Are Christians Creating More UnChristians?

Michele Vigil, Student and Discipleship Pastor, Hillsdale UB (Hillsdale, Mich.)

Last month I went on an all-day conference and heard David Kinnaman, the author of the book Unchristian, speak on the research he and the Barna group have been doing with young people between 18-29 years old. vigil_michelle.jpgAlthough most of our teens are younger than that, I found the information valuable as we seek to understand a generation that is growing more and more skeptical of God and the things of the church. These are my thoughts on this book, and the topic it explores.

Not a week goes by that I don’t get questions in youth group or Sunday school about God being real. Things like–

  • “Does He really listen to our prayers?”
  • “How can a God that loves us allow such horrible things to happen in the world?”
  • Or my favorite, and most frequently asked, “If God is really a loving God, why are Christians so mean and judgmental?”

We hear these questions, or versions of them, time and time again in our own youth ministry. They are in fact, just a small sampling of the greater youth culture’s growing opinion about Christianity and the God we serve. Understanding the culture we serve and the culture that will lead the future church is vital.

Young people are all about conversation. Many will not even give you or what you are saying the time of day, without a relationship of trust built between you. That is why these statistics are so discouraging to me. According to this study:

  • 58 million young people under the age of 40 consider themselves non-Christians in our country.
  • 85-87% of that population feel Christians are judgmental and hypocritical.

Among young Christians, the statistic is not much better. 52% of church-going young people feel the church is too negative and judgmental. I am not saying these opinions are right, but they are real.
As I ponder these statistics, I wonder if this perception is somewhat of our own doing. Are we so focused on shouting the truth at the world that we fail to balance that with love and a genuine commitment to building a relationship with outsiders, without an agenda?

Have we lost the thrust of the gospel? Did not Jesus teach in the temple AND sit and eat with sinners? I wonder if we have gotten so comfortable teaching and preaching, that we have forgotten to sit and eat.

Trust me, I am not about compromising truth; and I am not about watering down the need for a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. I am just struggling with how far I often feel we as believers have strayed from the example Jesus set in the gospels. Truth, spoken in love. Free-will allegiance, not forced servitude. And most importantly, a desire for authentic relationships, with those we are comfortable with and those we are not.

This seems to me to be how God the father presented himself to his people, through his son Jesus.

I found this to be an excellent book. If you are interested in learning more about what non-Christians tend to feel about God and the church today, it is well worth the time spent. It has challenged me, upset me, and moved me to evaluate, once again, my approach to a generation that seems to care less and less for a God that cared so much for them.

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