Because I am increasingly wary of books that describe how bad things are in the American evangelical church, I was initially skeptical after being handed a copy of UnChristian. My growing dissatisfaction with these books comes from my concern that many of the authors have forgotten that in spite of her numerous warts, Christ loves his bride. In my opinion, it is time to move away from pointing out the issues of the church and move toward finding biblical solutions to those problems. Much to my surprise, I found that the authors of UnChristian worked hard to strike the appropriate balance between critique of the church and solutions for the church.
The basis of the author’s critique comes from extensive research done among older Mosaics, people born between 1984 and 2002, and among younger Busters, people born between 1965 and 1983.While some of the research was conducted among young adults who considered themselves “born again,” the majority was done with those considered by the authors to be “outsiders,” or people who are looking at the Christian faith from the outside. To this research, Dave Kinnaman brings his expertise as the president of the Barna Research Group; and Gabe Lyons brings his insights as the founder of a collective of leaders who are seeking to make a positive contribution to culture known as the Fermi Project (www.fermiproject.com).
The results of their research are not for the faint of heart, as the data reveals that young outsiders find much of the behavior of Christians to be, in their own minds, un-Christian. If the statistics hold true among the 24 million 16-29 year-old outsiders in America, then the Church has an image problem. The six issues that are given as the biggest stumbling blocks to young outsiders are that Christians are hypocrites, focused only on getting converts, anti-homosexual, too sheltered, too political, and too judgmental. This type of data leads Kinnaman and Lyons to conclude that as Christians we are “famous for what we oppose, rather than what we stand for.”
If UnChristian had ended with this negative critique, I would have been reluctant to recommend it. Thankfully, the authors balance the opinions of the young outsiders with their own ideas for improving the image of the Church. I found the strength of this book, and one of the main reasons I am recommending it be read, is that the authors allow dozens of other voices from evangelical America into this discussion, ranging from theologians like John Stott to pastors such as Shayne Wheeler, pastor of All Souls Fellowship PCA, from Emergent Church leaders such as Brian McLaren to cultural apologists like Charles Colson. Admittedly, I was at times frustrated by the suggestions of these men and women. However, for the most part, I found the essays at the end of the chapters to be not only worth considering but personally beneficial as I wrestle with the challenges the church faces as it tries to minister to the 24 million young outsiders in America.