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They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations

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Many people today, especially among emerging generations, don’t resonate with the church and organized Christianity. Some are leaving the church and others were never part of the church in the first place. Sometimes it’s because of misperceptions about the church. Yet often they are still spiritually open and fascinated with Jesus. This is a ministry resource book explorin Many people today, especially among emerging generations, don’t resonate with the church and organized Christianity. Some are leaving the church and others were never part of the church in the first place. Sometimes it’s because of misperceptions about the church. Yet often they are still spiritually open and fascinated with Jesus. This is a ministry resource book exploring six of the most common objects and misunderstandings emerging generations have about the church and Christianity. The objections come from conversations and interviews the church has had with unchurched twenty and thirty-somethings at coffee houses. Each chapter raises the objection using a conversational approach, provides the biblical answers to that objection, gives examples of how churches are addressing this objection, and concludes with follow-through projection suggestions, discussion questions, and resource listings.


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Many people today, especially among emerging generations, don’t resonate with the church and organized Christianity. Some are leaving the church and others were never part of the church in the first place. Sometimes it’s because of misperceptions about the church. Yet often they are still spiritually open and fascinated with Jesus. This is a ministry resource book explorin Many people today, especially among emerging generations, don’t resonate with the church and organized Christianity. Some are leaving the church and others were never part of the church in the first place. Sometimes it’s because of misperceptions about the church. Yet often they are still spiritually open and fascinated with Jesus. This is a ministry resource book exploring six of the most common objects and misunderstandings emerging generations have about the church and Christianity. The objections come from conversations and interviews the church has had with unchurched twenty and thirty-somethings at coffee houses. Each chapter raises the objection using a conversational approach, provides the biblical answers to that objection, gives examples of how churches are addressing this objection, and concludes with follow-through projection suggestions, discussion questions, and resource listings.

30 review for They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book can be summarized as follows: "Evangelism works a lot better if you're not an asshole about it." Of course, Episcopalians are frightened as all get-out of the "e" word, as we call it, but at some point, we've got to deal with the Great Commission of Matthew: Go out into the world and make converts. Besides for our own diffidence, we also have to deal with the loss of the community-based aspect of church. There was a time, even in the United States, when church was where it was happening This book can be summarized as follows: "Evangelism works a lot better if you're not an asshole about it." Of course, Episcopalians are frightened as all get-out of the "e" word, as we call it, but at some point, we've got to deal with the Great Commission of Matthew: Go out into the world and make converts. Besides for our own diffidence, we also have to deal with the loss of the community-based aspect of church. There was a time, even in the United States, when church was where it was happening. If you were born, you went to church; got married, went to church; had babies, went to church; got old, went to church; died, went to church. And in between these signposts of life, we all went to church to support one another, to cry and rejoice together. Or at least, in theory. But it was certainly true in the Episcopal tradition; church was a community place. Kimball points out that the church is not so much a place of community anymore. It's a place that a lot of people have learned to feel really uncomfortable. Women, told to keep their heads covered and their mouths shut; African-Americans, who, into the twentieth century, were still being told they were ordained inferior in some places (not least in my own Virginia); the poor, who even now in many churches are considered unworthy because God has not sufficiently blessed them materially; homosexuals, who often get patronizing 12-step recovery programs at best, and are told they are hell-bound at worst; and of course the many young people whose sex lives have caused them harm in one way or another, and need nurture, rather than hellfire. Oh, and let's not forget the sexual and emotional abuse clergy have been guilty of. It's not a pretty picture. The pew, in short, can easily seem like a place of hate. To his credit, Kimball does not discount this reality. He is, however, a conservative evangelical Christian. This fact carries a lot of freight, taking foundationalist and rationalist hermeneutics with it. Consequently, Kimball takes a rationalist hermeneutic that leads him to what we would call "conservative" stances on many social issues. His task is to explain how he makes his church relevant—how he makes it even work—when it's focused on ethics that are troubling at best, and a hermeneutic more suited to Descartes or Kant than Augustine or Aquinas. The answer appears to be that because the church is no longer the locus of community, he will move the church to the locus of where community is. This means simply being in coffee shops; in libraries; going to concerts and gatherings; having * gasp * non-Christian friends. Trust, in other words, is how one moves the wall of the church out. With all that explained, the upshot of his book remains: Don't be an asshole. In that respect, I think we Episcopalians could do a little better. But we're doing more or less OK.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Dalton

