It is not be very often that I describe a book about the condition of Christianity in America as a ‘page turner’ but that’s exactly what Gabe Lyons has produced with The Next Christians. This volume is a sequel of sorts to unchristian – the earlier work Lyons co-authored with David Kinnaman in 2007 (see my review here). While unchristian clearly identified the current state of the church by examining the perceptions of the church by those on the outside, The Next Christians provides a prescription to restore a healthy and authentic Christianity. He identifies a new wave of NextChristians that he sees as restorers. These NextChristians possess six characteristics. They are: Provoked, not offended; Creators, not critics; Called, not employed; Grounded, not distracted; In community, not alone; and Countercultural, not “relevant”.
Lyons writes: “The next Christians often show up where you least expect, in every channel of culture and every sphere of social interaction. From college suites, concerts, and entrepreneurial start-ups to social networking destinations and work. These Christians will show up in their schools, participate in volunteer programs, support civic government, read medical research, be proponents for a just prison system, plant community gardens, be patrons of art festivals and local coffee shops. They will be the most enthusiastic about human rights campaigns, inter-religious dialogue, and will be known on the streets of their neighborhoods. You’ll begin to recognize the restorers in your own life and perhaps discover that this way of being Christian is what you’ve been longing for.” (pp. 67-68)
What follows are accounts of people who are living out the six characteristics of NextChristians. You will find the examples of these people to be both challenging and compelling. I am encouraged that there is a new generation of Christians who are starting a new reformational wave that will redefine the church. My only regret is that I am not 20 years younger so that I could be in the middle of it, but that does not excuse me from being part of this wave of NextChristians. Lyons writes:
“For you, the call is literally within your grasp. It’s the place where you show up each day and the problems you encounter in the process. Possibly, for you its putting a dent in the never-ending cycle of poverty that destroys so many lives, neighborhoods, and nations. Or creatively addressing the malnutrition, poor health, and disease that’s wrecking so many families. Or tutoring, mentoring, and fostering fatherless children. Perhaps the addiction to drugs, alcohol, career advancement, affluence, or pornography is what enslaves and torments your friends the most. Whatever it is that’s broken, whatever you see wrong, remember – God’s intention and method of restoration is to use you to bring his redeeming love to the world.” (pp. 203-204)
I purchased copies of NextChristian for my father-in-law (read his review here tomorrow) and my daughter and son-in-law. I think this book is required reading for all generations of Christ-followers to read and consider their response. I’m anxious to dialogue with them what this might me for us in the days and years ahead.
I would love to hear from you once you’ve read Next Christians. Are you going to make intentional changes to your lifestyle? Are you going to seek ways that you can become a restorer? What is that going to look like for you?