David Kinnaman, President of The Barna Group and author of unChristian, gave a talk at Resurrection tonight and took questions from Adam and the audience. Here are my notes.
David has been with Barna for 14 years, since he was a junior in college (which makes him approx. 35).
The public thinks present-day Christianity is no longer like Jesus intended
Favorable view of evangelicals:
- 16-29 year old outsiders: 3% favorable
- Boomer outsiders: 25% favorable
- Elder outsiders: 27% favorable
75% of Americans over 40 say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important in their lives. 70% of Americans believe the resurrection is literally, historically true.
60% of Americans under 40 would say the same.
“Biblical World View” defined by Barna – 3% under 40 and 9% over 40.
- Post-Christian context invites effectiveness in living as true missionaries, in tension
- Political backlash invites opportunity to change “culture ware” rhetoric
- Limited number of Christians with BWV invites expression coming from serious discipleship
- Global awareness invites leadership for social and environmental justice
- Hyper-individualism invites counter-cultural movement of community and non-materialism
- Pluralistic culture invites opportunity to work alongside non-Christians to renew our cities
- Desire for transparency invites authentic opportunities for spiritual conversations and project-focused churches
- Search for purpose invites empowering students to pursue lives of service and clear vocations, energizing and equipping spiritual entrepreneurs
We suffer from a failure of kingdom imagination
What does it mean to be Christ-like? Luke 7:36-50. What would the woman in John 7 say about Simon? He was judgmental, hypocritical, anti-sinner, too political, insincere, out of touch. This is what young people say about Christians today.
Births to unwed mothers: 1960 – 5%, now – 38%
Next generation is very relational. Music piracy – loyalty to peers is much greater than loyalty to authority, etc. Loyalty to peers is their primary moral compass.
How to post-moderns perceive truth? The majority of young people don’t respond to an apologetics approach (some do, but not majority). Being a Christian should make people have a clearer picture of what God has called them to do in their life. If a lawyer, a lawyer who is called to restore justice, etc.
Young people want deep answers, not simplicity, canned, or phony answers. For example, student ministry might be better with fewer students (lower student/teacher ratios) and deeper investment in their lives. We might think a great curriculum or a great program will communicate the gospel effectively. Since they’re relationally-motivated, that may be less true for young people.
It’s very easy for us to slip into patterns of judgmentalism, superficiality, and religiosity. For example, students often say that rather than being accepted at church, they’re socially shunned at church just like they have been at school. Church leaders favor the popular, beautiful, smart, rich, etc. Students conclude the church is no different, or even worse that secular social groups.
It’s very possible for Christians to use terminology that non-Christians don’t understand.
43% of Americans say they’ve gone to church in the last 7 days. That’s probably over-reported (“halo effect”). Frequency of worship attendance among committed Christians is declining. People have many more options and fragmented attention. People can listen to podcasts, etc. (Adam says it has gone from 2.7 times per month to 1.4 times per month.)
Situational awareness is important, but relational awareness is even more important.
The media doesn’t get spirituality at all. Barna has recently gotten lots of questions from the media about Sarah Palin such as, “Why would she speak about spiritual things in her leadership?” So it’s no surprise that the media doesn’t project positive portrayals of committed followers of any religion.
Young people today: it’s cool to care; they’re eager to take on big things and solve them.
12 years ago 80+% of people had a positive view of Christians. Now it’s something like 40% who have a negative view.
Young people don’t want to feel that they’re the object of someone’s attempt to win them to Christ. How do we feel when a Mormon comes to the door? We notice that if we’re not a great target for conversion, they move on. We don’t want friends who are friendly with us because of an agenda: insurance salesman, etc.
Critiquing Christians has become popular. There is very possibly a “bandwagon effect” going on.
Table talk: We incorrectly believe that non-Christians are faithless. Imago Dei tells us all people have a spirit that believes in something and is potentially open.
This reminds me of Kan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church.