Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Review of “They Like Jesus Not the Church” by Dan Kimball

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I first heard about it when it came out in 2007. I wish I had read it then. It would have helped me a lot in the process of developing the vision for Agape Ann Arbor.

The book is well written. Dan’s style is easy to follow and the stories he chose are both compelling and relevant. Overall, I like the format too. He broke the book down into three sections. The first section sets the context of the book by describing the culture and lifestyle of young adults in the 21st century. Section two focuses on specific views that young adults have of the Christian church. The final section offers advice to churches and Christians based on what Dan has learned over his many years of ministry.

The first section does a very good job describing the situation of a young adult in the 21st century. It describes well the cultural phenomena that have shaped this generation and the behaviors that this generation has developed. The one thing that I struggled with in this section is the overall tone. I’m well aware of the statistics that highlight that phenomenal lack of church participation among the 20 – 35 age group. What I remain unconvinced of is the uniqueness of this phenomenon to this generation. It’s become commonplace to bemoan the lack of religiosity among the younger generation. The builders did regarding the boomers. The boomers did regarding GenX. Now the boomers and GenX do regarding the millennial generation. Yet, I haven’t been presented with evidence that religiosity among the 35 – 50 age group is dramatically less than that group was 10 or 20 years ago. In other words, people have and keep coming back to church.

With that said, I don’t think we should dismiss what Dan and other authors are saying about young adults. Young adults have and will always react to their parents culture. The flappers did in the 20s. The boomers did in the 60s. What we’re experiencing now is the second verse same as the first. Yet with every verse, we have to learn. We have to learn new ways to reach the people who are responding negatively to the way things are today. That is where this book and the others like it are so important.

The phenomenon we’re experiencing isn’t anything new, but we still have to respond to it and do something about it. If we don’t we may experience something new. This group of young adults may not follow the normal pattern and return to the church. Moreover, every person that has ever lived is important to God and as Christ-followers it is our job to point them to his love. With every generation we need to learn to speak a new language that will point them to God’s love.

That’s where the second and third sections of Dan’s book are so important. His experience has been confirmed by a great deal of research and my own anecdotal experience. If you take the time to read the book, I bet your experience will confirm it too. Section two puts words to what we’re experiencing. Dan makes it concrete so we can address it. He provides the opportunity for all of us to open our eyes and understand “these kids” so we can communicate God’s love to them. Finally, he provides some advice on what to do about it.

I highly recommend Dan Kimball’s They Love Jesus but not the Church. Anyone who seriously wants to see God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven needs to read this book and consider seriously what they are going to do about what they learn.

Not Like Me (Blog Tour with author Eric Bryant)

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

We live in a diverse world filled with unprecedented opportunity. There is a call to move past the barriers that stand between us and those who may be different. Eric Michael Bryant has seen tolerance shown to those who are different than us — racially, religiously, sexually, politically, economically — and believes there must be more. After all, Jesus didn’t just tolerate people; he embraced them all with love.

Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse World helps people of faith effectively love, serve, and reach people overlooked by the church.

Using lighthearted humor, engaging personal stories, and a “party theology,” Bryant shows us how to love our neighbors and fulfill the vision Jesus had for the church from the beginning.
Whether that is through building relationships with the help of bounce houses, stand up comedy, or piñatas, followers of Christ will be inspired to actively engage the world around them.

Monkey and the Fish

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Dave Gibbons’ “Monkey and the Fish” is both thought-provoking and inspiring. In it Gibbons presents a new metaphor for ministry. He focuses on the concept of third-culture. Third-culture is a phenomenon that is noticed in the children of missionaries and military families that live in different countries. To survive and thrive in the new culture these children learn to adapt to different cultures by assimilating into the new culture without rejecting their original culture. Such children tend to adapt and thrive easily in differing contexts because of this third-culture ability.
Gibbons argues that the church should reflect this third-culture and be able to adapt and thrive in any context. One of the great historical weaknesses in the church’s mission has been the meshing of Christianity and culture. There is a tendency for missionaries to expect new believers to conform to their culture. George Hunter III describes this of the Roman Church’s method of evangelism ca. 400 AD in “The Celtic Way of Evangelism.” The Roman missionaries expected the Germanic and Celtic people to become Roman before they could become Christ-followers because they believed that their culture was inferior and unable to mesh with Jesus’ teachings. This is the same problem many evangelical churches have today. They confuse their culture with the content. They confuse how they communicate the gospel with the gospel. A third culture church sees value in other cultures and seeks to become a part of the new culture to communicate the life-giving, life-changing message of Jesus in that context.
There is one concept in Gibbons’ book that I’m struggling with; his emphasis is on multi-culturalism and investing in the under-resourced. This has much to do with his background personally and in ministry. Third-culture is not just a way to get more diversity in a primarily white suburban church. Third-culture is a new metaphor to describe what in the past was known as incarnational ministry. The goal is to present Jesus and his love to people where they are at, whether it’s the single mother in a subsidized apartment, a corporate executive living in a large house in the suburbs, a Midwestern farmer, or a tea grower in East Asia. All are loved by God and we need to reach them with the message of Jesus where they are at, not bring them into our western culture then share Jesus with them.
With that said, “Monkey and the Fish” will encourage you to reach out to the people around you in new and fresh ways and give you practical steps to help you focus yourself and your ministry on the gospel and how to communicate it no matter the culture into which God is calling you.

