They Like Jesus But Not the Church – Review

Posted on July 26, 2007 by

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They Like Jesus But Not the Church

By Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith Church

As my last post said, I bought this book and read it in two days. This is going to be a more in depth look at the book, what Dan is saying and how he is suggesting we address the issues he raises.

Before I begin trying to examine what Dan wrote, I’d like to pray for guidance and a clear mind. That I would do no disservice to anyone through this. And that God be pleased with everything said here.

First, the premise of the book was a very intriguing and pretty new idea to me. The idea that people in popular culture are interested and even respect and exalt Jesus but don’t like the church was kind of shocking but it makes sense. Dan presents this not in an overly academic way but in a very narrative and contextual way. He uses quotes from people he knows and has interviewed. I’ll throw in two of the qoutes he used just to give you an idea of the kind of stuff is in this book.

“Jesus is someone I really respect. His teachings hit you at a very personal level. Jesus is a man whose actions, story and life are very powerful. He obviously had some sort of intense spiritual connection to God.” 23 year old Graduate student

and one more.

“I hold Jesus to be a wise man. Jesus was inspiration and pure. He was a wonderful man with great lessons to teach about love, acceptance, and peace. Jesus was someone who lived out his message and wasn’t a hypocrite like many modern religious leaders. Jesus stood out among the others of his time. I believe 100 percent that Jesus walked the earth, and that because of his teaching, he sent a lot of people’s gray matter spinning. I believe there has to be a God. Not believing would make no sense. We are here for a reason.” 35 year old Advertising Manager.

Dan uses a lot more of these interviews to show us that the non-christians aren’t as far gone as we think they are.

Dan presents 6 common statements made about the church by today’s younger generations. He doesn’t leave it at simply stating what they say. He engages with them and asks why they feel that way, and then he presents several things we can do to address these issues.

These issues are

“1. The church is an organized religion with a political agenda

2. The church is judgmental and negative

3. The church is dominated by males and oppresses females

4. The church is homophobic

5. The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong

6. The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally”

Throughout the book there is the theme that we, as Christians, haven’t been rightly representing Jesus. Sure we know all the right things to say, and we have clear views on all the controversial issues. But when it comes down to it are we living what we proclaim. Do we help the poor, do we love those that we consider enemies? How often do we make jokes and remarks that don’t represent Christ’s love? To speak in more technical terms, we need to add orthopraxy to our orthodoxy.

Dan also asks them what they wish the church were like. This chapter was the most interesting to me and gave me the most hope for the future. There were three things that they said that stood out to me as a why aren’t we doing/portraying this already, things.

“I wish the church weren’t about the church building.” They express a dissatisfaction with the way the church wants and expects the non-christian to come to the church building. And that makes sense, we inside the church know that the Church is the body of Christ made up of the believers in community, not the building that we meet in. but it seems that we have portrayed to the rest of the world that we only really are a church when in the building. And if you think about it, it’s not hard to see why. We meet for worship gatherings there, we teach there, we do men’s ministry there, we do women’s ministry there, VBS, the pastors offices are there…etc. I think it’s interesting that the non-christians want to see the church not be about the building. And we have the responsibility to show them that.

“I wish the church were a loving place.” Wow, can you believe that? Is that not Humbling? We as a Church, have become a place where people don’t see love. More specifically, they don’t see the church as a place where people are loving to those not like themselves. And isn’t that kind of true? How do we respond if a man came into a service with ripped jeans, dirty shirt, and messy green hair? Do we welcome him, and ask him about his life? Are we genuinely interested about the well being of this man whom God loves and is sustaining? Or do we cast condescending looks, and make snide comments to those around us? Or worse yet do we simply ignore that he is even there? We are the people of a God who is love (1 John 4:8) and whose greatest commandment is, to love God, and then to love people. (Matthew 22:37-39) We need to look at how we have failed God in this and how are we going to make things right?

“I wish the church taught more about Jesus.” Is there not a more exciting thing to hear from a non-christian than that? They want to learn more about Jesus. We as a church have gotten too far into the sermon series concept. We teach for weeks on topics and passages, and not too often do I hear mention of Jesus beyond the presentation of the gospel. I understand that all scripture is God breathed and right for instruction. But people want to learn more about the Jesus that we proclaim to follow. Christ had a lot to say, and we need to be listening, and teaching that more.

Ok enough of my highlights from the book.

One thing I really respected about the way that Dan wrote this book was that he used scripture every step of the way. And from the book you can tell that scripture is a major part of the way Dan approaches life. Some critics of the emerging church have said that they are moving away from the bible as the definitive book. But Dan is saying just the opposite. He presents a very clear call to the church to move beyond rudimentary Bible study and dig into what the Word of God is really saying. He advocates the teaching of hermeneutical techniques and all in the name of being ready to answer any question that is presented.

The chapter about the church being homophobic has a lot of good things to say, but some may not agree with Dan’s view on homosexuality and sin. But he doesn’t press his view and what he has to say about how we view the homosexual community and how we interact with homosexuals is great, and a much needed viewpoint.

The only other chapter that has a little bit of a stumbling block for some in it is the one that addresses women in the church. Dan does a great job of not promoting egalitarianism and not bashing complementarianism. His basic point is that we need to respect the views of women and make sure that their voices are being heard. I think this is a very valid and wise point to make. If we aren’t listening to the women in our congregations we are missing out on some very valuable views and insights.

This book is a very well written, nicely presented, concise commentary on today’s church. I enjoyed the humor and the seriousness; I greatly respected his use of interviews as the basis for the topics he addresses. And I am supremely thankful that he wasn’t redundant. I don’t think he made an unneeded repetition until maybe the last 10 pages when he was summarizing.

All in all I have to recommend this book to every Christian that wants to be effective for Christ.

I hope this was helpful.

God bless you and yours.

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Posted in: Theology