    This was a great testimony of the emerging generation. It's so refreshing to hear words from their own mouths received with a Christian's listening ear and open and honest heart. I am encouraged that we are not required to back down from the Truth that we hold to be most valuable and we need not run from difficult ideas or things we don't understand or questions we can't answer. Thank you, Dan, for drawing out the Truth in Scripture showing the loving way that Jesus longs to engage with this worl This was a great testimony of the emerging generation. It's so refreshing to hear words from their own mouths received with a Christian's listening ear and open and honest heart. I am encouraged that we are not required to back down from the Truth that we hold to be most valuable and we need not run from difficult ideas or things we don't understand or questions we can't answer. Thank you, Dan, for drawing out the Truth in Scripture showing the loving way that Jesus longs to engage with this world without fear. Perfect love drives out fear, after all (1 John 4:18), and I believe that a community practicing the love of Christ within itself and reaching out to share it with the culture in which it exists will drive out the fears keeping the emerging generation (and all generations) from the church. The love of Jesus will defeat the fear in the hearts of both the lost and the found. This book presented a clear picture of a problem that the the church has connecting with and sharing the love of Jesus with the emerging generation. Left there it would have been depressing, but Dan Kimball does not leave a reader without hope that we CAN repair the relationship that the church has with the world. My prayer is that the hope that was communicated in this book will be the catalyst to spur us on in a life of faith to pursue loving, intentional, Jesus-centered relationships with those presently outside of the church that they may be drawn to Jesus and gladly enter His church in celebration to the glory of God!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dottie Parish

    They Like Jesus but not the Church is a must read for those who want to reach emerging generations while speaking the truth. The book is divided into three parts – Why Emerging Generations are Changing, What Emerging Generations Think About the Church, and How the Church Can Respond. I was especially helped by an illustration of syncretism in our culture he observed in a TV sitcom. Kimball emphasizes the need to form friendships first, listen to what others believe, understand what attracts them They Like Jesus but not the Church is a must read for those who want to reach emerging generations while speaking the truth. The book is divided into three parts – Why Emerging Generations are Changing, What Emerging Generations Think About the Church, and How the Church Can Respond. I was especially helped by an illustration of syncretism in our culture he observed in a TV sitcom. Kimball emphasizes the need to form friendships first, listen to what others believe, understand what attracts them to their “faith,” and be respectful. We know this, but don’t always practice it. Only when we do these things should we attempt to explain the Christian faith. Kimball has interesting visuals in his book—a historical map of when each faith began, and pictures of three different mountains to God showing why all roads don’t lead to God. He says various faiths have similar teachings at the base of the mountain, but they each climb a different mountain leading to a different God. This is an excellent book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tom Bazan

