The Post-Church Christian [Book Review]
February 25, 2013 7 Comments
I am one of the 80 million millennials born between 1982 and 2000. We are known to be tech-savvy agents of change who treasure flexibility, relationships, authenticity, and individual expression. Because of these and other unique qualities of my generation, we experience friction with other generations from time to time. Often, the friction is healthy and leads to mutual understanding, growth, and stronger bonds between generations. However, the friction sometimes results in hurt, misunderstanding, and separation.
As the College Ministry Director at a church in a Southern town that is also home to a Christian college, I deal with the results of the friction between baby boomers, millennials, and the church on a frequent basis. I have met many of my fellow millennials who have been “hurt/burned/disillusioned” by the church, so much so that they have given up on it completely. Some of the stories are heartbreaking and valid, but many have withdrawn as the result of generational differences of opinion on what the church should be and do. To them, the church doesn’t feel like home anymore. They still love Jesus, but have become dissatisfied with the church. So the question arises: “Do you need to be a part of the church to follow Jesus?”
Enter The Post-Church Christian. This book is based off a series of conversations between a baby boomer father (Paul Nyquist, president of Moody Bible Institute) and his millennial son (Carson Nyquist, a pastor, photographer, and storyteller) about their views of the church. Unlike other books about Christianity, the church, and millennials, The Post-Church Christian is written directly to millennials. In the book, the authors do exactly what the subtitle of the book says by “dealing with the generational baggage of our faith.”
The first five chapters are written by Carson and express the frustrations that he and many of my millennial peers have with the church in America. Topics covered include generational baggage, politics in the pulpit, the lack of authenticity in relationships with other believers, Christianity and culture, and Christian liberty [for more on Christian liberty, check out this post by Erik Raymond]. Most of the critiques he makes on behalf of millennials are valid, while others (especially the discussion of Christian liberty) demonstrate the lack of life experience that many millennials have.
In the second part of The Post-Church Christian, Paul Nyquist responds to the points made by Carson in an honest and compassionate manner. Dr. Nyquist admits to the some of the mistakes he and his fellow boomers have made in leading the church, but offers explanations as to why they have led the way they do. Additionally, he offers great counsel from a biblical perspective on the definition, mission, and essentialness of the church [it is worth noting that Carson’s portion of the book includes very few Scripture reference while Paul’s portion points to the Bible often]. To close his section, Paul challenges the prevalent millennial view of engaging culture by “being relevant.” While he admits, his generation hasn’t done a great job of engaging unbelievers, he cautions young believers from swinging in the exact opposite direction by being so much like unbelievers that it is hard to distinguish between the two.
The book closes with two chapters written by the co-authors that encourage millennials to reconnect and plug into a local church. They encourage patience, forgiveness, and understanding between millennials and the other generations in a church reminding them that one day their kids and grandkids will likely have their own views of how church should be done that will differ from our millennial view. The final page of the book challenges readers with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Overall, this is a helpful book for Christians of all ages to read. It gives millennials an understanding of where baby boomers are coming from as well as a biblical perspective on what the church is and should do. It also helps baby boomers and church leaders to understand the young people in their church better and how to empower them to make a difference in the local church, the community, and the world.
If you know a young person who has been disillusioned with the church, give this book to them, encourage them to read it, and then follow up with them to discuss their thoughts.
Lawson’s Rating: IV out of V
Are you a millennial? Share your thoughts on the church in the Comments below. What do you like? What needs to change?
Are you a baby boomer? Let me know what you think of millennials and how to incorporate them into the church.
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
For more on millennials, Christianity, and the church, check out these books:
“The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation” by Thom and Jess Rainer
“Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers” by Christian Smith
“You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith” by David Kinnaman
“unChristian: What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity…and Why it Matters” by David Kinnaman
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”