They Like Jesus (But Not the Church)

This is an interesting book.  Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California has spent a lot of time talking to younger people about religion and Jesus; the book They Like Jesus is the outcome of those discussions.  This in and of itself makes for fascinating reading.  Of course most of the people he talked to really didn’t know Jesus as Scripture describes Him; still, the discussions are worth reading (even if a bit depressing at times).

Some of Kimball’s commentary on these discussions didn’t sit well with me.  I disagree with his views of women in the church, and I have some biblical objections to his views of worship.  Anyway, my Reformed convictions made me uncomfortable with some parts of this book.

However, I still appreciated the book because it really made me think.  I do at times get sick of all this emerging stuff, but since I often have the same questions about and concerns with the “traditional” church as these guys have, I keep reading.  Here are a few of my favorite parts of They Like Jesus But Not The Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007).

“It’s important that we think like missionaries.  Instead of viewing our towns and cities as Judeo-Christian and feeling that everyone needs to automatically adhere to what we believe, we need to act like missionaries do when they enter a different culture.  When missionaries enter another culture, they listen, learn, study the spiritual beliefs of the culture, and get a sense of what the culture’s values are.  They may try to discover what experiences this culture has had with Christians and what the people of the culture think of Christianity.  Missionaries in a foreign culture don’t practice the faiths or embrace the spiritual beliefs of that culture, but they do respect them, since the missionaries are on the other culture’s turf.”

“Christians are the foreigners in a post-Christian culture, and we have got to wake up to this reality if we haven’t.”

“We may see those around us as lost (Luke 13.3-32), and though we might invite them to Christmas musicals, for the most part we don’t think about their lostness like we used to when we prayed for them daily by name.  We get more excited about the latest Christian CD or the latest Christian novel than we do thinking about how God can use us for the gospel in our town.  We even go on Christian boat cruises for vacation with our favorite Christian radio preachers and Christian bands.  We are content living in our little Christian subculture as citizens of the bubble, but we don’t even know it because everyone in our social circle is also in the bubble.  We all view things the same way.”

“…When I talk to those outside of the church, I find that we in the church are known more for what we stand against politically than what we stand for spiritually.  How sad, since we should be known for being churches that passionately love God, love each other, and love people.  We should be known for being followers of Jesus, serving him, each other, and our communities.”

In summary, the book is a good and easy read if you’re one who has wrestled with these things.  Even if – like me – you don’t agree with all of it, it should help you wrestle through some churchly issues.  I like these kinds of books because they spur and provoke deeper thinking about the church in our ever-changing culture.  Along these lines, be sure to check out this part of the WTS bookstore for more similar resources.  And, as always, feel free to comment and give other resources.  We appreciate your input.

shane lems