    The book has three parts: (1) "Why Emerging Generations are Changing;" (2) "What Emerging Generations Think About the Church;" and (3) "How the Church Can Respond." He makes some good points about the changing culture. One of the premises of the book is that we live in a "post-Christian" culture. Although it might have been safe to assume that everyone--regardless of whether a person was a Christian, went to church, or had ever been to church--knew the basic ideas of Christianity, sin, etc., that The book has three parts: (1) "Why Emerging Generations are Changing;" (2) "What Emerging Generations Think About the Church;" and (3) "How the Church Can Respond." He makes some good points about the changing culture. One of the premises of the book is that we live in a "post-Christian" culture. Although it might have been safe to assume that everyone--regardless of whether a person was a Christian, went to church, or had ever been to church--knew the basic ideas of Christianity, sin, etc., that is no longer the case. We are now foreigners in our culture. And, there are a lot of (mis)perceptions about Christianity in that culture. He points out that many (if not most) of those perceptions are based on few interactions, few relationships. Rather, they are based on something larger and more abstract, maybe television commentators or movie characters. Regardless, Christianity is becoming less and less mainstream. And, he argues, Christians are doing little to stop this. The "Christian bubble" essentially takes people from society and puts them into a subculture that wants nothing to do with the larger culture. Instead, he argues, the Church needs to go out and be a part of the greater culture. Bring the Gospel to people, rather than expecting the culture to come to church. As a means of how churches can do this, he gives six negative things that "emerging generations" (people in their teens and twenties, mainly) think about the church. He claims that the people he interviewed for the book (upon which the six things are based) "like" Jesus but don't really like the church. He says that if the Church (or churches) could work on some of these things, then it might be more attractive to people outside of it. He says--later in the book--that the Christian subculture is a stumbling block (just like the cross is a stumbling block) to people even hearing the Gospel message. Yes, sin is a stumbling block; but the perception of Christianity is preventing people from hearing about sin, he argues. The six negatives are: (1) The church is an "organized religion" with a political agenda (2) The church is judgmental and negative (3) The church is dominated by males and oppresses females (4) The church is homophobic (5) The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong (6) The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally Kimball, in response to these claims, tries to say that the Church should hold to what it believes--to hold to fundamentals (and other beliefs)--but might want to consider changing the way it projects those beliefs. The way that churches come across to visitors and outsiders could change some of these perceptions, he argues (even though the perceptions are mostly based on few--or no--interactions with Christians). In his defense, most of the suggestions that Kimball makes are good ones. Churches should watch how they are perceived, if for no other reason than because some of those perceptions might be true. Now he does say that churches should not change what they do based on what people outside of the church wish a church would be--and that needs to be echoed, because if they Church does not have something different, it is going to blend in and be irrelevant--but that doesn't mean that there is nothing that churches can do. The biggest point I got from the book is similar to the purpose of Hybels' Just Walk Across the Room (and I know I'm using quite a few references to his books, even though I've only read two). Kimball was able to change some people's perceptions of the church because he interacted with them--built relationships with them. That is what I get from the book. We need to not stay inside our "holy huddle." Get outside of the building--the church is the people. And, the Church needs to train people for that purpose. Give people opportunities to learn, lead, and build each other up. That type of community will be something that people will go out and invite people to. And people will be attracted to it. The book, he notes at the end, is not about getting better music or preaching or programs, but about having (and developing) a missional heart. We are all missionaries. A missionary doesn't just go into a foreign culture and not adapt to the local languages, practices, etc. Why, then, do we expect that we can be foreigners here and still be useful? That, I think, is his point. Kimball's I Like Jesus But Not the Church (a pro-church book) is the companion to They Like Jesus . . ., but with answers to many of the questions he raises here. It is a book for those grappling from outside the church.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    If you haven’t read Dan Kimball’s latest book, They Like Jesus, but Not the Church, grab your keys and head to the nearest bookstore. It is hailed by Lee Strobel as “a powerful and passionate wake-up call for the American church.” Kimball has a message you and I need to hear. In a matter of years, America has rapidly become a pluralistic society. There are more religions practiced in the United States than any other country in the world (Eck 2002). This has profound significance for church minis If you haven’t read Dan Kimball’s latest book, They Like Jesus, but Not the Church, grab your keys and head to the nearest bookstore. It is hailed by Lee Strobel as “a powerful and passionate wake-up call for the American church.” Kimball has a message you and I need to hear. In a matter of years, America has rapidly become a pluralistic society. There are more religions practiced in the United States than any other country in the world (Eck 2002). This has profound significance for church ministry and evangelism. Our society is no longer based primarily on a Judeo-Christian worldview. Kimball writes: “In an increasingly post-Christian culture, the influence and values shaping emerging generations are no longer aligned with Christianity. Emerging generations don’t have a basic understanding of the story of the Bible, and they don’t have one God as the predominate God to worship. Rather, they are open to all types of faiths, including new mixtures of religions” (p. 15). Christianity is a strange and uncomfortable religion for those who have grown up watching harsh media portrayals of the church or have been exposed to a wide variety of spiritualities. There is a trend of emerging generations leaving the church. Young people, more often than not, view Christians as negative and even harmful. They like what they know of Jesus, but they don’t like the church. After spending countless hours with 20/30-somethings (usually in coffee shops), Kimball found six common perceptions emerging generations have of the church: The church is an organized religion with a political agenda The church is judgmental and negative The church is dominated by males and oppresses females The church is homophobic The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally While some of these perceptions are based on distorted media, many of the individuals quoted in the book have had first hand negative experiences with Christians. Kimball exhorts us to listen to their voices, and in doing so, learn how to more accurately convey Jesus to them. This means breaking out of the Christian subculture bubble. The church is often a self-enclosed world; many of us rarely have meaningful relationships with non-Christians. This, in turn, forces emerging generations to rely on media to formulate views of Christianity. This book is not always easy to read. It is difficult to hear the negative perceptions many have of Christians. It is also challenging to examine ways we have contributed to alienating people from Jesus. Yet, Kimball does a great job of offering practical advice on how we can better respond. Read They Like Jesus but Not the Church, and let me know what you think. What would it mean for us to accurately represent Jesus to society? How can the church balance its conviction on certain issues, while conveying gentleness and respect for others? What kind of relationships do you have with people of other faiths or worldviews?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Freeman

