June 22, 2017
UnChristian, written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, is based on research from an organization called the Barna Group. It is all about looking at Christianity from the outside – really what people who are not Christians think about Christians and Christianity. Needless to say, it is not a flattering picture.
This book is amazing because of all of the research that went into it and the clear message of realizing that what people think about “us” is super important. How can we expect to point people to Jesus, when “outsiders” have such a negative view of people who claim to follow Him?
I did not agree with many of the conclusions that the authors presented in the book. (I’m way too liberal and I read and interpret the Bible with that particular lens. I would put the authors in the “evangelical” camp of which I have no interest in belonging.) However, the research presented in the book kept me reading. Needless to say, it was poignant, telling, fascinating, and not at all flattering. Just a few key points:
We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for. Whoa – let that sink in for a minute. Christians aren’t known for their good deeds and loving attitude. The authors point out that we are known for being anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, not accepting of other faiths, etc. When I think of the message of Jesus (faith, love, acceptance, forgiveness) – we’ve clearly gone astray somewhere.
Hypocritical. Research shows that outsiders view Christians as saying one thing and doing another. (Good grief – think about the fight over healthcare going on even as I type this blog post. The “Christians” in Congress are dismantling healthcare for the poor – hardly what Jesus preached during his ministry.) It’s fascinating to note that young Christians are very concerned about using profanity (who cares, seriously?) but don’t blink an eye at cohabiting, gambling, and porn.
Christians are too concerned with converting people. This chapter really spoke to me. I grew up in an environment where it was always about getting people “saved.” Every youth group meeting revolved around inviting people to Church, because we had to get them saved, get them saved, get them saved. We were taught over and over again that fear of hell and damnation which included all kinds of stories of the friend who was in a horrible accident and died “unsaved” and, tsk tsk, now it’s too late because they are now burning in hell. (Yikes – yet another horror story from childhood. It’s a wonder I can sleep at night.) The author discusses the reality that people are interested in relationships – people come to know Jesus through one-on-one conversations, and not big “conversion” events. These big events cause negative perceptions from those outside the faith. The author also points out that Jesus did not offend people- rather, he offended religiously arrogant people. (Let that sink in for a minute.)
Christians are judgmental. This chapter blew me away because judgment is pretty much what kept me out of the Church for 15+ years and it’s also what angers me the most even as a current Churchgoer. What particularly irks me is the judgment I feel not from outsiders – but from those within the Church. If I feel constantly judged, how must outsiders feel?!? The author points out that we “often set ourselves up” as “spiritual judge and jury.” We “often miss the point of reflecting Jesus to outsiders because we are too busy catering to the expectations of other believers.”
It is really important to note that “the Bible makes it clear that God, not humans, should judge. It is God’s job, and he does it impartially while exposing the true motives of people’s hearts.”
If you choose to read only one Chapter in this book – read the chapter about being judgmental. People within and outside the Church all want love and acceptance. It’s time to quit judging each other (particularly those outside the Church as Paul was quick to point out in Corinthians). Knock it off – it makes people run screaming from the Church.
Although I did not agree on some conclusions presented by the author, particularly when it comes to what is sin and what is not sin (but that’s a much longer discussion!) – I really admire Mr. Kinnaman and Mr. Lyons’ research. The message is clear – if we wish to bring people to Jesus, we need to start listening to and loving people. Don’t concentrate on “getting people saved.” Concentrate on loving people, serving anyone and everyone, and avoiding judgment. Show people Jesus by living it.
1 John 4:12 (NRSV): No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Serve all with love.
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