It’s not an academic book but I’ve recently finished this book in which Dan Kimball seeks to address the negative impressions he believes emerging generations have about the church. His thesis is people are turned off the church because they perceive that:
– The church is an organised religion with a political agenda
– The church is judgmental and negative
– The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
– The church is homophobic
– The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
– The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally
As someone who livesin the Christian bubble I find Kimball’s work helpful. His work on emerging church is shaped by also being the pastor of a sizable American church. His book Emerging Church (here) is a better book but this one, along with some of the other resources available (click here for detail), provide useful material to help churches grapple with some of the cultural challenges we face: we may use it here next year. My own experience is that many Christians don’t like church either and struggle with the same issues Kimball identifies.
Whatever you think about these issues, and for me Kimball doesn’t go far enough in his response to many, it triggers some interesting thoughts:
- What people hear isn’t the same as what we intend to say: much of what we think of as evangelism is received as condemnation.
- Dialogue with those who are not Christians implies an open conversation where we listen to other people, take their opinions seriously and respond with humility. Christians are often bad at this.
- The world is not well served by Christians who hide their convictions or who can’t explain why they hold the views they do. But it will be served well by Christians who make friends, engage with others and live discipleship.
I agree that that is the way the church is perceived – people I come into contact with in and out of the church are often surprised my some of my views. Is the problem that those who think differently from those views actaully ever put their heads up over the parapit? There are many evangelicals with views that would atract and the world might listen but they are so scared of their position that they keep quiet except in exclusive compnay where their secrets are held secure.
I know many whose views on say homosexuality are radically diiferent from the perceived view of Christians but they say nothing in public.
The difficulty in a multi-faith area is precisely those you identify – failure to listen or to be able to give a coherent account of their faith – mainly becuase it is ‘recieved’ rather than ‘thought through’.
I think also that doubt is a good thing to display – to look as though you ave faith all sown up is very off putting for non Christians – we need to be able to hold tension.