Tonight at the Internet Ministry Conference we heard from Gabe Lyons, the co-author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters. He presented a summary of the book and then gave us some thoughts about how it might affect Internet ministry. His key points were that the upcoming generation (that is, “outsiders”, those 16 to 29 who are not part of a Christian subculture) see Christians in a negative light. Specifically, these folks see Christians as “anti-homosexual, judgmental, sheltered, and hypocritical.” The new reality is that we are in a pluralistic culture, not a Christian one. We have “lost” the culture wars.
In August, I was able to hear the other co-author of this book, Dave Kinnaman, present the same findings. His presentation was part of the Biola Faculty Retreat, and we as faculty were able to have some discussions afterwards as to how Biola might respond to the findings in the book. It was an interesting discussion, as several professors took issue with Dave’s call for us to re-think the way we present our Christianity so as to be more appealing to the “outsiders”.
In his presentation tonight, Gabe challenged us to be less judgmental, less sheltered and adopt an approach of “the common good”. We should work to develop relationships and not just post the equivalent of online gospel tracts. Many in the audiences seemed to take this to heart, while others were not so sure.
Most all of findings presented in the book were not news to me. Having recently completed a doctorate at a liberal university, I was accustomed to Christianity being looked at this way. The real issue is how we are going to respond. We cannot water down our message – we must be firm in our beliefs. However, the attitude we have when we present it and the relationships we build with those who do not have a firm faith, or no faith at all, are the keys to changing these perceptions.
What do you think?