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Christians have an image problem

July 28, 2008

Rev. Mike Nelson, Triune Lutheran Church, Cokato

In May, I attended a two-day conference in the Twin Cities called, “Conversational Evangelism.” The conference began by making the assertion that “Christianity has an image problem.”

Among the resources cited to support this assertion was a book titled “UnChristian: What a Generation Really Thinks about Christianity.” The book was written by David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, an organization that provides research and resources to aid in the transformation of people’s lives.

Kinnaman has designed and analyzed nearly 500 studies for a variety of churches, nonprofits, and corporations. Kinnaman titled his book “UnChristian” because his scientific research reveals that unchristian “reflects outsiders’ most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be.”

He quotes one nonchurchgoer from Mississippi who said, “Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity,” this person observed, “has become marketed, and streamlines into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart.”

Kinnaman reports that young adults who have no church affiliation tend to view Christians as hypocritical, insincere, sheltered, judgmental, overly political, and prejudiced. I have to admit that I don’t notice these characteristics among my fellow believers in this community. So, I wonder, why do so many young adults feel this way?

I do observe that there is a generation, between the ages of 18 and 40, who are underrepresented at the worship services of most congregations in our communities, and our communities are not unique. That age group is underrepresented in most congregations around the country.

I would appreciate hearing from any young adult, or anyone else for that matter, that identifies with the opinions of Christianity that Kinnaman reported. I want to learn more about why we Christians have this image problem, and I am willing to listen.

Call me at (320) 286-2354 (leave a message) or e-mail me at mfnelson@ll.net. I am willing to meet at any local café or coffee shop for a face-to-face dialogue. (And I’ll buy the coffee.)