credibility because it will have physical things happening because of it that will not be easily dismissed, things that are good for everybody, not just Christians.
9. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
The book that really transformed me 11 years ago was How Now Shall We Live? by Chuck Colson. It turned me on to thinking in a new way about my faith and how Christians were called to redeem entire cultures. It’s been the greatest influence on me.
10. What has God been teaching you recently?
God is constantly re-teaching me because I’m stubborn and it’s hard for me to learn. The lesson I’ve been learning is a constant reliance on him, and it’s not about what I do but who I am in Christ.
May 9th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes