Outsider Interviews, The: A New Generation Speaks Out on Christianity


According to statistics, young adults are more disenchanted with the church than ever.

Beyond the statistics are the stories--real people with real opinions and real experiences. These people are more than just numbers. They are your son or daughter, the barista at your favorite café, a young coworker, the college student you sit next to at church.

What if we took the time to listen to the voices behind these ...

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The Outsider Interviews: What Young People Think about Faith and How to Connect with Them

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According to statistics, young adults are more disenchanted with the church than ever.

Beyond the statistics are the stories--real people with real opinions and real experiences. These people are more than just numbers. They are your son or daughter, the barista at your favorite café, a young coworker, the college student you sit next to at church.

What if we took the time to listen to the voices behind these statistics? What if we sat down and talked face to face with some of these people and really heard what they had to say?

That is exactly what Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks do in The Outsider Interviews. Journey with them as they travel the country interviewing young adults, listening to their candid stories and probing questions about Christianity. Come along. Meet these amazing young people. See the hearts behind the charts . . . and start some conversations of your own.

The Outsider Interviews is a DVB: a DVD plus Book. Watch the interviews. Read the book. Which will you do first? It's up to you.

"The Outsider Interviews is a brilliant reminder to Christians and non-Christians alike that God's love is bigger than our mistakes and that Jesus will continue to survive the embarrassing things we do in his name."--Shane Claiborne, author and activist, TheSimpleWay.org

"An honest dialogue between those who state that they belong to Jesus and those ranging from 'on the way' to 'no way.' I encourage us all to watch, read, and join the conversation."--Elisa Morgan, publisher of FullFill.org and president emerita of MOPS International; author of She Did What She Could

"If you care about the people Jesus cares about, please listen to the voices and messages within."--Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus But Not The Church

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801013454
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Henderson cofounded Off The Map and is CEO of Jim Henderson Presents. He has written two books on the topic of connecting with Outsiders: Evangelism Without Additives and Jim and Casper Go to Church. Jim earned a DMin from Bakke Graduate University and lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife Barbara.

Todd Hunter, bishop for The Anglican Mission in the Americas, is the founding pastor of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, California. Author of Christianity Beyond Belief and Giving Church a Second Chance, Todd is also the founding director of Churches for the Sake of Others, the West Coast church planting initiative for The Anglican Mission in the Americas. Todd also founded Three is Enough, a small group movement that makes spiritual formation doable. Todd and his wife Debbie live in Eagle, Idaho, with their two children, Jonathan and Carol.

Craig Spinks is the owner of Quadrid Productions, a production company that specializes in capturing real-life stories that challenge, inform and motivate. He has done work for Billy Graham Mission, Focus on the Family, Henry Cloud, Association of Vineyard Churches, and Vineyard Music. Craig also runs a website called Recycle Your Faith (recycleyourfaith.com) where each week a compelling spiritual topic is introduced through a short video and a vibrant online conversation ensues between people of different viewpoints. Craig and his wife Sara live in Denver, Colorado.

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Read an Excerpt


A New Generation Speaks Out on Christianity
By Jim Henderson Todd Hunter Craig Spinks

Baker Books

Copyright © 2010 Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8010-1345-4

Chapter One

THE BACKSTORY The Why, Where, Who, and How Jim Henderson

This chapter correlates with the video titled "The Backstory" on the Main Menu of your DVD.

No one likes to be called names, but that doesn't seem to stop us from coming up with new ones every day.

I lead Off The Map, an organization that helps Christians "see themselves through the eyes of outsiders." For the past ten years we've been researching the origins of the "us and them" mentality many Christians have and helping Christians bridge the insider-outsider divide. For some mysterious reason, evangelical Christians (my spiritual tribe) have devoted an unusual amount of energy toward developing a sophisticated linguistic system for identifying who's in and who's out.

What's more, as a result of our successful campaign to become America's civic religion, two interesting things have happened: "they" (outsiders) know we're here, and they have well-formed opinions about our habits and practices.

My first book was originally titled A.K.A. Lost because I wanted to take on the iconic status the word lost has gained in the Christian culture. Having been a pastor for twenty-five years, I had plenty of opportunities to observe how I and others used the word. After reflecting on my experiences, I came to the conclusion that for the most part, using lost as much as we did generally made us meaner people. It made it harder for us to connect with "lost" people. Frankly, it sounded like we were calling them a name. Perhaps what's most revealing is that we rarely use this word in the presence of actual lost people; we normally only use it behind their backs.

Cultures and social groups that create names to identify those who don't belong often become the most dangerous and meanest people on the planet. Think of racial slurs and the histories associated with them, for example. That's why we eventually came up with a new name to replace "lost": the people Jesus misses most.

When I read unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, I discovered a word that I felt honestly described this divide. I'm not saying I like this word, but it's certainly accurate. That word is outsiders. When we say outsiders out loud, particularly in the presence of people we label that way, we are held accountable. My contention is that if Christians want to create these divides, we at least should own up to them and say the word to outsiders' faces. Words are like mirrors; they reflect the images we hold in our minds back to us and confront us with them. In this book we will be holding this mirror up to Christians and asking them if they like what they see.

Blurring the Lines

What made unChristian even more important and provocative is that Kinnaman and Lyons not only queried outsiders but also asked insiders for their opinions about Christianity. The common denominator wasn't religion; it was age. Everyone they polled was between the ages of sixteen and twenty-nine. Focusing on this demographic allowed them to discover deep differences but also profound similarities.

Those experienced in sailing say that it is all about how you angle into the wind. By choosing to sail into this age group, Kinnaman and Lyons uncovered some surprising similarities between Christians and non-Christians, such as a high commitment to service, tolerance, and diversity, for example. They also uncovered this little-known fact: not only is there a divide between insiders and outsiders, but there is a divide between insiders and insiders. Thousands of young Christians are staying under the big tent of Christianity but refusing to toe the party line. They're resisting the more militant, doctrinaire, and strident elements of their host faith culture, particularly when identifying with these elements would marginalize those who don't hold the same views they do.

This is a significant shift. For example, when my generation (Boomers) discovered the inconsistencies of religion, we walked away from church, God, and Christianity. But this pragmatic, postmodern bunch is staying home and fighting for a new kind of Christianity. They're too committed to be pushed out of the house by those who think they're too soft on homosexuality, immigration, or abortion. They're on a mission to redefine what it means to be followers of Jesus in the real world and do it without becoming mean people.

After reflecting on the research, I was compelled to connect personally with some outsiders and insiders. I wanted to hear their voices and look them in the eye. I wanted to feel what it was like to call people outsiders to their faces and hear how they felt about our attempts to reach them, convert them, and (sadly) marginalize them. I wanted to let them know they were more than a number, more than a statistic or a demographic category. Besides calling them a name, I wanted to tell them that millions of other insiders and outsiders are struggling with the very same issues.

Three Amigos

Todd Hunter is one of the finest leaders I've ever worked with. He doesn't use leadership to work out his personal insecurities, and he actually develops people as leaders, not just as employees. But for the purposes of this project Todd brought one other important skill: curiosity. Todd likes outsiders and loves hearing their viewpoints. That's why I needed him on this team.

I hope you can keep this next bit a secret so I can continue relating to young people as well as I do for at least a few more years. Sometimes when I'm in a serious conversation with a twentysomething, I'm thinking to myself, When is she going to realize I'm as old as her grandparents? Anyway, Todd and I are honored to have a significant number of young leaders who relate to us. We both knew we needed one of these young leaders to be part of this project, so off we went to find Craig.

I met Craig Spinks when he was eighteen and I was fifty-one. That was almost ten years ago, when Craig was leading the video production team in the six-thousand-member church where we both worked at the time. Craig is a master storyteller with the video camera. He knows how to speak the visual vernacular, and at twenty-eight he falls inside the demographic Kinnaman and Lyons researched. Craig was raised in church and knows the insider stuff from a young person's point of view. I think you'll enjoy hearing his perspective throughout the book.

The People Jesus Misses Most

The three of us hit the road in the fall of 2008. We wanted to interview some outsiders and insiders in four different cities in America. Truth be told, we were just as interested in hearing from insiders, particularly about where they find points of agreement with outsiders. We also wanted to know what enabled them to call themselves Christians while still disagreeing with some of the main cultural ideas their spiritual elders fought so hard to establish over the past thirty-five years.

