How the UnChurched See Us

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 I can remember when being a Christian was considered in our culture an admirable thing.  Can’t you?  But that day has come and gone, according to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, authors of Un Christian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianty . . . and Why it Matters (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007).  My mind is still spinning trying to put together the implications of their significant sociological study, in cooperation with The Barna Group.  

“Our research shows that many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults [16-29 years of age], have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders.  They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.”  (p. 11)

The chart below summarizes the findings of Kinnaman and Lyons and shows the percentage of unchurched younger adults who feel this way about Christians:
x Judgmental          87%
x Hypocritical    85%
x Old fashioned   78%
x Too involved in politics     75%
x Out of touch w/ reality      72%
x Insensitive to others  70%
x Not accept other faiths    64%
x Boring    68%
x Confusing        61%

Before quickly explaining away these perceptions, as I did initially, please know that the chapters ofUnChristian offer carefully nuanced interpretations about these perceptions and how those of us in the church might consider responding.  A CT Blog entry is way too short a forum to discuss these perceptions in detail. 

The bottom line, however, is that we Christians have a significant image problem as we try to offer the Radical Hospitality of Christ to the world.  The issues are complex.  Sometimes the perceptions of outsiders are not “our” fault, but sometimes they are.  “Often outsiders’ perceptions of Christianity reflect a church infatuated with itself.  We discovered that many Christians have lost their heart for those outside the faith.”  (p. 14)

UnChurched is well worth a group of persons in your congregation who care about reaching the next generation for Christ studying, reflecting upon praying about and being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  We have an uphill trudge inviting persons to join us in living life following Jesus in today’s world.  It helps to realize how people perceive us . . . and maybe why.  

For more information on UnChristian check out their website at  and a CNN video interview with the Gabe Lyons on YouTube at

Jeff Stiggins

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