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Archive for the ‘UnChristian Book Summary’ Category

The last chapter of UnChristian: What the Next Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters is called “From UnChristian to Christian.”  Kinnaman and Lyons open the chapter by saying:

This book is just the beginning.  Now it’s your turn.

A young generation of outsiders is raising significant criticisms of the Christian faith and its people.  Knowing the problem and diagnosing the hostility are just the start.  How will we respond?  What will we do to address the unChristian perception of our faith?

The big idea for this chapter is, “to shift our reputation, Christ followers must learn to respond to people in the way Jesus did.”  He presents some insights on how we might go about this.

1. Respond With The Right Perspective

  • Jesus didn’t seem to be bothered by critics like we can be.  We are blessed when we face persecution.
  • Jesus wasn’t willing to be defined by His enemies.  He redefined the boundaries of the debate.
  • Jesus could distinguish between hostility and hurt.  He always addressed the core of people’s spiritual needs.

Like Jesus we have to learn to respond to criticism appropriately and with the proper motivation.  Negative responses should not debilitate us; nor should we shy away from tough decisions or unpopular positions.  But we should consider whether our response to cynics and opponents is motivated to defend God’s fame or our own image.

2. Connect With People

  • “Jesus laid the foundation for the church through relationships.  His influence was (and is) indelible because he changed people.  His focus was on reconciling human beings to a holy God through his sacrifice.”
  • “God has wired human beings so that spiritual influence occurs most commonly through relationships.”
  • “The goal of overcoming their negative baggage is not just to make outsiders think pleasant things about us, but to point them to life in Christ.”
  • “It is also important to remember that Jesus said we would be know by our love for fellow believers.”

Living life together, learning to become the people Christ intended, being real about our faults – and our continual need for Jesus’ grace – are powerful antidotes to unChristian faith among a new generation.

3. Be Creative

  • “Mosaics and Busters are practically begging for creative expressions of the gospel.  To connect with them, we have to find new stories, new parables, new ways of telling the timeless truths of the Bible’s message.  Using tired expressions and cliches make us seem not only old-fashioned but simpleminded.”
  • We can not make assumptions about people’s knowledge of the Bible and communicate in a way the can understand (drop “Christianese”).
  • We need to be engaged and winsome.
  • This generation is not interested in “the Bible says so” arguments – we need to find ways to share the Bible’s authority in faith and life in a way that will connect.

4. Serve People

  • We need to understand and emulate God’s heart for outsiders.
  • “We need to start trying to be agents of restoration through self-sacrifice and in blessing the lives of outsiders”

There is another reason that serving the poor, seeking justice, and addressing the needs of outsiders are important: Mosaics and Busters, perhaps as much as any American generation before them, need to experience faith that is expressed toward others.  They want to do more than learn about their faith; they want to live it.

5. A Lifestyle Of Compassion

The Church needs to regain and hold fast to principles found in Isaiah 58.

“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in, (Isaiah 58:1-12, ESV).

What are some of your ideas?  I’d love to hear from you!

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Judge not, that you be not judged,” (Matthew 7:1, ESV).

That seems to be a favorite Bible verse today.  I won’t get into the problem that is is often misapplied and ripped out of its context in this post.  The point is that things have changed and the Church is definitely perceived differently today than it was by a previous generation.

The Church is now seen as judgmental, and that is the topic of Chapter 8 of the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.   This is one of outsiders’ most significant concerns about Christianity – that Christians are judgmental.

Respondents to our surveys believe Christians are trying, consciously or not, to justify feelings of moral and spiritual superiority.  One outsider described it like this: “Christians like to hear themselves talk.  They are arrogant about their beliefs, but they never bother figuring out what other people actually think.  They don’t seem to be very compassionate, especially when they feel strongly about something.”

The authors define what being judgmental is in this way:

To be judgmental is to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized.  Some part of their potential to be a Christ followers is snuffed out.  Being judgmental is fueled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others.

The authors learned that 87% of young outsiders and 53% of young churchgoers believe that the label of judgmental accurately fits present-day Christianity.  Judgmental attitudes are difficult for Mosaics and Busters for a couple of reasons according to the authors.

  1. They are insightful people’s motives.
  2. They are increasingly resistant to simplistic, black-and-white views of the world.

Pointing people to Jesus is not achieved by being popular.  The outrage of outsiders does not change or diminish God’s expectations.  People still have to answer to a holy judge.

Yet an entire generation of those inside and outside the church are questioning our motives as Christians.  They believe we are more interested in proving we are right than that God is right.  They say Christians are more focused on condemning people than helping people become more like Jesus.  Could this be telling us we have lost something in the way we articulate and describe God’s expectations?  Are we more concerned with the unrighteousness of others than our own self-righteousness, (emphasis mine)?

The authors point out that followers of Christ need to understand the distinction between condemning people and helping them become soft-hearted – “aware of, and sensitized to God’s standards.”  Often times when we point out sin in others we fail to do anything for the people affected by that sin.  “The perception is that Christians are know more for talking about issues than doing anything about them.”

If we cross the line and judge people to make ourselves feel better, we are just as sinful as those whose actions and attitudes we condemn.  Being judgmental pushes people away from God’s purposes, and people become repulsed by an image of Jesus that is not at all like the real thing.  When Christians are judgmental, when we are arrogant and quick to find fault, we are unChristian.

Those surveyed highlighted four forms of judgmental attitudes:

  1. Wrong Verdict: “The first error that Christians make is coming to the wrong conclusion.  God’s judgments are perfect; ours are not.”
  2. Wrong Timing: “We sometimes have the right idea about God’s views, but we describe that verdict in the wrong context or at the wrong time.”
  3. Wrong Motivation: “We may have the right verdict but give it with the wrong motivation.  Scripture is clear that we should be motivated by love.”
  4. Playing Favorites: Being judgmental in reverse.  “It is human nature to show partiality, but favoritism affects the relationships of Christians in unfortunate ways.”

Jesus gives a clear example of pursuing people, of accepting people at face value.  Often he scandalized others by hanging out with the least desirable people in the culture, and his teachings is unambiguous: do not judge others or you’ll face the same yardstick; remove the log from your eye before pulling a splinter from your friend’s eye; and you do not have the right to condemn others, unless you are sinless (see Matthew 7:1-5).  How have Christians gotten so far from this?

Pride.  It is the fuel behind judgmental attitudes.  “Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today,” writes Kinnaman.  We have forgotten that God says that he “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6, NIV).

God is the righteous judge.  We are not.  We are not qualified.  He alone does it impartially.  He alone is perfect.   We need to remember the grace that He has shown us.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance, (Romans 2:1-4, ESV – empahsis mine)?

We need to consider how we can build mutual esteem, and some guidelines that outsiders gave:

  1. Listen to me.
  2. Don’t label me.
  3. Don’t be so smart.
  4. Put yourself in my place.
  5. Be genuine.
  6. Be my friend with no other motives.

Build mutual esteem, show respect, exercise humility, and let’s not just talk but let us serve outsiders.  We also need to remember that we all are in need of God’s grace.

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