For the past two weeks I have attended a discussion on the book UnChristian by Dave Kinnamon and Gabe Lyon on Sunday mornings before worship service. It has been interesting to say the least. The class is lead by a friend of mine who is a couple of years younger than me and a bit more a part of the culture UnChristian focuses on. I am on the very edge of the group and well, I have never been a typical member of my generation anyway. The first week there were about 10 or 12 people in attendance. Last week there were about 25 or so. The discussion has gotten a LOT of people talking. One of our pastors has referred to the data in UnChristian a few times in sermons, but now we are really digging into it. So far we have just talked about the first two chapters which are basically an introduction to the book that discusses the findings in their general trends as well as the things that stuck out most.
Basically the basis of the book is that Christianity has an image problem. Those who are aged 16 – 29 years old (in 2007) said loud and clear that their perception of Christians held them as
OUT OF TOUCH with reality
INSENSITIVE to others
too focused on GETTING converts
Quite a few good points were brought up in the first meeting about factors that might contribute to these perceptions. Namely the age group itself, poor representation in media, broad base of knowledge that is wide but not deep, and the price of tea in China (insert sarcasm here). As I have subtly hinted, I started to get annoyed with where the discussion was going because I felt the group was looking everywhere but the mirror for the cause of the negative perceptions held by many of the body of Christ. So I very respectfully said so. What started to get under my skin was not the validity of the things others were bringing up, but rather the fact that for the most part as members of the body of Christ, we can’t do anything about those other things. What we can do, is start with ourselves. We can start with our very own life and do an honest reflection of whether these perceptions are true as we stand and face ourselves in the mirror of self-evaluation.
At first glance we might say to ourselves, “Self, you could use a haircut, but over all you’re lookin’ pretty good! High five!!” But if I lean in a bit closer to the looking glass, I might have to ask myself questions like ‘If a lesbian couple walked into my church showing outward affection for each other, would I turn them away, ignore them, or welcome them?’ and ‘When someone else tells me about their beliefs and understanding of God and all things holy am I concerned with learning about, and loving, the person to whom I am talking or am I more concerned with asserting my pride and making sure they understand I am right, and they are wrong?’ How about, ‘Do I focus more on what I stand against than what I stand for?’
Most of us can remember at least once in our lives when our parents or another adult in our lives said something along the lines of ‘If you would only listen I could help you.’ It seems to me that the tables have turned and the younger generations of America are saying the same thing to those who call themselves Christians.
Will we humble ourselves and listen?