David 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.