Book Review: The Next Christians



What are Christians known for?  Unfortunately, in our culture the prevailing thought seems to be that Christians are best known for what they are against…rather than what they are for.  Look in the news, there is probably a story about some Christian group boycotting this or protesting that.  There are probably very valid reasons for some of that and I certainly don’t argue their cause.  However, can you imagine what it would do for the Kingdom of God and the body of Christ if there were more stories about how Christians are working together with non-Christians to bail out small businesses, to research cures for diseases, and to educate our children?  I really enjoyed the discussion and thought process developed  Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman’s book unChristian and was excited to see Gabe Lyons followup with The Next Christians.  A friend mentioned to me that her church was studying this book together and I was so glad for the recommendation!

The thesis behind this book is to share the seven ways that the next Christians can live the gospel and restore the world.  I love the idea of restoration.  The following passage from 2 Corinthians 5 has really been a focus for me in 2014 and this book speaks directly to the heart of these verses…

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV)

I hope you will consider picking up a copy of The Next Christians to see where the Lord might be leading you to help live out the gospel by extending grace and mercy.  Great read!  I highlighted several things and have posted them below…

  • What does mission look like in America in the twenty-first century?
  • How should the message of the gospel go forward?
  • What does it mean to be a Christian in a world that is disenchanted with our movement?
  • I believe this moment is unlike any other time in history.  Its uniqueness demands an original response.  If we fail to offer a different way forward, we risk losing entire generations to apathy and cynicism.  Our friends will continue to drift away, meeting their need for spiritual transcendence through other forms of worship and communities of faith that may be less true but more authentic and appealing.
  • No culture shift is an island unto itself, but rather it is intimately connected to the historical moment from which it arises.
  • Without warning, the technological revolution shook hands with the industrial age and the resulting peak in accessibility to information pushed us into unknown territory.
  • Pluralism rather than Christianity now marks America’s public square.
  • The church has stealthily moved from the center of life to the periphery.
  • Is there a better way?
  • “Jesus discloses not one instance of fearing contamination, whether moral or ritual, by associating with the wicked or impure.  Rather, he believes that his purity can rub off on them, and he hopes that his magnanimity toward them will lead them to heed his calls to discipleship.”  Craig Blomberg, Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners
  • The irreducible minimum for all Christians is Jesus.  In light of this realization, we reevaluate where we sit and consider what God may be doing.
  • Restorers seek to mend the earth’s brokenness.  They recognize that the world will not be completely healed until Christ’s return, but they believe that the process begins now as we partner with God.  Through sowing seeds of restoration, they believe others will see Christ through us and the Christian faith will reap a much larger harvest.
  • They don’t separate from the world or blend in; rather, they thoughtfully engage.
  • Creation and restoration are the bookends to Christ’s earthly work and they are shaping how the next Christians holistically participate in the world.
  • The next Christians believe that Christ’s death and Resurrection were not only meant to save people from something.  He wanted to save Christians to something.
  • Instead of simply waiting for God to unveil the new heaven and the new earth, the rest of us can give the world a taste of what God’s kingdom is all about—building up, repairing brokenness, showing mercy, reinstating hope, and generally adding value.
  • “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Matthew 6:10
  • For the next Christians, the ought is the prism through which they see their mission.
  • With the ought pulsing though their veins, the next Christians are partnering with God to restore every corner of the earth.
  • The seven characteristics that set apart the next Christians are that they are…
    Provoked, not offended.
    Creators, not critics.
    Called, not employed.
    Grounded, not distracted.
    In community, not alone.
    Civil, not divisive.
    Countercultural, not “relevant”.
  • Restorers-They show up.  In fact, showing up is their defining practice.  These Christians don’t run from areas that might typically offend a Separatist Christian—they run to them.  They seek out brokenness and offer hope.
  • “When confronted with the corruption of our world—Christians out to be provoked to engage, not offended and withdrawn.”  Michael Metzger, Navigating Tensions
  • Provoked Christians resist the urge to condemn everything that isn’t explicitly Christian.  They have a capacity to find goodness, truth, and beauty in most any creation.
  • “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:17, ESV
  • A mind-set of grace over judgment defines how restorers engage with all people.
  • Who will have the courage to engage culture—which at times means confronting evil—if Christians won’t?
  • For the next Christians, running away is not an option.
  • Many times, the job of provoked Christians is to simply show up and let restoration thinking flood their actions and responses as they encounter a deeply broken world.
  • “Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power.”  1 Thessalonians 1:15
  • “The only way to change culture is to create more of it.”  Andy Crouch, Culture Making
  • Christ wants us to have eyes to see goodness wherever it shows up.  When goodness is revealed, the world gets one more opportunity to catch a glimpse of God’s restoration work in progress.
  • “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  Colossians 3:17
  • “Christians are called not just to live in the city, but also to love it and work for its shalom—its economic, social, and spiritual flourishing….The citizens of God’s city are the best possible citizens of their earthly cities.”  Tim Keller, A New Kind of Urban Christian
  • Creating instead of criticizing takes discipline.
  • Seven Channels of Cultural Influence: Media, Education, Arts and Entertainment, Business, Government, Social Sector, and Church.
  • The church remains the epicenter of what is possible.
  • Where your talents and your heart come together, this is where God has called you to be.
  • The 5 Disciplines of the Next Christians: Immersed in Scripture (Instead of Entertainment), Observing the Sabbath (Instead of Being Productive), Fasting for Simplicity (Instead of Consuming), Choosing Embodiment (Instead of Being Divided), and Postured by Prayer (Instead of Power).
  • Restorers understand how important and vital it is to take a break.  This may seem like an archaic concept to many, but it’s timely.  It gives the next Christians a healthy way to disengage from a hyperproductive culture of efficiency so God can restore them.
  • At Q, our aim has been to push challenging cultural conversations into a space where they can be viewed and critiqued through the lens of the Gospel.
  • Civility doesn’t mean having conversation for conversation’s sake.  We cross the barriers of our differences because we believe that good may be accomplished.
  • The dialogue was helpful, and bridges were built.  Divisiveness was put on notice, and civility triumphed.
  • Countercultures that point out the problem but offer nothing as a solution ultimately fail in their mission.  And pursuing relevance at all costs isn’t countercultural at all.
  • A God-centered life is a counterintuitive existence that flips the values of the world upside down.  It’s an inverted way of living that reverses the importance of what the world tells us to value most.
  • “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:27-31, ESV)
  • “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:12, ESV)
  • Too often we confuse first and second things.
  • “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”  C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things”
  • The first thing for the Christian is to recover the Gospel—to relearn and fall in love again with that historic, beautiful, redemptive, faithful, demanding, reconciling, all-powerful, restorative, atoning, grace-abounding, soul-quenching, spiritually fulfilling good news of God’s love.
  • This truth of the Gospel should illuminate Christian focus in the coming century.  Unconcerned with outcomes, Christ’s followers must get back to the heart of their faith—recovering, relearning, and rebuilding from the core first, and then out.  I realize this may sound too simple for some.  But it’s likely that the greatest results will come from returning to the tried, true, and foundational truths of the faith.  As I see it, and have tried to illustrate throughout this book, a new movement within the Body of Christ is underfoot.  But the biggest challenge that lies ahead will be the Christians’ ability to hold tightly to their first thing and let everything else take care of itself.
  • “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)
  • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
  • The bottom line is that the Christian has a calling and a responsibility to think, work, and live in terms of how the world ought to be in contrast to reacting to how it really is.
  • “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

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