I am reading through David Kinnaman’s latest book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith. As I somewhat expected, the book is both staggering and thought provoking. For those unfamiliar with Kinniman’s work, he is the President of the Barna Group and is simply using research to try provide some explanation to a problem American Christianity is facing.
The problem of young Christians leaving the church as adults is a multifaceted problem and is not entirely the fault of churches, as Kinnaman is more than willing to point out. However, part of the problem does rest on the shoulders of Christianity. So here is a quote I found interesting that I want to share:
The faith too many [young Christians] have inherited is a lifeless shadow of historic Christianity, which insists that following Jesus is a way of life, not a laundry list of vague beliefs that have little meaning for how we spend our lives. I think the next generation’s disconnection stems ultimately from the failure of the church to impart Christianity as a comprehensive way of understanding reality and living fully in today’s culture. (p.114)
Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
For whatever my opinion is worth, I think Kinnaman is on to something. There already seems to be a widening gap today between the church and Jesus. Just read Kinnaman’s book with Gabe Lyons UnChristian for one example. What has mattered is what a person believes and so as long as a Christian ascribe to the right list of doctrines (and every group seems to have their own list of which doctrines matter the most), they are in.
If you have read my blog much or have listened to me preach and teach much then you already know I believe the church must once again prioritize making disciples. By that, I mean that we must teach believers to embrace as their way of life the same beliefs and values Jesus lived his life by. Yet I don’t believe we can do this apart from a solid teaching and imparting of those historic Christian beliefs (e.g., The Doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, baptism, etc…). What we need is to do a better job of teaching how Christians are to practice these doctrines. In other words, what role does baptism and the Holy Spirit play in the way we live? Or, how does the Incarnation shape our practice of Christian ministry (this is the question I want to research for a D.Min project)?
So the answer is not exchanging beliefs for living (and Kinnaman is not suggesting this). The answer is connecting our beliefs as Christians to the way we live so that we understand that being Christian means actual living shaped by those beliefs.