The Next Christians is a book that church leaders and teachers ought to read. Whether or not you share Gabe Lyons’ cultural analysis and optimism regarding the future of Christianity, this book will help you understand what is happening, especially among the rising generation. According to Lyons, while the younger generation has been going through a time of disenchantment with the church and not without some valid reasons, he believes that change is taking place. Lyons said, “I believe this present moment is unlike any other time in history. Its uniqueness demands an original response. If we fail to offer a different way forward, we risk losing entire generations to apathy and cynicism. Our friends will continue to drift away, meeting their need for spiritual transcendence through other forms of worship and communities that may be less true but more authentic and appealing.”
Summarizing several studies on this young adult generation, 51% said they left their childhood religion because their spiritual needs were not being met. Therefore as Lyons says, “today there are 31% less young people among the regular churchgoers than in 1970’s.” Add to that the apparent reality that “many churches are increasingly exhibiting less and less real influence in the communities where they are located.” The young people have realized this and at the same time have a desire to make a difference and turn things around. The book highlights a variety of insights and thoughts along these lines.
The next Christians want more from their religion and to be a part of something that makes a difference. Speaking of the younger generation, Lyons says, “They desperately want the world to know the story of Jesus and the power of our faith. It starts with rediscovering the full story of the Gospel which leads them to recalibrate their conscience to allow them to be in the world which forces them to rethink their commitment to one another and their neighbors, which inspires them to reimagine a renaissance of creativity, beauty, and art that the world hasn’t seen for centuries…thus redeploying the church where the world needs it most.”
The next Christians, according to Lyons, are being turned by a dumbed down, watered down Christianity. The entertainment and pizza party models which characterize so much of the church’s methodology do not cut it with the next Christians. They want to know the faith, be challenged by their faith to get involved, pay the price, and make a difference in the world. One of the encouraging things is these emerging adults have a propensity for a world and life view and what I would call a kingdom perspective regarding their faith.
Lyons summarizes: “Put simply, the next Christians recognize their responsibility not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God. This is manifesting itself with an intentional countercultural approach to life in place of emphasizing relevance. This does not mean that the next Christians will remove themselves from the culture such as the separatist approach would do, but to be in the world to make a difference.”
The book’s analysis of the weakness and failure of the pop cultural movement which has been so present among many of the younger members and their churches causing many to fall into the social fads trap will not reach the next Christians. This means that trying to reach the world by the ways of the world will disappoint and cause disillusionment, as it has already done. Having the goal of relevance will backfire because of its “faddish” emphasis.
Lyons believes, based on his analysis and observation, the next Christians will make a difference because their church leaders will disciple their people to become more like Christ and to carry out their mission in the place God has called them to be. While I may not yet be quite as optimistic as Lyons, he certainly makes his point that people are coming alive within the church setting and not settling for the same ole same ole religion.
I challenge you to read this book. It is a power packed easy read. I assure you it will give you hope and optimism about the church and the kingdom of God.