Archive for August, 2013

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Review of Chapter 2 – “You Lost Me” book.

August 19, 2013

You Lost MeDavid Kinnaman’s book, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church, and Re-thinking Faith” is perhaps the most significant analysis of the current generation and their approach to faith and church. As we go through each chapter in this review, I want to highlight what he’s trying to say, what he gets right (from my opinion) and where he potentially misses the mark. This is a powerful book, but I want to view this both critically and practically. If there is a way to reach the emerging generations with Truth claims, most Christian Leaders want to know how to do it effectively.

What This Chapter is About: Essentially, chapter two lists the main ways that this Mosaic (Millennial) generation differs than all other generations before. Kinnaman begins this chapter by highlighting the work of Bob Buford, a cable television owner who wrote the book “Halftime” about his experiences with mid-life crisis. Buford observes: “I think this next generation is not just slightly different from the past. I believe they are discontinuously different than anything we have seen before”. In the remainder of the chapter, Kinnaman sets out to prove that central thesis. He spends most of the time describing the differences based on three words:

Access: Meaning access to media and people at an unheard of rate

Alienation: This includes alienation from other generations

Authority: In Kinnaman’s viewpoint, this means that the Millennial generation has even less respect for authority than generations previous.

This chapter certainly points out some of the most powerful facts provided by data collection agencies. Some of these prove his point. Some do not. Let’s look at both to determine how different this generation really is.

The Helpful Parts of this Chapter:  Since the rest of the book depends upon Kinnaman proving that this generation is markedly different than any other in history, this chapter is the pivotal one. Does he accomplish his task? I think so – at least partly. The first identifier of this generation is “Access”. There is no doubt he is correct in asserting that the Mosaics have more access to information and to other people than at any time in history. The Internet is a game-changer like nothing else except the printing press. Web pages, software, apps, smartphones have all combined to give access to new ideas and philosophies that most of us could not find without diligent searching. Now Google does all that searching instantaneously. It has become the modern day “Vanity Fair”, and allows Mosaics to indulge in vices at unheard of rates. There is literally too much temptation and too much access to everything. It gets overwhelming. In order to handle this, Kinnaman sees that it is necessary for them to have a short attention span so they don’t get mired down in details. As he says these extraordinary “distractions invite them to be  less linear and logical in their thought processes.” This mirrors what Nicholas Carr says in his book “The Shallows” where he has noted the brain of an Internet user has changed over the last ten years, making deep contemplative thought almost impossible.

Kinnaman notes that the average American adult consumes 34 gigabytes of data A DAY! this is 350 times as much as 30 years ago. There is no question this affects how Mosaics think, process and believe.

He also talks about alienation, relating to the degree of disconnect found in many families today. Divorce has caused a lot of this, but so has the extended work week and the relative distance between all family members who are viewing media constantly. He tells the story of two young women, one 18 and the other 10, who meet on a plane as the younger girl is flying to meet her father in another city (due to divorce). In their 3-hour flight, they bonded and shared social media info. At the end of the flight, the little girl tells the older one, “Ashley, I think you know me better than anyone else in the world.”

Kinnaman really does show that this generation more than any other feels isolated and alienated from the other generations. This truly makes them different than the three generations previous, but maybe not to the extent that Kinnaman suggests. The Boomers had emotionally distant parents – this is part of what spawned the “Free Love” movement of the 70s. The Buster generation was the first one to have rising divorce rates and the first one to come to grips with it. What makes the Mosaics different is they have thousands of members of their generation available all the time to talk about this problem.

The Less Helpful Parts of the Chapter: Essentially, the one part of the chapter that does not accomplish its goal is the focus on “Authority”. Kinnaman states that this generation has a unique problem of trusting authority. I think he does an admirable job in describing how Mosaics do not trust family authority, church, business institutions, government or even the Bible. All of this is true. However, I cannot see how this is unique to this generation. The Boomers of the 60s were much more militant about not trusting anyone over 30. In fact, the Mosaics may be more trusting in some ways than their grandparents. They readily accept the word of television and Wikipedia without questioning it. They are often the first age group that cults go after. No, I don’t think Kinnaman proved his point that they are uniquely distrusting of authority. But they certainly do not trust authority very much. But neither does anyone else in society right now. Repeated scandals with church leaders, politicians, sports stars etc. has tainted us all.