Even though we talked with both groups, we decided to call this The Outsider Interviews as a way of erring on the side of the people Jesus misses most. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "The church is the church only when it exists for others."

We think the church has much to learn about connecting with outsiders. We have not sought them out for their opinions or asked them to help us become a better church. Instead we have often marginalized them and, worse, objectified them. We only need to look to our own lexicon for evidence of this trait. Here are a few of the names we've come up with to keep them in their place: lost, unbelievers, unsaved, unrepentant, unregenerate, heathens, and reprobate.

We wanted to change this bad habit. We wanted to let outsiders know we really do value their opinions and insights. We also wanted to model to the church the ancient practice of honoring the outsider. The Old Testament is filled with the stories of one famous outsider after another becoming central to the story of God—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Naaman, the entire city of Nineveh, and many Gentiles (like me), just to name a few.

As you will experience, this ancient approach continues to make an impression in the twenty-first century. More than one outsider told us they were shocked Christians were actually listening to them. Klarisa, an outsider in Kansas City, tore our hearts out when she said, "If Christians would listen and show some interest in me, I would be very open to their story." What if evangelism in our time is more about listening than speaking?

Cards on the Table

The three of us believe we're living in tumultuous times. For many young people, 9/11 is the controlling metaphor for the dramatic changes we find ourselves adjusting to every day. Financial markets are unpredictable, major world religions, including Christianity, are competing head-to-head for global market share, and it's commonly assumed that India and China will supersede the United States in terms of global influence (China is currently financing America's debt) sometime in the next fifty years.

The renowned strategic thinker Peter Drucker said, "Every few hundred years in Western society there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society re arranges itself." The three of us are betting that we are currently living in that window of time and that some things, some big things, are never going back to the way they were. Leave It to Beaver has left the building. Family Guy has moved in, dirty laundry and all.

When Gutenberg introduced the printing press in the West, he had no idea what he was unleashing on the world. He was swinging a door on what Phyllis Tickle in The Great Emergence calls a "hinge time." Many of us have never considered what the world must have felt like when Gutenberg was doing his thing. He was living in and helping to create a world caught between the times. Think about the experimentation, the uncertainty, the innovations, and the excitement that must have been taking place in such an environment. Fast-forward five hundred years and replace the printing press with the internet. Now think about this: the commercial use of the internet is only a little over fifteen years old. Most people in the world have yet to benefit from this incredible technology. Now think about the experimentation, uncertainty, and innovation that mark our time: MySpace, Facebook, Google, Twitter, the iPhone. How are followers of Jesus supposed to navigate these changes? How are we supposed to keep our spiritual equilibrium in a world caught between the times?

From Charts to Hearts

Being spiritual anthropologists we had to go see for ourselves if what Kinnaman and Lyons had to say was true. That's what motivated us to schlep our cameras, our support staff, and ourselves onto one plane after another. We wanted to hear the stories behind the stats. To use an exploration metaphor, we weren't satisfied with the view from the ship; we wanted to get in our canoes, row right up onto shore, beach our boats, and ask the natives what life looked like from their campfire.

A few years ago I had a speaking tour back east, so my wife, Barb, and I decided to drive between several of the events. Being members of AAA, we availed ourselves of their services and asked them to produce a detailed map of the routes from one city to another. They call this a TripTik. A TripTik is a very detailed and informative map. The only thing it does not provide is videos of where you're going. I can hear you saying, "But Jim, it isn't possible for a video to play inside a map, is it?" No, it isn't yet, though we're getting closer all the time. You get the idea. The reason we think a video map would be cool is because we are hardwired to want to see stuff. Just today I was watching yet another cooking show on TV with my wife. I asked her why she watched so many cooking shows. She said, "I like to see what they are doing; books don't provide enough of the details." Given the choice between words and pictures, most human beings, like my wife, will choose pictures.

UnChristian is like a TripTik for Christians. It provides information to help us navigate the road less traveled between ourselves and others. UnChristian provides the statistical information that explains how we got from where we were (the dominant religious voice in America) to where we are today (marginalized and mistrusted). What it doesn't show us is the faces behind these statistics. We can't see the people who are doing the talking. We can't see the hearts behind the charts.

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, emphasizes the emotional power of the face. "Empathy depends on emotion and since emotion is conveyed nonverbally, to enter another's heart, you must begin the journey by looking into the face."

In this book you will see the faces and look into the eyes of outsiders.

Creating New Maps

We don't expect you to become spiritual anthropologists. However, because you are reading this book, we assume you like to travel to new places in your thinking. Our hope is that those who say they follow Jesus have an inclination to travel and see new things that expand their understanding of how he operates in the world.

The world Gutenberg inhabited over five hundred years ago is exactly the same earth you and I live on today. Same size, same continents—everything was as we find it today, more or less. Nevertheless, Gutenberg's world felt much smaller than it actually was. Here's why: the most popular maps in Gutenberg's time showed a world that dropped off the edge at the equator. Their maps showed a flat earth surrounded on all sides by giant waterfalls that spilled into the abyss. Consequently, almost every explorer stayed away from the edges and margins.

But Prince Henry was different.

Prince Henry the Navigator ruled Portugal fifty years before Columbus discovered America. He regularly dispatched mariners down the west coast of Africa until one returned and reported they had successfully crossed the equator and lived to talk about it.

When geopolitics change, we create new maps, like when the former USSR became a host of new countries ending in -stan. When boundaries change due to war, money, or negotiations, we create new maps, like when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe or Bombay became Mumbai.

The maps had to be redrawn. The world as they imagined it was turned upside down.

Just like in Prince Henry's time and ours, sometimes things happen that have never happened before. For example, here's a snapshot of what's been happening to the Southern Baptist Convention over the past seventy years:

1940–1960: enrollment in Sunday school grew from 3,590,038 to 7,382,550—an increase of over one hundred percent in twenty years 1960–2007: enrollment in Sunday school grew from 7,382,550 to 7,876,610—a 7 percent increase in forty-seven years

The Southern Baptist Convention isn't the only denomination in decline. Episcopalians are losing the equivalent of a diocese per year. Most if not all established denominations are going through a lot of upheaval these days.

We discovered in our interviews that a significant reshuffling is taking place in the socio-spiritual world in which Christianity is currently the dominant player. New players are emerging, new opportunities are opening up, and we need a new map.

Prince Henry's explorers proved the world people lived in was actually much larger than the one they believed in. Their discovery of what had always been laid the groundwork for new explorers and travelers. The funny thing is that the whole time they were arguing about the world being flat, they were doing it hanging upside down. The flat earthers were right about one thing: the lands around the equator were different—but these lands were not as dangerous as they'd been led to believe.

When it comes to understanding what outsiders think and feel, the church has inherited a map that is no longer accurate. Our map has too many equators and too few beaches. We need a map that properly represents the opportunities to meet new people and learn new languages. We need a map that encourages us to travel to new places in our spiritual imaginations. We need the kind of map the founder of our movement used to navigate his world.


Excerpted from THE OUTSIDER INTERVIEWS by Jim Henderson Todd Hunter Craig Spinks Copyright © 2010 by Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks. Excerpted by permission of Baker Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Watch This Book!....................9
Foreword by David Kinnaman....................11
1. The Backstory: The Why, Where, Who, and How (Jim Henderson)....................17
2. Kansas City Outsiders: Christianity Has an Image Problem (Jim Henderson)....................29
3. Things Change: Billy Graham's Socks and the Threat of Postmodernity (Todd Hunter)....................49
4. Phoenix Outsiders: Beliefs and Blinders (Jim Henderson)....................63
5. The Big Question: How Did You Get Outsiders to Agree to Do This? (Jim Henderson)....................83
6. Denver Outsiders: Diversity and Difference (Jim Henderson)....................97
7. Getting Past Gay: Climbing the Mountain of Difference with Dad (Craig Spinks)....................117
8. Seattle Outsiders: The Great Agreement (Jim Henderson)....................135
9. Six Lessons Learned: The Things That Moved Us Most....................155
Appendix: A Reading Guide for Groups and Individuals....................175
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