    Enjoyable. The title sounded like this would be a liberal controversial book. Instead, I found it to only be a controversial book. His primary goal is to open the eyes of the church regarding how the western world views Christianity. He correctly points out that we live in a "post-christian" world today. Dan Kimball definitely values the church and gathering of believers. He likes to use emergent terms like "missional", "emerging generations", "kingdom living",and last but not least "beer". Howev Enjoyable. The title sounded like this would be a liberal controversial book. Instead, I found it to only be a controversial book. His primary goal is to open the eyes of the church regarding how the western world views Christianity. He correctly points out that we live in a "post-christian" world today. Dan Kimball definitely values the church and gathering of believers. He likes to use emergent terms like "missional", "emerging generations", "kingdom living",and last but not least "beer". However, he believes that homosexuality is a sin, that God has an ordained structure for how men and women should fit into the church, that the Bible is God inspired and should be studied literally, that Faith alone in Christ alone is the only way of salvation, and other conservative views. I was very encouraged by the gracious and respectful manner in which he handled these topics. He provides several good balanced thoughts regarding how to better approach the world around us. I certainly don't agree with all of his conclusions but he did a great job of helping me to think through this. I do recommend this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Remi

    Really enjoyed this book, though I think I'd enjoy I Like Jesus But Not The Church because that book is directed towards people like myself whereas this book is directed towards church leaders trying to coax people like myself back to the church. My only critique of this book was when it came down to views of controversial topics such as women's roles in the church and whether or not you believe homosexuality is a sin. The author was basically telling church leaders, "Yes they're all going to he Really enjoyed this book, though I think I'd enjoy I Like Jesus But Not The Church because that book is directed towards people like myself whereas this book is directed towards church leaders trying to coax people like myself back to the church. My only critique of this book was when it came down to views of controversial topics such as women's roles in the church and whether or not you believe homosexuality is a sin. The author was basically telling church leaders, "Yes they're all going to hell for not living their lives like us, but say it in a nicer way." It really bothered me. I have no right to demand he change his mind but he can't expect LGBT people or modern women to want to convert to Christianity or return to the church if they're being told they're second-class citizens with a smile. I will say that my favorite chapters were What They Wish The Church Were Like and A Great Hope For The Future but I can admit that it was only because I agreed with him. I will definitely be purchasing the companion book to this one to see how he addresses people who are Christians but do not attend church. A good read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Rogerson