My Personal Takeaway: I realize that this generation faces uphll battles with the media much more than any in history. i grew up in an era when I could spend hours or days without contact with media. Now, it is almost impossible to do that. So I want to be sensitive to the real needs of this new generation who have to fight battles I never had to.

 

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Want to Smoke a Bowl?

August 13, 2013

Since five states have now legalized marijuana for personal use and the federal government is now deciding to stop prosecuting people who bring it into the country, more and more Christians are going to think about trying it for themselves. The argument is often like this: “It has less side-effects than alcohol and we don’t have any problem with drinking.”

Well, I would dispute that we don’t have any problem with drinking. I have long held that Christians have over-reacted to the Temperance movement and now allow too much drinking to be part of our lives. But I want to spend a moment interacting with an article that came out this week about the harmful effects of Marijuana.

This study (view it here) concludes that pot severely hinders the brain’s ability to produce Dopamine. Because of this, pot can bring on a number of disabilities related to low dopamine output. These include Parkinsons disease, ADD, Restless leg syndrome, drug-induced schizophrenia etc. Not only that, but the lower levels of dopamine in our body, the less likely we are to be motivated to do anything. This is what causes the typical “stoner” personality – the totally under-motivated, carefree individual who stops many steps short of success in life.

The Journal of Neuroscience, Vanderbilt University, Imperial College and King’s College (both based in London) all concur with the findings that marijuana lowers dopamine. Please read this carefully and decide if the upcoming legality of pot makes it desirable in the long term.

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Review of “You Lost Me” – Chapter 1

August 13, 2013

You Lost MeOverview of the Chapter: Kinnaman says at the beginning of the Chapter that he has two purposes: To define the dropout problem and To interpret the urgency of this problem. He begins this process by outlining his own credentials for attempting this study. At Barna Research group, they conduct over 30,000 interviews, seeking to answer many of the today’s most pressing questions. As he was doing this during the 2000’s, he focused on those who didn’t go to church. This resulted in the book “unChristian” which was published in 2012. Doing the research for that book, Kinnaman was amazed more at the answers given by Christians about the church than the unChristian. He concluded that many Christians of the Millennial generation see the church as too political, hypocritical and out of touch with reality. In this chapter, he draws three conclusions:

1. Modern teens are following Christ, but as soon as they leave home, they leave their churches behind as well.

2. There are different kinds of dropouts.

3. The problem for many of them is a discipleship problem. These teens were not discipled properly enough to stay involved in the church.

Kinnaman’s research finds that 4 out of 5 adults say they attended some kind of church instruction as a child or teen. Yet, when today’s teens reach the age group of 19-29, 59% of them stop attending church. This is true of both Catholics and Protestants. Not only do they stop attending church, but they doubt many of the things about Jesus: Whether he did miracles, whether he was God, whether he was raised from the dead, if he sinned etc. Their conclusion is that the majority of twenty-somethings are “Missing in Action” from the Faith. Not only do they doubt the church, but they also doubt God and even if there is a God.

They also identify a number of different types of dropouts.

1. Nomads: These are the ones who still believe strongly in God but struggle with the Church.

2. Prodigals: These ones have no involvement with Church and don’t want to have a relationship with God either.

3. Exiles: These ones still believe but are torn between the church and the culture they enjoy.

According to this chapter, the Prodigals are the least numerous. This underscores the biblical idea that we are to “train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they won’t depart from it”.

Kinnaman also describes a group that doesn’t drop out. Those who stay with church (about 42%) may be more passionate than their seniors about their faith. They spend hours in worship, get involved in missions in a more “hands-on” way and volunteer in the church and the community.

He also points out the tremendous dichotomies existing within the average Millennial (which he also calls Mosaics). They want to do everything themselves, but they also want to be mentored. They want to call their own shots, but they also need help. They also are less inclined to full-time Christian ministry, desiring to serve God in other professions. But the church often does not prepare them to serve in those venues (at least according to Kinnaman). He also points out that they need to learn how to accept “wisdom”…as opposed to knowledge, which Millennials have huge access to because of the Internet.

