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UnChristian 09 & AW FROM UNCHRISTIAN TO CHRISTIAN & THE NEW PERCEPTIONS

The last two chapters of UnChristian serve as the “wrap it up, tie it off” reflections of David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. Kinnaman goes first with his chatper, “From UnChristian to Christian.”

Knowing the problem and diagnosing the hostility are just the start. How will we respond? What will we do to address the unChristian perception of our faith?” With this question raised Kinnaman jumps into his short chapter, saying that in order to shift unChristian perceptions of outsiders we need to learn to respond to people the way Jesus did. How does Kinnaman envision Jesus’ response to people? Glad you asked…

To do this involves us responding with the right perspective. Jesus was not bothered by criticism or his critics the way we are, because the recognition Jesus saught was from his Father not his brother. Tied in with this Kinnaman says, “He was not willing to be defined by his enemies.” But when he did respond to his enemies he did so by considering their below-the-surface motives; in short Jesus went after their heart. Some conventional wisdom to glean from this is be more concerned with what happens in us that what is happening to us when we receive criticism.

To respond to outsiders like Jesus did involves connect with people. This is seen most clearly in the way Jesus influenced his disciples through his personal relationship with them. Kinnaman says something in this section I wish all of us could get;

“When it comes to our interaction with outsiders, we have to realize that our relationships, our interactions with people, comprise the picture of Jesus that people retain. God has wired human beings so that spiritual influence occurs most commonly through relationships.”

But here’s the kicker, we don’t only need to love outsiders inside real relationships, but we also need to love our brother and sister, if we don’t Kinnaman says nothing we do with outsiders will hold water….so an orthodoxy of community has missiological significance? YEP! Surprise, surprise…

To respond to outsiders like Jesus means we need to get creative. Jesus was deeply creative in his speeches and discourse styles, we need to recapture his ability to grasp people’s perceptions with words. But part of that task will include us asking ourselves how much the outsiders we’re speaking with understand about our faith and its biblical storyline.

To respond to outsiders means we need to learn the secrete of service. Serving outsiders is the most effective way to tear down misperceptions or right-on perceptions of ungodliness in our lives. This is the section that Kinnaman drops his proof-texting boom, its a good line of texts that will encourage and confront you as a reader to consider service more (See Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Servanthood for a more indepth study). Serving others is ‘eventual’ its a ‘lifestyle, in other words, Kinnaman says serving others isn’t a ministry we join its a lifestyle of compassion we constantly have to cultivate; its Spirit meets flesh meets the world.

Kinnaman closes his chapter and his book by ministering to those who may be struggling with spiritual depression over the image of UnChristian. He does this not by offering us reprieve and thereby undoing the work of the book, but rather by pointing us to repentance and faith, particularly in Isaiah 58.

Gabe Lyons chapter, “The New Perceptions,” is about half the length of Kinnaman’s. Gabe starts off his chapter by personally describing his own hopes for this research and how he sees it fitting into his plans and Godward calling. He moves from this straight into talking about the relationship between perceptions and ‘branding’, and suggests that these perceptions outsiders have are a reality for us at least at the ‘branding’ level. He describes how it felt for him to be sitting inside Starbucks as he read through the pdf version of the book, thinking that if he stood up and announced he was a Christian these perceptions are how his outsider neighbors would brand him. In a word, it was unnerving for him.

Gabe throws a creative twist on his response to these unnerving perceptions, he suggests that what we as Christians must do is recover our sense of God’s common grace as much as our sense of his saving grace and re-explore the intersection between the two in our lives and God’s mission for his bride. Gabe suggests that the truest core of the Christian life is expressed in the doing more than the knowing.

Gabe knows that this call is a long-term haul kind of calling, we are to imagine in the present what the future could be, and by that begin to create the future in the present. as C.S. Lewis artfully spoke about so long ago. Along with this imperative Lyons closes out his after word thoughts with one more imperative, “We must take the love of Christ everywhere we go and exhibit an expression of Christianity that seeks to find the good in all people and point them toward their Creator.”

Following Kinnaman & Lyons closing thoughts are a series of what appears to be adjectives for the New Perspective K & L are hoping Christians will bring to outsiders. Each adjective is followed by a brief muse by cultural leaders, pastors, and more.