Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm finally getting around to reading David Kinnaman's book UnChristian. I bought it right after it came out, and then it joined the list of books to read at a later date. For those of you who may not know about this book, Kinnaman is a researcher who works with the Barna Group. This book is the result of research he did into the perceptions of 16-29 year olds on Christianity and the church. As someone who has worked with this age for the last few years, I'm finding the book to be an affirmation of so many of the things I have seen and heard in young people both inside and outside the church. So here's the plan - Kinnaman says that in his research there were basically six broad themes that continued to surface from people. Over the next week or two (depending on how long it takes) I plan on spending a little bit of time on each of those six themes. I'll review a bit of what he says, and try and give my own take on my own experience and perceptions. So anyway, here goes.

The first theme that he touches on is the perception that Christians are hypocritical. By that, he means of course, that we are perceived as saying one thing and doing something different. With that, is the idea that Christians pretend to have it all together and in reality they are just as messed up as everyone else. And the evidence backs that up. In just about every lifestyle activity, Christians and non-Christians are nearly identical in their behavior according to the research. There's a serious problem here. Of course the lives of Christians probably ought to be a bit different than the rest of culture. But beyond that, I'm more concerned with the fact that while most of culture is pretty open about their behavior, Christians (generally speaking of course) pretend that they have squeaky clean lives. In a culture that values authenticity and transparency, a little bit of honesty could go a long way.

Here's a thought, what if we stopped pretending and starting owning up to our own junk? How huge could that be to people who want nothing to do with us because we look down at them for their behavior and in reality our lives are generally no better? What if the church was a place of open dialogue about our struggles and failures as we attempt to follow Jesus? Kinnaman gives the example of a friend who taught a five-week series in his church entitled "Confessions of a Sinful Church." What a great idea. It reminds me of what Donald Miller and his friends did in Blue Like Jazz. They dressed up like monks and set up a confession booth in the middle of their secular campus. But rather than people coming in to confess sin, it was Miller and his buddies who did the confessing for all of the junk that Christians and the church have done in the name of Jesus.

My own experience has echoed this research too. I can't tell you how many conversations I had with students for whom this issue was keeping them from embracing Jesus. They were afraid to become like the people they couldn't stand. Other students who were part of our church already would often confront me when they thought I wasn't being real with them. I couldn't get away with anything. When I had a bad week, I better not try and put on a face and talk about joy. They could see right through me. I appreciated that about them so much. I learned from them all the time about living an authentic life. They seemed to have no problem living authentically. In fact, sometimes I wished they would put on a face a bit. Their willingness to be so authentic often led to situations of brutal, blunt honesty. That's fine when it's just you and them talking, but it's a whole different thing when you're in a group setting with other adults who don't share their willingness to be so transparent. But I think these students got it. They refuse to carry on a version of Christianity that is fake or forced. It's also why I think there is great hope for the church in the future. There is a generation of Jesus' followers who are forging a new path. I pray that we learn from them and learn with them as we advance the kingdom.


Dude... I am on chapter 2. Just got it before I saw you on Saturday... Chapter 2 and yeah... it's hitting me hard. So far, I agree with EVERY word he has said. I already want to recommend this book to others. I'm glad your reading through it... I see some non-coffee conversations in the coming weeks.

For sure! It's a great read so far.

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