One thing I like about my job is that, as a staff, we read books together and discuss them and learn from them together.
Right now we’re reading unChristian by David Kinnaman. This book is not for the faint of heart or slightly attention deficit. It’s a deep one. For one, it’s all about a research study. Be prepared to get hit over and over with hard facts and data. Personally, I love this book. I don’t love how it’s making me feel, but that’s ok–sometimes change and hard truths can be painful. No pain, no gain. Right?
It’s really going well with the theme of relationship advice that I feel I’ve had in abundance through the books I’m reading and studies I’m participating in. Might God be trying to tell me something?
David Kinnaman (with the Barna group) wrote this book to show Christians what non-Christians think of them. And, not in a stereotypical way for the most part, but a real impression formed from relationships with Christians and experiences in churches. He focuses on two age groups–the Mosaics (born from 1984-2002, I gen. behind me) and the Busters (born btw. 1965-1983, my gen.). The older generations are mentioned and included, but not focused on. This makes sense to me. Folks that age, especially ones that grew up around here, have a much more traditional view of church. They are going to go and “like it” because they were raised going to church and they can’t imagine their lives if they were not at least throwing attempts at church.
The first two chapters lay the ground work for the study. The whos the whats and the whys. I believe his main point is that we have strayed so far from what Jesus intended Christianity to be, that outsiders (his word, not mine) really view us as UN-Christian. This is sad. Heartbreaking, really. Here are the top words outsiders use to describe present-day Christianity: antihomosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), too involved in politics (75%), out of touch with reality (72%), insensitive to others (70%), boring (68%), not accepting of other faiths (64%), and confusing (61%). My FIL picked this book up off of my kitchen counter, saw those findings and threw the book down with a huff. “That’s what they’ve always said about us. I’m not surprised.” And I’m not surprised that they still are with that sort of attitude. This something’s-wrong-with-them-and-not-us attitude.
I love that the book delves into what shapes these views and what sort of changes can happen so that a shift can begin to happen. I’ve heard several smart people say, “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always gotten.” I don’t have any specific problem with any specific church. I understand that we are all on the same team. But, when I think that they may be perpetuating the struggles that outsiders are having with my faith, then my feathers get ruffled. I feel the need to throw a french fry at their foreheads. I’m sorry to say that there are still more churches than not who are catering to those who are already saved and WILL BE FINE on the other side of eternity because they are afraid to do something different. They continue on with their Sunday school, hymns and pot lucks because it’s comfortable and expected. If you have to spend a little to understand what will make that connection from someone who is far from Christ that will ultimately bring them steps closer to Him, then I think that is time well spent. I’m not saying that the church I work for has all the answers, I am just saying that we are spending the time and having the conversations and asking the hard questions. And, if we have to play music that they KNOW and can sing along with to get them to let down their guards and let Jesus begin to work on their heart–we are going to do that.
Believe it or not, the first 2 chapters were not my favorite. It got better for me. Each chapter following takes one of those negative perceptions and breaks it all the way down to personal stories, how we’ve set ourselves up as Christians to be perceived in this way, and a biblical perspective on what we can do to begin to change it. Stay tuned for much more of Mandi on her soapbox. As God fires me up, I’m throwing it out to you in hopes that it’ll be contagious. Chapter 3 – Hypocritical.