Tom Bazan's Reviews > They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations

They Like Jesus but Not the Church by Dan Kimball
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Jun 16, 2011

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The book has three parts: (1) "Why Emerging Generations are Changing;" (2) "What Emerging Generations Think About the Church;" and (3) "How the Church Can Respond."

He makes some good points about the changing culture. One of the premises of the book is that we live in a "post-Christian" culture. Although it might have been safe to assume that everyone--regardless of whether a person was a Christian, went to church, or had ever been to church--knew the basic ideas of Christianity, sin, etc., that is no longer the case. We are now foreigners in our culture. And, there are a lot of (mis)perceptions about Christianity in that culture. He points out that many (if not most) of those perceptions are based on few interactions, few relationships. Rather, they are based on something larger and more abstract, maybe television commentators or movie characters. Regardless, Christianity is becoming less and less mainstream. And, he argues, Christians are doing little to stop this. The "Christian bubble" essentially takes people from society and puts them into a subculture that wants nothing to do with the larger culture. Instead, he argues, the Church needs to go out and be a part of the greater culture. Bring the Gospel to people, rather than expecting the culture to come to church.

As a means of how churches can do this, he gives six negative things that "emerging generations" (people in their teens and twenties, mainly) think about the church. He claims that the people he interviewed for the book (upon which the six things are based) "like" Jesus but don't really like the church. He says that if the Church (or churches) could work on some of these things, then it might be more attractive to people outside of it. He says--later in the book--that the Christian subculture is a stumbling block (just like the cross is a stumbling block) to people even hearing the Gospel message. Yes, sin is a stumbling block; but the perception of Christianity is preventing people from hearing about sin, he argues.

The six negatives are:
(1) The church is an "organized religion" with a political agenda
(2) The church is judgmental and negative
(3) The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
(4) The church is homophobic
(5) The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
(6) The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

Kimball, in response to these claims, tries to say that the Church should hold to what it believes--to hold to fundamentals (and other beliefs)--but might want to consider changing the way it projects those beliefs. The way that churches come across to visitors and outsiders could change some of these perceptions, he argues (even though the perceptions are mostly based on few--or no--interactions with Christians). In his defense, most of the suggestions that Kimball makes are good ones. Churches should watch how they are perceived, if for no other reason than because some of those perceptions might be true. Now he does say that churches should not change what they do based on what people outside of the church wish a church would be--and that needs to be echoed, because if they Church does not have something different, it is going to blend in and be irrelevant--but that doesn't mean that there is nothing that churches can do.

The biggest point I got from the book is similar to the purpose of Hybels' Just Walk Across the Room (and I know I'm using quite a few references to his books, even though I've only read two). Kimball was able to change some people's perceptions of the church because he interacted with them--built relationships with them. That is what I get from the book. We need to not stay inside our "holy huddle." Get outside of the building--the church is the people. And, the Church needs to train people for that purpose. Give people opportunities to learn, lead, and build each other up. That type of community will be something that people will go out and invite people to. And people will be attracted to it.

The book, he notes at the end, is not about getting better music or preaching or programs, but about having (and developing) a missional heart. We are all missionaries. A missionary doesn't just go into a foreign culture and not adapt to the local languages, practices, etc. Why, then, do we expect that we can be foreigners here and still be useful? That, I think, is his point.

Kimball's I Like Jesus But Not the Church (a pro-church book) is the companion to They Like Jesus . . ., but with answers to many of the questions he raises here. It is a book for those grappling from outside the church.

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