Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

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Review of Chapter 3 – “You Lost Me” book

September 1, 2013

You Lost MeStarting with this chapter, Kinnaman delves into the nuts and bolts of his thesis, as he begins to describe some of the various types of dropouts from Christianity. This chapter contains descriptions of the first two of these and from that he builds a template for how to view the dropouts as a whole.

What this chapter is about: He is describing the two most common types of dropouts: Nomads and Prodigals. Nomads are typified by Stephen Colbert (the famous television comedian). In the beginning of the chapter, he quotes Colbert as saying:

From a doctrinal point of view or a dogmatic point of view or a strictly Catholic adherent point of view, I’m first to say that I talk a good game, but I don’t know how good I am about it in practice. I saw how my mother’s faith was very valuable to her and valuable to my brothers and sisters, and I moved by the words of Christ, and I’ll leave it at that.

Colbert is not someone who is disillusioned by Christianity or desiring to walk a different path. He is simply unclear of the path he is on as a follower of Christ. Because of that, he feels strangely distant from the church. He represents the feelings of many nomads.

Kinnaman poses the following question: Isn’t this just what every generation goes through as they seek to validate the Faith for their own lives, in their own way? He then takes a lot of the chapter to describe how the Nomads of this generation face different challenges and sometimes come to different conclusions.

Moving on from Stephen Colbert, the author then points out the life of Katy Perry, the young pop singer who became famous for the song “I Kissed a Girl”. Perry says

“I was like, wow there are a lot of choices. I began to become a sponge for all had missed; I was this curious as the cat.”

Perry is the type of Nomad that just wants to find out what she has missed in her sheltered Christian experience. Because of this, she admits she had to loosen some of her moral stances. But she has every intention of sticking to her Christian faith, even if she experiments with other ways of living.

Nomads are described as those who, at some point in their lives, decide to go their own way and discover the world (and their faith) for themselves. They don’t wander away forever; but they do wander away.

The Prodigal is a much different animal according to Kinnaman. They leave the faith entirely, often for a taste of living without faith’s restrictions. Many of these become Atheists, agonistics or skeptics and many do not return to faith or the church. Unlike the Nomad, they don’t often go back to church to compare it with their new lives – they are done with Christianity. And when they do come back, they often do so because of a major disaster in life.

The Valuable thing about this chapter:  Kinnaman accurately identifies both types of dropouts, but also makes decent distinctions between them so the existing church can identify its dropout grownup children and fashion a response to each kind. It is heartening to know that most of them are Nomads and not Prodigals. But it is also hard to read the comments of those in the chapter who write about their prodigal experience.

Kinnaman also gives some compelling surveys, answering questions asked of these two types of dropouts. These surveys depict the inner mindset of both groups so they can be studied and understood.

Weakest Part about the chapter: Though Kinnaman states that this generation is different because of the vast online resources available to them, I still don’t see how their inner heart attitude is different. In the same way that they have access to many more resources to fuel their doubts and fears, so too the church has many more resources to reach out to them with. I believe the differences cancel each other out. Today’s nomads compare equally well with nomads of every generation.

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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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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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The Best Books on Spiritual Formation

November 30, 2012

There are thousands of definitions of Spiritual Formation, but here’s what I mean by it:

“The activity involved with becoming more intimate with God through disciplines, practices and knowledge, with the goal of becoming more Christlike”

In my 41 years as a Christ-Follower, I have read many books that sought to help me in this process of Spiritual Formation. Many of these were written centuries ago and some show up from year to year. When I find a book that impacts me, it is usually because it shows me a path to God that is both challenging and accessible.

I realize a list like this is subjective. I have not read a lot of Eugene Peterson, Henri Noewen or Timothy Keller, so their books are not on this list. Also, as a spiritually oriented counselor, I have added more books on how to have a healthy inner man than most other people. I tried to include books from every age.

My criteria for choosing books on Spiritual Formation include the following four characteristics:

1. Good theology, but not too much

2. Biblical basis but not a lot of quotations

3. Practical elements, but not a how-to

4. Personal reflections, but not a biography.

So, without further explanation, here is a list of the books I consider essential for any disciple of Christ.

