Monday, March 30, 2009

They Like Jesus, But Not the Church

I recently started reading a book titled They Like Jesus, but Not the Church by Dan Kimball. Kimball argues that during the last few years our world has changed: “we are living in an increasingly “post-Christian” culture.” By this he means that Christianity is no longer accepted as the normative world view. And his insight is confirmed by recent surveys that show an increasing number of people in our culture who do not claim any particular religious affiliation. In other words being a Christian is no longer considered normal in our culture as it might have been in a previous generation.

Kimball’s solution (that I agree with) is “we need to think like missionaries—that is, we must listen first because we are on their turf.” He argues that non-Christians today are open to Jesus. But, Kimball readily admits that the Jesus they are open toward is only half of Jesus, his love and wisdom side. Furthermore, Kimball suggests that Christians live in a kind of social bubble where our greatest concerns become making our lives more comfortable rather than caring for people outside the church. When Kimball found himself trapped in this bubble, he escaped by scheduling Wednesdays and Thursdays to work outside the church office, studying for his message in coffeehouses to be around people and engage them in conversation.

In the section I just finished reading Kimball introduces us to several of the people he has befriended and interviewed to give us “insights from emerging generations”. Their ages range from late teens to early thirties, and all have different backgrounds, education, and church experience. All of them are open to Jesus, but they do not attend any church.
Here are a few of their statements:

· “Jesus was a great teacher; a caregiver; a carpenter; a human being; approachable. He was the everyday man who lived among others and understood the trials and tribulations of what it takes to put food on the table….. Jesus had a lot of moral conviction about the goodness of human beings. Instead of seeing darkness in people, he saw goodness. Turn the other cheek; if your brother sins against you, forgive him. He believed in people” (Duggan, coffee shop manager, 30 years old).

· "Jesus is someone I really respect. His teachings hit you at a very personal level. Jesus is a man whose actions, story, and life are very powerful. He obviously had some sort of intense spiritual connection to God” (Erika, graduate student, 23 years old).

· "I hold Jesus to be a wise man. Jesus was inspirational and pure. He was a wonderful man with great lessons to teach about love, acceptance, and peace. Jesus was someone who lived out his message and wasn’t a hypocrite like many modern religious leaders. Jesus stood out among the others of his time” (Penny, advertising manager, 35 years old).

These are representative quotes from a whole variety of people that Kimball has visited with. Since his concern is especially for the emerging generation that’s where his quotes come from. Kimball organizes his book around what he calls

· They think the church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
· They think the church is judgmental and negative.
· They think the church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
· They think the church is homophobic.
· They think the church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
· They think the church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

That’s all I’ve read in the book so far, and I have my own ideas on how to answer these challenges, but how about you? How do you answer these questions?


Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with changing technology. A few short years ago Harvard undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, an internet social network. It’s one of our fastest growing cultural trends.

My kids were in on it, way before I was, and seemed to enjoy connecting up with their friends. Then, a year or so ago I was traveling on an airplane, and I picked up one of the airline magazines, you know the ones, filled with advertisements promoting high priced business products that can be bought at Walmart for a quarter of the price. One of the articles in the magazine was about the growing number of adults who are using Facebook. So, I decided to give it a try. At first, my intention was to connect up with some of my old high school and college buddies. But, I quickly discovered that there were friends of all ages who were “friends”, including young people in their twenties who were in the Eagle Grove church youth group when I was pastor back there. Now they are raising their own families, and I get to hear how they are doing and see pictures of their kids, something which is fun to do.

Since Facebook is becoming such a common technology it’s worth thinking about and evaluating. I had one Christian father who told me that “Facebook is evil.” I’m not sure what encounters he or his children had on Facebook to lead him to that conclusion. But, that’s a fairly radical over reaction.

On the other hand, there are components of any new communication technology that need to be evaluated from a Christian perspective.

Al Mohler is a seminary president and Facebook participant. He wrote the following provocative ideas:

Here are a few suggestions for safeguarding the social networking experience:

1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication. God made us to be social creatures that crave community. We cannot permit ourselves to substitute social networking for the harder work of building and maintaining personal relationships that are face to face.

2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking. These services can be seductive and time consuming. Social networking (and the Internet in general) can become obsessive and destructive of other relationships and higher priorities for the Christian.

3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness. There are plenty of young people (perhaps older persons now, too) who are ruining future job prospects and opportunities by social networking misbehavior. The cost to Christian witness is often far greater.

4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter). Parents should monitor, manage, supervise, and control the Internet access of their children and teens. Watch what your child posts and what their friends post.

5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any "friend" unknown to you. The social networking world can be a dangerous place, and parental protection here is vital.

6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology. Grandparents can enjoy keeping up with grandchildren and with friends and loved ones separated by distance or mobility.

7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.

8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.

After receiving several birthday greetings on Facebook I wrote in my “Status Box” that there is a form of community on Facebook. And I stand by that comment. As far as I’m concerned a birthday greeting on Facebook is just as nice as a card, and a whole lot cheaper J. But, I agree with Al Mohler that there are some necessary precautions when using Facebook, or any social networking site. So, my suggestion is: have fun with Facebook; use it to connect with people from your present life and previous life experiences, but make sure that you control the technology instead of the technology controlling you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sunrise in Florida

We might as well start off with something beautiful. This is sunrise in Florida, a place to relax, a place to reflect, a place to refresh. We had a big extended Hein family gathering there in December of 2008. This picture was taken by my brother Carl, since I was sleeping, but it's still beautiful!