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"unChristian" Christianity: Sheltered
by Tom Goodman
March 14, 2008

Canadian pastor Mark Buchanan was speaking at a Christian youth camp.  He held up two video cases.  One was the case for the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The other was a training video for a sewing machine.  He asked the young people, "When you look around at churches today, which of these videos would you say best captures the essence of the Christian life?"

Every single one of them said the sewing machine training video.

That's the fourth complaint from young people that David Kinnaman addresses in his new book, unChristian.  The president of the Barna research firm reported on an extensive study of the attitudes that unchurched 16- to 29-year-olds have of the Christian faith.  Our Ministry Staff is reading this book together, and I'm summarizing Kinnaman's research for you in LeaderLines.  The book focuses on six complaints that unchurched young people have regarded Christians.  They see us as...

We've already looked at the first three charges.  This week, let's see why those now entering adulthood think we're too sheltered.

By the way, someone asked me about the labels "Mosaic" and "Buster" in Kinnaman's book and in my reviews of it.  These are popular labels for different generations.  "Busters" is the label given the generation following the Baby Boom, so called because there was a birth "bust" after a 20-year birth "boom."  Busters are now in their very late 20s to early 40s.  They are also known as "Generation X."  Those who are now in late elementary school through their 20s are the "Mosaic" generation, so called because they are the most diverse American generation to date in terms of race, religion, musical taste, and so on.  They are also called "Millennials" since most of them have come of age at the turn of the millennium.  (Personally, I believe that younger Boomers and older Busters have a generational identity all their own, and I've written about it here.)

Kinnaman focuses on younger Busters and older Mosaics, that group of 16- to 29-year-olds who are entering or just starting their adulthood.  And they don't find the church too useful as they try to figure out how to make their way in the world:

Only one-fifth of young outsiders believe that an active faith helps people live a better, more fulfilling life.  Three-quarters of Mosaics and Busters outside the church said that present-day Christianity could accurately be described as old fashioned, and seven out of ten believe the faith is out of touch with reality.  Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five believe their generation experiences a very different style of life than young adults did twenty years ago, and Christianity no longer seems in step with their fast-moving and ever-changing lives.

As you've heard me say in sermons, we have a choice to be either a "bunker church" or a "beachhead church."  A bunker is a defensive military position:  It's a place you hide in when you're under attack.  A beachhead, on the other hand, is an offensive military position:  It's a place from which an army can advance.  Too many Christians want their churches to be bunkers where we can all enjoy shelter from a world we find so threatening -- places where we can speak our insider language and deal with issues that only insiders care about.  But Christ expected our churches to be beachheads from which we can make sensitive and persuasive outreach into our culture.

We are to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world," according to Jesus, and that requires we be in the world while not being of the world.  Mike Metzger, an author and the founder of the Clapham Institute (from which William Wilberforce drew his strength to fight slavery in the British Parliament), describes the delicate balance this requires:
Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world.  If you don't hold up both truths in tension, you invariably become useless and separated from the world God loves.  For example, if you only practice purity apart from proximity to the culture, you inevitably become pietistic, separatist, and conceited.  If you live in close proximity to the culture without also living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from fallen culture and useless in God's kingdom.

As leaders, we need to make sure our church is a beachhead for God's life-changing invasion into northwest Austin!


I've posted this edition of LeaderLines on my weblog, Get Anchored.  I hope you'll go there and leave comments about your reaction to what we're discovering together.

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