What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why it Matters
by Gabe Lyons
February 26, 2009
Gabe Lyons co authored the book UnChristian with David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group. The book's candid review of how others perceive modern Christians led to interviews on CNN and reviews in publications like Time Magazine, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and WORLD Magazine. The primary premise of the book is that "many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders....[this] alters their willingness to commit their lives to Jesus." Based on quantitative research the book identifies the following six broad themes that define how non-believers view Christianity: hypocritical, too focused on converts, antihomosexual, sheltered and disconnected from culture, too political, and judgmental. Kinnaman and Lyons state, "Softening the gospel is an utterly wrong response to the objections that people raise," but they warned that, "theologically conservative people are increasingly seen as aloof....there is an undercurrent of arrogance that outsiders perceive." The book includes observations from a broad cross section of Christian leaders ranging from Chuck Colson, Andy Stanley, and John Stott to Rick Warren, Andy Crouch, and Jim Wallis.
Lyons also founded Fermi Project, a broad collective of innovators, social entrepreneurs and church leaders to work to positively impact culture and change this negative perception of the church. Lyons helped to found Catalyst, a national gathering of young Christian leaders and he served as vice president for John Maxwell's organization, INJOY.
"We Christians generally make two mistakes when we describe what non-Christians think about us. On one hand, we are so concerned that the non-Christian world sees Christians as relevant, cool, successful, that we play up the social side and downplay "embarrassing doctrines" (the exclusive nature of the Gospel, sin, Hell, etc.). On the other hand, many Christians believe that non-Christians are predisposed to hate everything that deals with Christ and despise Christians for their beliefs and their high moral standards. Lyons and Kinneman show us that both approaches are not only misperceptions on our part but cut right at the heart of what should be our essential message as followers of Jesus Christ. UnChristian is both sobering and motivating."
Dr. William Brown, President of Cedarville University
"Ouch! unChristian is painful to read. If Kinnaman and Lyons' research is correct (and it does resonate with things we personally hear all too often) it seems clear that we are flunking with regard to the command of 1 Peter 2:12 to live such beautiful (kalos) lives characterized by beautiful works that those without faith will be compelled to glorify God. We cannot avoid the offense of the cross or of the truth, but if by the Spirit we are being morphed into Jesus' image, it seems that people would be eager to invite us to their parties (Matthew 9:10; John 2) and to thrust their children into our arms (Mark 10:13) rather than rejecting us for our perceived hypocrisy, lack of authentic love, and perverted message besmirched by cultural and political add-ons. This book calls for nothing less than another Reformation . . . in Christ-like living."
Dr. William Rudd, Pastor of Calvary Church and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Cedarville University
Gabe Lyons is not interested in changing or restructuring Christianity in order to conform it to the culture; rather, he offers valuable insight into how best to reach the up and coming generation for Jesus Christ. The author states, "To engage nonChristians and point them to Jesus, we have to understand and approach them based on what they really think, not what we assume about them. We can't overcome their hostility by ignoring it."
The research is insightful and convicting for any believer who seeks to interact with the culture. Lyons and Kinnaman not only present the research, but also provide biblical insights into how believers can avoid falling into the type of behaviors that produce these perceptions. They also offered a new perception we should strive toward: "Christians are engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face." The book, UnChristian is a great tool for evangelism and offers keen insights on the current culture and the way we as Christians should live within it.
Tim Voltz, Senior Comprehensive Bible Major, Cedarville University