There is more old “new” news. It seems that we have reached the end of Christian America. It’s “new” because it is still selling books. It’s “old” because I remember this being said by Chuck Colson over 20 years ago. I’m sure it was stated before that as well.
Here’s the thing: they are ALL right. Colson, Greg Boyd, and now Gabe Lyons in his new book The Next Christians. I received this book as a review copy from the publisher. I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.
Lyons takes on the doom and gloom of “post-Christian” America and gives us what I would say is VERY good news. Really.
It has been my contention for quite some time that our cultural Christianity has become so diluted it would do us good as believers to serve in the minority again… you know, like most of the world’s Christians do already.
Lyons sets up the gloom by discussing two types of Christians in America: Those who try to seclude themselves from the tainted culture and those who try to be “relevant.” Both are wrong. I was thrilled to see Lyons go after churches that tend to make their children’s ministries look like Disney World and their adult services like a Starbucks.
The answer Lyons sees in the new Christians is really an old answer as well. He is probably reaching out to the twenty and thirty-somethings (which I oppose if this is how this book will be taken), but the answers lie within the ancient faith.
The third type of Christian Lyons sees are called “Restorers.” They want to engage the culture, but they are firmly rooted in the ancient faith. Lyons speaks to the need for spiritual discipline and church community and the centrality of the gospel. But in that rootedness, there are those engaging the culture in “new” ways. (Again, it’s NOT new. Try reading Luther and the call of vocation.) Lyons gives us nice refreshers, so it’s good. Just, PLEASE, do not treat Lyons work as “cutting edge” or something “new.” He’s just reminding us how to live in the minority but doing so with power.
He describes the Restorers as “Provoked, not offended. Creators, not critics. Called, not employed. Grounded, not distracted. In community, not alone. Countercultural, not ‘relevant.'” (And if I haven’t stated it clearly enough, I REALLY like that last point!)
Again, Lyons is a refresher. I would encourage you to read more deeply from those who have gone before. There are some prophetic voices who have cried out in the wilderness for a lot longer than Lyons. Names like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Chuck Colson, Tim Keller… (And Lyons recognizes this in his book.)
Let this book with its fine illustrations give you a catalyst for thought.