    Okay... I bought this a while ago because it looked interesting enough to get me to pull it off the shelf. I just started reading it yesterday and today I am finished. I kid you not when I say this book was so very interesting that I could not barely put it down. I was intrigued by the topics that Dan brings up and how I too shared some of those same beliefs or feelings about the church today. Don't get me wrong I am pro-church without a doubt. However, at times I do struggle with these issues a Okay... I bought this a while ago because it looked interesting enough to get me to pull it off the shelf. I just started reading it yesterday and today I am finished. I kid you not when I say this book was so very interesting that I could not barely put it down. I was intrigued by the topics that Dan brings up and how I too shared some of those same beliefs or feelings about the church today. Don't get me wrong I am pro-church without a doubt. However, at times I do struggle with these issues and wonder if the church we represent today was the church Jesus intended. The issues in this book are some things I definitely feel need to be addressed in the world today. If we are the church and are to reach lost souls we need to reevaluate what "we" think is important and focus on Jesus and what was important to him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    While a lot of the material in this book is repeated, and then repeated again, this book was an eye opener. With a clear and engaging writing style, the author shows the reader how the new generation views the church and where many churches are going wrong in their evangelism attempts. An important book! Unfortunately, the less formal writing style might have many in the books target demographic overlook it as a serious reference.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rick Robie

    If you are serious about reaching people for Christ, then you need to do your homework and start with this book. The author has done a lot of work to paint the drastic picture of what this generation really thinks what the church is like. Excellent interviews and some great information, with which we need to arm ourselves and really befriend non Christians for Jesus.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Another terrific book that nails it when it comes to reaching postmods and the next gen with the good news of Christ. Kimball has a way of talking plain about the need and the urgency of doing ministry differently without becoming critical of current methods.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    This is one of those books that unsettles you because it hits close to home. Very thought provoking and challenging. Plus living overseas it was a good glimpse into North American culture - especially US culture.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Well written. Provacative and thoughtful. You won't agree with every page, but ought to read it anyway. I've recommended it to at least 2 people. Well written. Provacative and thoughtful. You won't agree with every page, but ought to read it anyway. I've recommended it to at least 2 people.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    every Christian should read this. great insight into those who don't go to church (40-50% of Americans!) every Christian should read this. great insight into those who don't go to church (40-50% of Americans!)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    A must read for all those who are concerned about moving the good news of the Gospel of Christ to the unbelieving generations. Very thought provoking.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Great book. I think this particular book was geared toward pastors, but I think every Christian would benefit from reading this.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    This book is a life changer.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    FANTASTIC and undeniably important - A MUST READ!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is a very insightful book for me. My District Youth Director sent it to me a couple of years ago. But, I have not finished reading it yet.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    fantastic...great conversation about talking to people who may be interested in God but not interested in church. loved it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daryl Watts

    Dan Kimball does a fantastic job of keeping it simple, yet challenging. See my full review at http://cybertsunami.typepad.com Dan Kimball does a fantastic job of keeping it simple, yet challenging. See my full review at http://cybertsunami.typepad.com

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Teaching a class on the emerging generation and this book was a great resource.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Bell

    Was a really good group study

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Absolutely loved this book. I thought it offered great insight into what the people outside the church think and believe about the body of Christ, better known as the church.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bambang Widyanarko

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Awesome good

  26. 4 out of 5

    Les Wolf

    They Like Jesus but Not the Church is a thought-provoking exploration of the perceptions and attitudes of emerging generations toward the Christian church. The author, a pastor himself, discusses six major objections obtained through extensive interviews. Kimball discusses how Christians may come across as callous and repugnant with regard to the beliefs and opinions of those outside of the faith. Kimball offers suggestions and provides examples from his own efforts to help Christians find ways They Like Jesus but Not the Church is a thought-provoking exploration of the perceptions and attitudes of emerging generations toward the Christian church. The author, a pastor himself, discusses six major objections obtained through extensive interviews. Kimball discusses how Christians may come across as callous and repugnant with regard to the beliefs and opinions of those outside of the faith. Kimball offers suggestions and provides examples from his own efforts to help Christians find ways to connect to people of varying backgrounds, lifestyles and beliefs. This book is worth reading and designed to be used in real world situations.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Krampus Mark

    every once in a while you have to understand the mind of the enemy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    Thought provoking, especially as the author seemed to struggle with his own beliefs.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Phil Whittall

