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?

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