Book Review – They Like Jesus But Not the Church
Are you in leadership within your church? Are you puzzled about why people between 18 and 30 (or so) seem to disappear from the church and have tons of harsh criticisms of the church? Are you too lazy to seek these people out to ask them for yourselves?
If you answered yes to any of these three questions, then you should pick up this book and read it.
They Like Jesus But Not the Church is an exploration of author Dan Kimball’s interactions and conversations with members of what has been termed the emerging generation. Young adults who are intelligent, knowledgeable, and hungry for more. All of those that Dan interviewed and spent time with have been hurt or burned by the institutional church in some way. Yet they are all attracted to the person of Jesus. Dan spends a lot of time exploring the negative perceptions that these people have of the church that put them off from getting involved, and offers us practical advice and guidance on how best to counter these perceptions.
Throughout the whole book Dan is very humble and apologetic (at times almost too apologetic for my tastes), seeking not to create any serious rifts within the church. His heart for Christ and his heart for the church both show through his writing. He shares that even though the church has earned some of the negative perceptions that this generation has of it, he still loves it as what it is supposed to be and is and (at many times) is striving to become. This is not a call for the church to be disbanded at all, merely to examine how we are treating people, and whether or not we are creating such a deep “Christian subculture” that we seek to force people to adhere to that we are actually pushing people away before they can really encounter the cross.
The one real weakness that I have with the book is that Kimball’s sample audience is (largely) confined to a local (for him) coffee shop that he frequents and a few others that he interacts with. However, this is offset by the fact that over the past several years in youth ministry I have seen these same (types of) people over and over. They are seeking to know Jesus, just not through the church.
The book is solid. Kimball excels at leaving you with many questions on your heart about how you can take this new information and applying it to your own ministry. Questions that will force you to think through your own actions and attitudes toward those outside the church. Just bear in mind that it is indeed written with church leadership as its primary audience (the companion book for those not in church leadership comes out in the near future), so make sure that if you are not in leadership in your church that you remember that. And if you are not, make sure that you share it with those in your church who are. They should get a lot out of it.