    I've just read They Like Jesus But Not The Church and I'm going to have do some experiments. Kimball's theory based on a number of out-of-church experiences and conversations is that people are open to knowing more about Jesus but that more often than not the church gets in the way. Hard to argue with that really. What is more questionable is how well this crosses the Atlantic and how easily his observations fit the UK. For a start our evangelicals are far milder, and our fundamentalists are tame I've just read They Like Jesus But Not The Church and I'm going to have do some experiments. Kimball's theory based on a number of out-of-church experiences and conversations is that people are open to knowing more about Jesus but that more often than not the church gets in the way. Hard to argue with that really. What is more questionable is how well this crosses the Atlantic and how easily his observations fit the UK. For a start our evangelicals are far milder, and our fundamentalists are tame by comparison so the description of church that he paints is not one I easily recognise and I've grown up in the church. Of course we're also British which means we're quite apologetic and polite about things. No doubt we can be offensive, rude and inconsiderate and sure our arguments can be a bit simplistic but all in a very British kind of way. But I'm glad for all those things, some of the descriptions he paints of Christians in the US are truly terrifying. The second difference is that we've been in a post-Christian society for some time now and I think you can make a decent argument to say our emerging generations emerged a generation ago. Post-modernism isn't new the church is just a bit slow to catch on. Thirdly my impression is that here people don't know about Jesus much at all, for many ordinary people issues of faith are not often on their agenda. The greatest insult to the church is that we are not considered offensive but instead we are harmless. We lack the ability to excite strong emotion much of the time (although our small band of extremists experience this more often) and so society is indifferent by and large. I found the book interesting and readable but Christians here are missionaries in a different culture and so we need to learn different lessons. Worth a read though.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Murch

    Upon reading this book in 2015, I realized where so many of my contemporaries received their mid-2000's talking points and 'cutting-edge' mindsets. When this book came out, I was fresh out of seminary, working as a youth pastor in an AG church in Olympia, WA. There was a strong movement among my fellow youth pastors and missional minded folks toward and 'outward' focus on the dechurched and disillusioned. Studying in one's office was so 1999, as the coffee shop with sinners was the new place for Upon reading this book in 2015, I realized where so many of my contemporaries received their mid-2000's talking points and 'cutting-edge' mindsets. When this book came out, I was fresh out of seminary, working as a youth pastor in an AG church in Olympia, WA. There was a strong movement among my fellow youth pastors and missional minded folks toward and 'outward' focus on the dechurched and disillusioned. Studying in one's office was so 1999, as the coffee shop with sinners was the new place for sermon prep. A new thinking on sexuality and gender roles was piquing in the church, and many were espousing a new narrative concerned with what Christians have done wrong to turn so many people off. I don't think Kimball's book was the source of all of these thoughts, but it certainly reflects the 'spirit of the age' as I remember it. I think the emergence of social media in the last 9 years has shifted the narrative within the church a bit, but I do think Kimball's words are still resounding in some circles. I wasn't a huge fan of this book. Similar to the narrative I remember being confronted with right out of seminary, I have always felt like this 'new take' on things is a bit lacking. I think the emphasis is in the wrong place. I'd answer the question that this title is begging: I don't think the 'Jesus' they like is actually the real Jesus. This narrative buys into a perception of Jesus that is squishy and malleable, and touts as authorities those who simply want to throw off all authority. This book did challenge me at points. It definitely serves as a good dialogue starter.

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