I recently read David Kinnaman’s newest book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith. If you work with young people or young adults, are one, or know any, then this book is for you! David Kinnaman is no slouch in his thinking or writing. Everything he says is documented by statistics and anecdotes, and is confirmed by the real-world interactions of the reader. In this book, Kinnaman makes a very compelling argument that the ways in which young adults view faith is undergoing a seismic transition.
Another Book Dedicated to the Evils of the Suburban Church?
There have been plenty of books, documentaries, articles, and conversations about what is happening to young people when they graduate from high school, because the evidence is clear that a huge percentage of them walk out the doors of their church or youth group, never to return again. This is an overwhelming and complex problem; some the best minds are only now starting to scratch its surface. And Kinnaman is one of the best thinkers when it comes to understanding these cultural shifts.
I am not going to lie to you; I had trouble getting through the first section of his book. I began reading it through the lens of a follow-up to his book UnChristian, a continued piling on of the atrocities the suburban church has committed against Christendom. In fact, in most of the books, articles, and documentaries that are looking into this problem lay the blame firmly on the suburban church.
As someone who is called to the suburban church and who loves the institutional church with all his heart, using the suburban church as a simplistic straw man begins to chafe! I am not saying the suburban church is perfect or that there are not problems that need to be addressed, but I think the problems and the solutions are incredibly complex and have more to do with our quickly changing cultural context than the evils of attractional youth ministry.
All that is to say, as I began this book and had to wade through more and more anecdotal stories of people who have left the church for a variety of reasons, I became frustrated and almost quit reading. But to my surprise, Kinnaman does not highlight a wound and come up with superficial solutions. He not only captures the heart of our culture and its problems with Christianity and with the Church, but he also brilliantly outlines a way forward.
The World Has Changed!
Anyone who thinks that we still live in a “Christian” culture where the church has power and influence in our society as a whole is living in the dark. When the church had a prominent place, we could wield our power and influence in all sorts of ways. And the truth is, many of the ways the church did use its power and influence were harmful in the long term.
Kinnaman highlights six ways in which the church and even Christianity are disconnected from the culture of young adults. His research has shown that these young adults see the church as: overprotective, shallow, anti-science, repressive, exclusive, and doubtless. While most people could simply highlight these issues and look down their noses at the silly church, Kinnaman actually proposes a way forward.
His chapter on the disconnect between the church and the culture of young adults relating to the repressive views of sex and sexuality is worth the entire cost of the book. You can begin to see that the conflict between the church’s views of purity and abstinence are directly in conflict with the lengthening of time people, including Christians, are taking to settle down and married. Individualism is becoming the core value, and when marriage, sex, and sexuality are seen through that lens there is bound to be conflict and tension with the traditional church.
What I appreciated most about this book, is that Kinnaman doesn’t just simply fillet the church by highlighting these disconnections. He actually begins to put together a plan for the church to move forward. But now, as the church wrestles with how to address the clear issues post-Christians have with the church, it is clear that the way forward is going to be incredibly complex.
Christian leaders for this next generation will have to be deep thinkers as they wrestle with the complexities and nuance of the faith and how it relates to people who have no felt needs for the authority of the church in their individualized world view. Christian leaders are also going to have to be connected to the Holy Spirit, seeking His wisdom and discernment. There are no simple solutions, and every story is different. Somehow we must regain the heart of Christ and once again value humility and patience as we walk with people who are nomads, prodigals, and even exiles in their walk with God.
Thank you David for a compelling book. May the church take it to heart as we strive to share the Good News of Jesus to an increasingly foreign culture.