Everything Must Change by Brian McLaren

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

One of my biggest frustrations with a lot of what is written by the Christian community is the stark one-sided approach that most of the writers take. In particular I’m talking about the writings of the “Emerging” of “Emergent” authors (yes I know there’s a difference but I challenge you to define it) and the conservative, evangelical authors. Scot McKnight said it well on his blog when discussing the concept of gospel, “Too many today want to be faithful to Jesus’ use of the word ‘gospel’ and ignore Paul; too many also want to be faithful to Paul but ignore what Jesus said.”
This is my fundamental issue with McLaren in Everything Must Change. His premise is that the spiritual aspects that evangelical Christianity tends to focus on are not biblical. Now, I’m committed to communicating my presuppositions on this blog so you should know that my theology is very evangelical and I have spent my entire adult life working in evangelical churches. That said, I feel that McLaren is doing some exegetical gymnastics in his argument that the focus of Christianity is solely in changing what he call the “suicide machine.” The difficulty comes from the framing questions that he is asking. Questions that Scripture never intends to answer.
First, I don’t see any place in Scripture that Jesus or his followers worked to undermine or change established secular authority. That was not their mission. They constantly worked to live God’s kingdom principles in whatever political context in which they operated. They even took advantage of the political situation when it helped to spread their message.
Second, throughout Scripture there is a focus on the transcendent. McLaren ignores this or reinterprets it to support his presuppositions. He seems to argue that rather than needing to be transformed by God through faith we need to have faith that what we do will change the world.
I agree with every call to action that is laid out in the book. We all need to be better stewards of what God has given us. That, however, is not why Jesus came and died. Jesus didn’t die as some sort of protest to Caesar’s system. Jesus died to redeem the people that he deeply loves. He died to provide a way for people to reconnect to the God in whose image we have been created. This reconnection transforms the individual to be the person that will live out God’s values in this world in a way that will point others to God.
We all, especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus, need to be more responsible stewards of the earth and care more about the people that God cares for. Included in that is a need for us to submit to Jesus as Lord which saves us from our sin and transforms us into citizens of his kingdom so that we can spread his kingdom throughout this world.

Transformational Architecture

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Transformational Architecture by Ron Martoia is a must read for anyone serious about trying to help people connect with God.  Ron takes a serious look at the way most people today communicate the to others about Jesus and offers a counter-point to the way most people that follow Jesus have been taught to share what that means.  The major thesis of the book is that we’ve been taught to start too late in the story.  Rather than starting with the fact that we’re all dealing with sin, Transformational Architecture argues that we should start with the fact that we’re all created in the image of God.

For Ron, being created in the image of God means that there are three fundamental yearnings built into the architecture of our existence that provide the key launching points to help us connect with God.  By utilizing these launching points we have ample opportunity to have profitable conversations about God and faith.

My struggle with Ron’s work deals with an issue that I’m still wrestling with in my mind as well.  I’m not sure if I agree with him or not but I’d like to hear him elaborate on the point.  One of Ron’s major critiques of the way a lot of people view following Jesus is that most people try to set up a way to tell if someone is “in or out.”  Ron argues that it is not for any of us to know but only God.  I want to agree with him on this but I’m not sure I can.  In one sense I will never know if you are in or out and you will never know if I am.  Yet, if you come to me and ask if I’m in, I feel very confident in saying yes.  With that, I feel I should be able to guide you to discover if you are (Isn’t that the point of having these conversations?).  Moreover, I think that God has given us some clues to help us see in ourselves and others if we are truly following Jesus or just paying him lip service (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5).  It is also my presupposition that there is a point when we cross from death into life (Romans 6:13) and become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I wish that Ron would have addressed these issues.  Perhaps, they were out of the scope of this book but these are unanswered questions that I have to continually work through as I share Jesus with those around me.