I would highly recommend Gabe Lyons' "The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith." I was fortunate enough to be provided a copy in a special pre-release directly from Random House for review purposes. You can purchase a hardback copy for under $14 at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nbsbnoss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=next+christians+&x=0&y=0) or directly from the publisher at http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780385529846.
My favorite chapter was titled, "Provoked, Not Offended" Lyons suggests, "When a community is provoked, they assume a proactive posture; when a community is offended, they assume a reactive posture" (Lyons, 75). He goes on to suggest, "In this context Jesus came and exposed the shortcomings of the Pharisees' response to the dirtiness and darkness of or world. Story after story in the Gospel accounts reveal God's heart for the lost, the down and out, for those who were 'dirty.' Jesus wasn't offended by their actions or broken lives; he was provoked to engage them. He sought them out to find a way to restore them both physically and spiritually" (77).
The bible reads, "And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, 'Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.' So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully" (Luke 19:5-6, ESV). Jesus even invited himself over to the house of a tax collector. A tax collector! Zacchaeus was a traitor to the Hebrew people. Not only did he side with the Empire - but he profited off the oppression of his own people. And yet, after a startling conversation, the Christ - the real King, announced that salvation had come to this house . . . even the most corrupt could be restored.
Church history is full of moments where disciples of Christ looked and acted nothing like him. We not only failed to do something right - we often were participants in doing wrong. The crusades. The inquisitions. Slave trades. Aparteid. The list goes on and on. And while so-called Christians were often instrumental in starting such injustices they were often influential in ending them. Individuals were compelled by God to do something. My question . . . why did it often take so long? Here is what often keeps me up at night: What injustices am I am missing? What injustices am I missing - and if not careful I will have to answer to my grandchildren one day? What people group needs the gospel more than any other? What can we do about it?
Two significant parties come to mind. First, there is the homosexual community. I am encouraged as I read books like Andrew Marin's "Love is an Orientation." Here is an example of an individual who is determined to show the love and loyalty of Christ to a group that few understand and even fewer care for. The gospel must be extended with truth and love - with words and actions. Second, there is the Muslim community. I am afraid that there are far too many Western Christians who are holding offenses against this group and therefore are not willing to start a conversation. Jesus healed a Centurion's son. He healed a soldier's ear. He forgave the very soldiers who shamefully, painfully, and publicly executed him. Why should it be any different than us? Loving our enemies includes those who wish us harm - especially those types of enemies.
The church is entering an era of diffuculity - but great opportunity. I pray that we will have courage and creativity as well as confidence and conviction. We have to find a way to meet people where they are at but love them enough to refuse to allow them to stay there. Lyons proposes, "Jesus is saying, 'Enough of what is; I see things in terms of how they ought to be, and I'm here to do something about it'" (204).
Official Book Description: Turn on a cable news show or pick up any news magazine, and you get the impression that Christian America is on its last leg. The once dominant faith is now facing rapidly declining church attendance, waning political influence, and an abysmal public perception. More than 76% of Americans self-identify as Christians, but many today are ashamed to carry the label. While many Christians are bemoaning their faith’s decline, Gabe Lyons is optimistic that Christianity’s best days are yet to come. In the wake of the stunning research from his bestselling book, unChristian, which revealed the growing disenchantment among young generations for Christians, Lyons has witnessed the beginnings of a new iteration of the faith. Marked by Lyons’ brutal honesty and unvarying generosity, Lyons exposes a whole movement of Christians—Evangelicals, Mainline, Protestants, Orthodox, Pentecostals, and others—who desire to be a force for restoration even as they proclaim the Christian Gospel. They want the label Christian to mean something good, intelligent, authentic, and beautiful.
The next generation of Christians, Lyons argues, embodies six revolutionary characteristics: “When Christians incorporate these characteristics throughout the fabric of their lives, a fresh, yet orthodox way of being Christian springs forth. The death of yesterday becomes the birth of a great tomorrow. The end of an era becomes a beautiful new beginning. In this way, the end of Christian America becomes good news for Christians.” In THE NEXT CHRISTIANS, Lyons disarms readers by speaking as a candid observer rather than cultural crusader. Where other people shout, Lyons speaks in a measured tone offering helpful analysis of our current reality while casting a vision for how to be a Christian in a world disenchanted with the faith. Both a celebration and a reckoning, THE NEXT CHRISTIANS combines current day models and relevant research with stories of a new generation of Christian leaders. If you are worried by what you see transpiring around you, this book will take you on a surprising social exploration in hopes that you too will restore confidence in your faith.
Juvenile Fiction - Religious - Christian - Fantasy
Fiction - Christian - General