I have inhaled many books on church, ministry, and engaging culture with the Gospel over the last ten years and even posted early in this blog’s “life” about books that shape my ministry ethos.
But I have to say that David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons’ book unChristian about what a generation (ages 16-29) really think about Christianity and the church.
I tell you that even as I wrap this book up, I have never been more shaken after reading a book than this one. I am wrestling with what a church would look like that ministered to the “outsiders” that the book describes. The overall perceptions of these outsiders according to the research are startling. The perceptions they hold are that:
- Too focused on getting converts
- Too political
The authors then devote a chapter to each charge and end the chapter with insights and observations from Christians from various walks of life including the likes of Mark Batterson, Andy Stanly, Brian Maclaren and Chuck Colson.
We have a very big problem with how we are perceived by the next generation. I had to remind myself, as the authors did on numerous occasions, that there will always be tensions when the kingdom of God and a biblical worldview collide with culture.
But we don’t have to be bungholes as we are sharing our faith. I plan to focus over the next few days on some of the charges levied against Christianity (but interestingly, not Jesus).
“Too focused on getting converts” (pp. 67-90)
The chapter that is still kicking me in the behind is the chapter on the church’s concern with making converts.
I have intentionally used terms in this post that only add to the problem. Can I just add that Jesus did not call His disciples to “share their faith.” I am convinced that we Christians have forgotten that Jesus called us to be His witnesses for Him (Acts 1:8). The Greek word used for witnesses is martu. Sound familiar? The word martyr comes from the same.
We are living witnesses who give our lives metaphorically and literally if necessary to incarnate the Good News of Jesus.
This is not to diss gospel tracts because God has certainly used those to bring people to Himself.
But by and large, God has always worked through PEOPLE sharing their Jesus-saturated lives oozing the grace and truth that embody the Son of God.
Why do these outsiders feel like we’re more concerned with getting converts?
Perhaps because we are disconnected from their lives and only hit them up to “score” a salvation for the kingdom and then walk away from that babe in the faith.
How many spiritual motherless and fatherless children are floundering and walking away from the faith because we are doing a half-behind job discipling and sharing our LIVES, not just a four-point plan to salvation that speaks louder than your so-called Christian witness?
Kinnaman and Lyons lay it out clearly for the reader: “Intentionally or not, we promote the idea to outsiders that being a Christ follower is primarily about the mere choice to convert. We do not portray it as an all-out, into-the-kingdom enlistment that dramatically influences all aspects of life” (79).
I need to re-read that last sentence because I want to be a witness worth listening to and watching for the nonbeliever.
People need to see Jesus in us the same way the people saw Jesus in their time. How do we expect to help people connect with God if we are not willing to connect with them? We must share our lives like good “martyrs” and be about making disciples, not Powerpoint slides we hope will fulfill our responsibility as Christians.
I leave you with words of Andy Stanley, whose suggestions I take to heart on this matter:
“…we have put the cart before the horse. We have communicated that we want people to believe something that is critical to their lives before they know us, have experienced us, or have received anything from us…and before we know them. If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with nonbelievers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted. Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel” (88).
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