Friday, March 4, 2011

The Next Christians – Gabe Lyons

© 2010 Doubleday, New York

Gabe Lyons is the founder of Q (, an organization that studies society and looks for answers. I was first introduced to this young Christian thinker when he coauthored unChristian. I was intrigued, challenged by, and sometimes enraged at the research conclusions that he and co-author David Kinnamon reached. They were not painting a very bright picture for the Christian community, but one that in some circles, is well-deserved.

The future seems brighter for Christianity in Lyons’ new book—not because the traditional Christians are really changing their ways, but because those who are finding faith in this new generation are affecting a change. This new generation of Christians are those who the author has named “the next Christians”.

According to Lyons, these next Christians are adapting to the changing scenery in the western world, not changing their faith, but living it incarnationally. They take their cues from the record of the Bible as a whole not (as he sees it) choosing the fall and redemption stories at the expense of the creation and completion stories. In so doing, he lauds this new generation of Christians for living lives with a view to restoration. He includes a number of examples of people from all walks of life who have seen a need and, without forcing their faith on others, have still let their faith drive their action—to restore the world to the way God had designed it (or take a step toward restoration, at any rate).

While the author hints at this sort of lifestyle occasionally leading to the conversion to gospel-driven faith of those who are influenced by these next Christians, it seems to be more of a happenstance than a purpose. Yes, I will agree that the traditional (20th Century) evangelical emphasis on evangelism at any cost has developed within the Christian community an almost mercenary mindset that ignores the person in order to reach their soul (usually toward the end of marking another tic on the scratch-sheet of ‘souls saved’), I am not convinced that disguising our faith and only mentioning our Jesus is the answer either.

I suppose another struggle that I have with this book is its dismissal of anything over thirty years old. This may not be the author’s intent, but it is the message that comes across. Have we gotten things wrong through the years that should be addressed? The answer would certainly be yes. Should we dismiss all that has gone on over the last three to five hundred years? I don’t think so. If I were to analyze my own response to the message of this book, I would say that what leaves the distaste in my mouth is the tone of arrogance that comes across (which is exactly the message that I believe Lyons would not want to be perceived).

The book is not all bad, but it isn’t necessarily the aid to bringing about change that it wants to be. 2 ½ reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, March 4, 2011

[Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.]

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