The Value of this Chapter: Kinnaman is very careful not to lay blame on anyone or any institution in particular. As a researcher, he is careful not to over-interpret the data (or misinterpret it…but that comes later). He is very balanced in his viewpoint on what is happening. He warns the reader not to ignore this problem. There are those who would say “nothing to see here; move along” as if the dropouts are always here and they always return. Kinnaman says that is not happening. One reason for this is the relative later age at which people are marrying. The older one marries, the less one thinks about what they’re going to teach their children about faith. Millennials do not think about what they’re going to teach their children, because they don’t have any. On the other side of the ledger, he sees people who make too much of these findings, who say “Christianity will be gone in one generation”. That too he rejects. This chapter is good for defining the problem.

My Criticism of the Chapter: Though this will come out even more later, he tends to use representative examples that are two-dimensional. The young people he uses as focal points are not as typical as Kinnaman likes to suggest. In philosophical terms, they are straw men. For instance, he mentions several of the kids who struggled to fit into their youth groups and then decided when they had a choice to jettison church. Notice that we don’t paint education with that brush. Kids always have trouble fitting into school, yet we don’t see that as the school’s problem. It is an endemic problem of that age group. Throughout this book, Kinnaman tells stories about teens that seem dramatic and not representative of the Millennials I know. I wish he had used more down-to-earth examples more.

My Personal Takeaway from this chapter: It helped me to see the different types of dropouts so I can identify them as I talk with Millennials.

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Review of the Book “You Lost Me”

August 12, 2013

David KinnamanIn 1995, David Kinnaman joined the Barna Group, the foremost research organization regarding all things religious. He is now the President and owner of the organization, succeeding the titular founder George Barna who is now working on some completely different projects than research.

Recently, Kinnaman used the vast resources of his organization to study how Millennials (those people who are now in their late teens and twenties) feel about today’s church. The results of this research is a book penned by Kinnaman called “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith”. As the title suggests, Millennials are not all that fond of today’s church and are looking for other alternatives including no faith at all.You Lost Me

During the next two weeks, I will be examining this book, chapter by chapter, seeking to determine if what Kinnaman says is true, accurate, and helpful for those of us who seek to lead God’s people.

Here is the format I will use (the same one I utilize when doing all book reviews):

1. Overview of the chapter

2. Things I appreciate it

3. Things I don’t appreciate

4. My personal takeaway from the chapter.

Let’s get started with the introduction that Kinnaman titles “You Lost Me Explained”.

Overview of the Chapter:  Kinnaman has a number of goals with his introduction, which isn’t surprising because it is the overview of the book itself. The first few pages inform us that instead of Millennials leaving the church, many of them feel like the Church has left them. Kinnaman then goes on to say that today’s Millennials feel like they have no room to express their doubts about faith and therefore, they just drop out. He then goes on to warn what this might do to them and to the Church if they are not discipled in a helpful way. He even references Dietrich Boenhoefer who became a prophetic voice at the time when Hitler came to power.

Things I Appreciate:  As should be done with an introduction, he lays out the ground work for the book very clearly. He mentions the generation gap and why it is getting wider. He notices that today’s generation has a lot to teach the ones that went before. He also remarks that today’s post-modern young person does not want the analytical and logical – they want the creative and the relational.

Things I Did Not Appreciate:  As a Boomer, I found a couple of comments disturbing. First, he talks about reverse mentoring: That is, that this generation would be better suited mentoring those older than them about some issues. While I see some of the merits in this, I don’t see many Boomers appreciating this concept. When we were in our twenties and thirties, the “Builder” generation told us we needed them to mentor us. And we allowed them to do so. Now we look at those under 40, who sometimes say they want mentoring, but most often tell us “you have a lot you can learn from us”. It is hard to hear it from those older and those who are younger. What does that make us in the middle – chopped liver?

My Personal Takeaway: I was intrigued by many of the questions he raises in this introduction. He challenges those of  us who are older what we will do for and with this next generation. I finished the first couple of chapters with a hunger to figure out how to do just that.

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