Have you ever been in a small church group setting and were confronted with the question, “what should we talk about?” It’s actually quite common. My group was hit with that question as we were in the process of transitioning from the Christmas season to the new series our church is doing in February. Everyone kicked around some ideas and some how we came to agreement on a study of a book called “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” by Dan Kimball. I really didn’t give much thought to the book until I went to the local Christian book store to buy a copy.
As soon as I saw the cover and read some of the endorsements, I thought to myself, “Here we go, another author who think he’s figured out a trendy way to “fix” the church.” I know you’re not supposed to do that with books, but with these reviews, I’m all about self-disclosure.
The basic premise of “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” is that the Christian church in America has lost touch with people who are a part of emerging generations (30 years old or younger). Kimball attributes this to the formation of a Christian bubble; a place where believers are to various degrees separating themselves from those outside of the church altogether. Believers in the bubble have become oblivious to their enclaves of media, clothing, friendships, and more that they’ve created for themselves, thus defeating the whole idea of the great commission. However, Kimball also points out that people outside of the church still have great interest in the person of Jesus Christ and there is still hope to connect.
As I worked my way through the book, I quickly developed an appreciation for what Kimball was trying to do. I’ve felt extremely frustrated over the last 2 years with how seemingly disengaged the church is with my generation (I’m a millennial). I know that for the most part, the church doesn’t intentionally ignore younger adults, but it doesn’t always intentionally pay attention to them either. Furthermore, I whole heartedly believe that an authentic relationship with Christ is the single most uplifting, encouraging, rewarding, and fulfilling thing a young person can have. I can personally attest to this. So it’s worth it for the church to change in that regard. Needless to say I was glad that someone was addressing a topic that I’ve been keenly aware of for quite sometime.
Throughout “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” Dan shares with readers about some of the sentiments the unchurched he interviewed for the book held about Christians and the church. If you read the book, you’ll actually see quotes scattered throughout that convey these beliefs. Many of the opinions and beliefs had been shaped by the media or the so-called “loud” Christians who stand on street corners barking verses at passing crowds. They included things like the church is homophobic, the church oppresses females or the church has a political agenda.
Dan Kimball does an excellent job of encouraging readers to be slow to dismiss what the non-believers are saying and instead, really make an effort to listen and respect where others are coming from. There were many points in the book where I felt, “Gee, that’s kind of a distorted viewpoint,” but it was someone’s viewpoint nonetheless. As Kimball points out several times, trust in a relationship is built from listening and appreciating where others are coming from even if you don’t agree with them. This introduces them to the character of Christ.
Now, I will say that I think Kimball could have done more to stress what I believe is an important point. Jesus Christ was viciously executed by? Yep, you guessed it, people. Jesus was betrayed and crucified by people who hated him. I am positive that there are people in the world who hate Jesus just as much as the people who nailed him to a cross. While it may be convenient to say that, in general, people in my generation are intrigued with the life of Christ, it would also be naive. While many are interested in Jesus, others do hate him.
So let me bring this all back home. My small group and I had a great time working through this book together. It generated a lot of good debate and discussion and really challenged us to go deeper and build on what each of us already knows about the nature of Christ. Personally, I think Dan Kimball’s book is a really thought-provoking read. To give him credit, there are no trendy gimmicks he suggests for fixing the church. Although I wish he had spent more time on how to actually go about engaging with non-believers, I still found the book to be extremely enlightening.With that being said, if you’re looking for a great book about the feelings emerging generations hold about the church, “They Like Jesus But Not The Church” would be an excellent book to read.
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