The Bible: Because it shouldn’t go without saying this is THE BOOK.

cunninghamIs That Really You, God? by Loren Cunningham. This is the foundation for a missionary movement greater in scope than any other. And a simple book on Hearing God

Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. This is the only allegory on the list, but it propels the reader to greater understanding of suffering and joy.

I Found the Key to the Heart of God by Basilea Schlink. Most North Americans need to delve into what one of the world’s greatest souls found as she lived out her Christianity in a rugged culture.

Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness by Jerry Cook. Jerry understands those things that we have to have to live for God in a broken world.

Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets. He understands how to pray for others and expresses it more clearly than any other book on prayer. And I’ve read a lot of them.

wallisGod’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis. If you have never fasted, or never got much out of it, this is the quintessential book on the subject. I love books of less than 100 pages that say this much.

How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit by A. W. Tozer. Another short book that delivers what it promises.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. Many people will be shocked to see this one on here. But when you read it, the cost of what it means to follow Christ becomes clearer and clearer.

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald. This book has changed the lives of so many people.

When I Relax I Feel Guilty by Tim Hansel. Every intense follower of Christ needs this one to balance out Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Between Heaven and Earth by Ken Gire. This is the best book by a man I consider to be one of the most thoughtful writers alive.

How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur. No one presents the principles of Inductive Bible Study better than Kay Arthur.

Healing Life’s Hurts by Ed Smith. This is a simple to read explanation of just about every mental and spiritual problem we face. And it lays out the simple solution.

Transformation of the Inner Man by John Sandford. The tri-fold nature of man needs to be understood and this book does a thorough job.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Boenhoeffer. This is actually  not high on my list because it is difficult to read and not well written. But the concepts are foundational and may make this one of the greatest books in Christianity along with…

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Okay, here is another allegory, but it is so much more. Get a modern translation of it if you can.

NeeThe Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. The greatest mind of Chinese Christianity and some of the simplest and profound practices of getting closer to God.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. If you ever wondered how the Enemy of our souls carries out his business, this might be the best book on the subject.

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere. This explains why most of us have trouble getting along with other people and shows how God can solve that.

The Divine Romance by Gene Edwards. When I first read it, I thought it was heresy. I have changed my mind and now consider it a great book. Read it more than once for full effect.

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows by Paul Billheimer. Have you ever grieved and mourned? Was it worth it? That strange question is the foundation for a powerful truth.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. In this unique set of daily prayers the Bible comes alive in a semi-private conversation between Jesus and you.

Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. You need to understand real holiness and Bridges delivers in this simple book.

When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson. Though perhaps not as well written as some of the rest (from a technical standpoint), it is rich in a subject most Christians ignore: The power of God

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. The so-called master of spiritual formation, this book is his best.

The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. A good explanation of all the spiritual disciplines. Please don’t let this be the only one you read (as is true of most of these).

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. The scene about washing dishes radically changed my view of the sanctity of work.

chanCrazy Love by Francis Chan. I caution the reader to see this is one man’s passion and may not be every person’s calling. That said, this is a great depiction of God’s love for us and how we can live that out.

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. A classic understanding of the intricate levels of our relationship with God.

Wild At Heart by John Eldridge. Like many of the books on this list, this one launched a movement of men to get closer and more intimate with God.

The Autobiography of Madame Guyon by Jeanne Guyon. This is a deep and reflective look at God by a woman literally locked up most of her life. This is not an easy book to read, but is extremely valuable.

Holiness and the Spirit of the Age by Floyd McClung. This is a glimpse in how to read our culture with a focus on how the people of God should live in that culture.

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Review of Chapter Seven in the book “Radical”

January 4, 2012

Key Teaching in this Chapter: Platt asserts that most Christians are either intellectual or practical Universalists (Sidenote: A universalist believes everyone will go to heaven). This chapter is designed to show the reader that Universalism is not a biblical position to live by.

Strong Points in this Chapter: Taking the reader on a whirlwind tour through the Book of Romans, Platt stops at significant places to point out why we need a Savior and why many people will not achieve heaven. He notes that all people have a knowledge of God, that all have rejected God, that all are guilty before God and will be punished. He also shows how the death of Jesus pays the penalty for sin and gives us a chance of heaven. This is a good Gospel presentation, though it is primarily intended to show the believer one last point: That people can really only trust in God if someone preaches. And we cannot preach unless we go to every nation with the Good news about God. If we really believe people are lost, we will be “radical” in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This chapter lays out the case for missions, evangelism and the proclamation of the Gospel very clearly.

