books christianity church theology

unChristian 1

Just started reading through the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons in anticipation of the Q conference here in Austin in April.  Here are my thoughts from Chapter 1:

  1. “We are not responsible for outsiders’ decisions, but we are accountable when our actions and attitudes–misrepresenting a holy, just and loving God–have pushed outsiders away.” ~Page 14

    This book is a research-based analysis of the 16 to 29 year-old generation’s perception of Christianity, and how the church ought to respond.  I agree with the quote above, but my suspicion is that this book will do little to point us to the heart of the Gospel of grace as the solution to our perception.  Much of our “cultural exegesis” in pop-Christianity seems so narcissistic with respect to the church, devoid of any true interaction with a deep and rich Gospel of Christ.  It will be interesting to see how this book compares with David Wells’ Above All Earthly Powr’s, which was one of my favorite books of the last year, and a fantastic study on the actual worldview of whom this book labels “outsiders”, and an appropriate Gospel response to that worldview.

  2. I often wonder about the usefulness of large scale research in American Evangelicalism, and if it isn’t really a cop-out to actually engaging the real people around you.  Although these kinds of books are helpful at diagnosing broad, generational opinions, are they really that effective for shaping ministry?  Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to shape ministry around a more specific calling to minister to those whom God has placed you among?
  3. “Perhaps as you read this book, you will discover a more complete picture of Jesus, a transcendent, yet personal God who loves and accepts you perfectly, who wants to shape you and give your life deep meaning and purpose.” ~Page 20

    This statement echoes the Purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive sentimentality and strategy of ministry, which would make sense considering the two authors’ roots.  My initial impression of this book (which is based on no evidence whatsoever) is that it is simply the research methods of the seeker movement applied to a new generation.  I’ll keep reading to see if my presupposition holds true.

Hopefully blogging through this book will help me to process what I am reading, and be useful to anyone who might be considering reading it.

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

7 replies on “unChristian 1”

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to shape ministry around a more specific calling to minister to those whom God has placed you among?

I would say yes, and I completely agree with most of what you said.


thanks for reading unchristian. I think you will find in the rest of the book — and certainly in our future writing that Gabe and I are synthesizers – we try to take the best thinking, without critiquing an older generation. you’ve raised some interesting points and I hope you enjoy the rest of the book. – David Kinnaman

Thanks for your comment, and reading through my post again made me sound pretty harsh. This post was really my unsubstantiated thoughts having only read the first chapter, and I will certainly give it a fair shake. I do look forward to reading it, and I hope you will continue to follow my thoughts as I process through the book.

Thanks, I didn’t think your original post was “harsh.” But I appreciate your sensitivity. Are you going to Q? You’ll love it. Enjoyed your two latest posts. Again, thanks for taking the time to read and process your thoughts online. If you think of it, sign up for our Barna research newsletter. I think you’ll like a lot of the research we’ll be releasing in 2009. best, David K

I’m excited that I will be at Q. It’s nice to have such a great opportunity right in my backyard, and I am looking forward to some folks seeing the city that I have grown to love. God is moving in some amazing ways here!

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