‘In the world, but not of the world’ is a phrase that has been bandied around for as long as I can remember. In ‘The Next Christians’ Gabe Lyons examines how this can actually be played out.
The Lyons Literature
In his first book ‘UnChristian’ Gabe Lyons examined why he felt embarrassed to be called a Christian. Far from being ashamed of the gospel, he was dismayed by the perception of Christianity as a subculture, and disappointed by the way he felt that Christianity has departed from Jesus’ intentions.
The Next Christians’ encourages readers by reporting on the positive new approaches taken by Christians; they are called ‘restorers’ because they seek not to be separated from the world, but to engage and restore the world, living as Jesus did.
The Lyons Philosophy
Lyons explains the seven main characteristics of a restorer - hopefully you will be able to see yourself in some of them:
First, restorers are ‘provoked’ by the darkness and brokenness they witness happening in the world around them. Rather than simply being offended by the negativity, a restorer moves to action in order to address issues practically.
Second, restorers are ‘creators’ not criticisers - they are about coming up with solutions and innovations rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Just as God is creator, He calls us to replicate his inventiveness and creativity.Third, restorers are ‘called’. Not conforming the traditional treadmill of life whereby one produces, consumes and is in employment purely out of a need for money to sustain oneself. With a more vocational focus, they are convicted of a calling by God to different work settings. To follow a ‘calling’ doesn’t mean necessarily to become a missionary or minister, but one can be called to accountancy, teaching, plumbing, engineering or other occupations.
Fourth, restorers are ‘grounded’ in Christ. Devotion to Christ, daily recognition of His sacrifice, and regular engagement with the Scriptures as the word of God applicable today are essential ways in which restorers are ‘grounded’.
Fifth, restorers are part of a ‘community’ spending time with friends, and investing time into relationships both with people who would call themselves Christians and those who wouldn’t. Let's be honest, individualism isn’t a great way to connect.
Sixth, restorers are ‘civil’. Being ‘civil’ entails engaging in meaningful conversations as a means of sharing one’s beliefs, rather than preaching hellfire and damnation on the street corner. In this way, the ‘Next Christians’ are normal participators in society, but have something really worth talking about: Jesus.Seventh (and finally), restorers are ‘countercultural’ - they are about replacing the negative perception of Christians as judgemental and hypocritical with the view of Christians as loving, genuine, accepting, forgiving, and full of integrity.
The Lyons Quality
It’s quite a comprehensive list, and explained in Gabe’s candid and honest style quickly appears to be an exciting manifesto for the new Christian life. Issues are addressed head on, but from a perspective of encouragement and opportunity rather than one of despair.
Though the author writes in the context of a post-Christian America and uses examples that resonate very well with Americans, the message is global. Certainly in any Western society, Lyons’ context is easy to relate to. After all, Jesus - our primary example for living - was not American, or even Western!
A book that doesn’t whinge about the problems with Christianity, but focuses on finding solutions that will change our lives and the public perception, it recognises that this work has already begun. Well worth a read for its insights, truths, and most of all, its applicability to our situations today
March 24th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Peter Harrison