Are you like me and you see the younger generations packing out coffee shops, bars, and clubs, but are absent from the church? What is causing this? Is it possible that the younger generation is "embarrassed" to be labeled or called a Christian in today's culture? It seems that Gabe Lyons thinks so. I read his previous book Unchristian and I recently received Lyons' new book The Next Christians: The Good News About The End of Christian America for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to review. This book provoked thought, stirred up emotion, and made me somewhat sad. The book provoked thinking, produced disagreements, but is one that I recommend.
Lyon's describes the "new Christians" as restores. This is the last part of the Gospel and the focus for this new generation. Unlike Unchristian, his previous book, this work is not based on statistics or a survey, rather it is mostly Lyons' opinions and thoughts from his personal opinions. Lyons believes that this next generation will restore today's culture by engaging the culture in social acts that stir better thoughts of Christians. Lyons proved that the younger generation of Christians do care about Christ and His causes and do want to engage the lost culture. They want to see things change for the better and want to be a part. For that I greatly rejoice! The new Christians he describes have characteristics that I do see in the younger generation. Lyons describes them as provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; and countercultural, not "relevant." Reading this, I was convicted about my own actions and what I am doing to engage and see Christ-like change in my culture. I even journaled my thoughts.
I did have a few concerns though. One big concern is the individualism that this new generation. Though church is mentioned and emphasized to a point, the emphasis on church is greatly diminished. Each chapter begins to sound a little bit the same: stories of individuals doing individual things. To me, Christ left Christians with the church to change the world...and it has worked. I pray that it continues and the younger generation find that they can do more together in a faith family (church) than they can individually. This individualism does reflect postmodernism in a negative way and how it is creeping into this younger generation of believers.
Secondly, there seems to be an equation of the Gospel with social justice. Lyons really seems to try hard to separate his thoughts of restoration from evangelism, but I am really not sure that is possible. Though he argues well, I do not believe you can truly have restoration without evangelism: the Good News. Instead, social justice takes the Gospel's place and the idea that if we do good works we are sharing the Gospel. The problem is, doing good works does not separate Christians from culture. I had many lost friends in high school that did more good than most Christians I know. The difference we share is the Good News of Jesus Christ that He did come to restore and that happens when we put our faith in Him as our Savior. I do believe though that social justice is a result of discipleship. As we do become more like Jesus we will participate in more social justice. The Gospel must be shared and showed. Both go hand in hand, as Lyons did point out, but still minimized. I have seen this in my own life.
Though I did have concerns, I really do suggest you read this in helping to understand the emerging Christian generation. Lyons is right in many ways and we as ministers of the Gospel can definitely learn some things from it. I did!
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