Weaker Points of the Chapter: Though this is a very straight-forward teaching on missions and the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel, it still has some weak spots. I do like his description of practical Universalism. I am not sure you can apply it as widely as he does. Just because a person does not personally preach the Gospel to a tribe in Irian Jaya does that make them a Practical Universalist? As every preaching missionary reminds us, the support and sending of the church, giving of financial support  and praying for success and protection for the missionaries are just as important as the preaching is. Like an extravert, Platt continues to emphasize radical living in terms of major steps of action – like preaching.

Also, I do not agree with his assessment that we are doomed because we reject Christ. People are doomed because of rebellion and sin. If people are doomed because they reject Christ, then people are not doomed if they haven’t heard of Christ. In addition, Platt does not seem to wrestle with the harder issues of hell and heaven. (Or at least if he does, he doesn’t mention the wrestling match). As the old Evangelist, George Whitefield says “No one should teach on heaven and hell without tears.” This chapter seems to have all the zeal with few of the tears. I guarantee you that Platt feels deeply about the lost condition of man (his actions show that). He needs to communicate that with more emotional investment than just a bible study through Romans.

My Personal Takeaway from this Chapter: Every time I read anything about missions and the needs of the lost, I am purified in my resolve. This chapter had a personal impact on me to force me into seeing the lost condition of man all over again.

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Review of Chapter Six in the Book “Radical” by David Platt

December 3, 2011

This chapter is better written than the rest and gives us a real sense that the author himself is still working through some of the issues he writes about. Recently, I read the life story of Jacey Duggard, the girl who was kidnapped from her home and held captive for over 10 years. A year after escaping, she wrote her autobiography. At the time, I thought the book was premature. It would be much more helpful if it had been written at least five years later. But I now believe she wrote it to help herself work through the pain of what she went through. I feel the same way about this book. It might have been a more helpful book had it been written ten years from now. But, I believe Platt wrote this because he is working through a lot of these issues himself. This chapter reveals that quite clearly.

Key Theme of the Chapter: This chapter focuses on how we use our money. Specifically, it focuses on the greater needs of poverty, sickness and disease around the world and how believers often have a blind spot when it comes to addressing those needs. Our wastefulness and decided neglect of the poor will come back to bite us some day.

Best Parts of this Chapter: I like how he brings out the decisions that John Wesley made about money. Wesley is often quoted as saying: “As followers of Christ, we must work hard to make money. We must live simply and give as much as we can away”. It is a simple formula, but profound. Platt’s best point revolves around that one. We can and should live more simply and deliberately than we do. We can and should consider our money and what can be done regularly to give away as much as possible to the needs of the poverty-stricken. He also shows the hardest part of this equation: We are often blind to our own selfishness and will not see what we are not seeing until it gets critical in our backyards.

Weaker Points of the Chapter: His use of two Scripture passages is less skilled than it should be. First, the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, as heard by his Jewish listeners, is not primarily about being judged for how we use our finances. The chapter has more to do with where we put our trust than on how we use our money. The rich man trusted in his riches and Lazarus trusted in the Lord. The Rich man was not in torment because he was rich and ignored the poor, but because he never gave God a second thought. This also ties into the second passage Platt does a poor job with. The story of the Rich Young Ruler is all about a man who could not see his overwhelming greed and love of possessions and money. When Jesus tells him that he should sell it all and give the money to the poor, the key to it all is the last part: “Then come follow me”. It is the relationship with Jesus that compels us to care for those in need, not the command to sell everything. He went away sad because he loved his wealth. Anyone who loves wealth more than God needs to give it away so he can start from scratch again. Platt hints at that, and this could have been a better chapter if he spoke about listening to the Holy Spirit when he leads us to care for another in need.

My Personal Takeaway: I realize as a leader in God’s church that we spend so much time, money and energy on feeding ourselves and making things better for ourselves than we do at taking care of what God wants. In reflection today, I am asking myself what God really wants me to do with my time and if I am really just giving the “scraps” to God or the “best offering”.

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