30/06/2007

They like Jesus but not the Church (by Dan Kimball)

This is a book actually intended for church leaders, but I didn't know that when I ordered it. I thought the title was intriguing - and, our family having had some general dissatisfaction with individual church congregations in recent years, I thought it would be an interesting read.

Dan Kimball is the author of books about the 'Emerging Church' - a new movement that seeks to get beyond denominationalism and find God in new ways, although there seem to be dozens of different understandings of it, some better than others. But 'They like Jesus but not the Church' isn't so much about emerging churches as emerging generations - young people in their 20s and 30s who want to be taken seriously, and who very often have a huge respect for Jesus.

So Dan Kimball interviewed several of them, and has turned the results into this thought-provoking book. He first looks at who the emerging generations are - what they believe, what they look like what they think of Jesus. Then he has a longer section of the book looking at what these people think of the church.

It's pretty revealing. It seems that many people consider Christians to be right-wing fundamentalists, homophobic, judgemental, oppressive of women, and arrogant. And, of course, there's a grain of truth in what they say; indeed, rather more than a grain, given that these are intelligent, thinking young people who are really very interested in sitting and chatting about Jesus with a pastor.

The final section looks at what the church can do: the church worldwide, that is, and Christians as individuals, as well as local congregations.

I thought it fascinating, and am glad I read it, even though it wasn't intended for me. There are a lot of ordinary Christians who love Jesus but don't like what they see in the church, as well as the people described in this book, who would not call themselves Christians, at least at the time of their interviews. And many of their criticisms, while over-generalised at times, should be taken seriously by the church in general. If we want to reach people with the Gospel, we need to be friendly, to show that Christians are just ordinary people who make mistakes, and not give this impression of being negative and narrow-minded.

There's a brief critique of the book at the end, with questions from people who disagree with the premises, and they're answered thoroughly.

All in all, recommended to anyone within the church, and anyone else who has a sneaky admiration for Jesus, even if you can't stand the church.

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