unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters

unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801072710
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 413,502
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

David Kinnaman is coauthor of unChristian, You Lost Me, and Good Faith. He is president of Barna Group, a leading research and communications company that works with churches, nonprofits, and businesses ranging from film studios to financial services. Since 1995, David has directed interviews with more than one million individuals and overseen hundreds of U.S. and global research studies. He and his wife live in California with their three children.

Gabe Lyons is the author of The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America and the founder of Q--a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society. Prior to launching Q, Gabe cofounded Catalyst, a national gathering of young leaders. His work represents the perspectives of a new generation of Christians and has been featured by CNN, the New York Times, Fox News, and USA Today. Gabe, his wife, Rebekah, and their three children reside in Manhattan, New York.

Read an Excerpt


By David Kinnaman

Baker Publishing Group

Copyright © 2007 David Kinnaman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8010-1300-3

Chapter One


Christianity has an image problem.

If you've lived in America for very long, I doubt this surprises you. But it brings up important questions. Just what exactly do people think about Christians and Christianity? Why do these perceptions exist? Obviously, people believe their views are accurate (otherwise they would disavow them), but do their perceptions reflect reality? And why do people's perceptions matter-should they matter-to Christ followers?

I have spent the last three years studying these questions through extensive interviews and research. You may be astonished to learn just how significant the dilemma is-and how the negative perceptions that your friends, neighbors, and colleagues have of Christianity will shape your life and our culture in the years to come. Our research shows that many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders. They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians. I will describe how and why this is happening later in this book, but for the moment think about what this means. It changes the tenor of people's discussions about Christianity. It alters their willingness to commit their lives to Jesus.

If you are interested in communicating and expressing Christ to new generations, you must understand the intensity with which they hold these views. As Christians, we cannot just throw up our hands in disgust or defensiveness. We have a responsibility to our friends and neighbors to have a sober, reasonable understanding of their perspectives.

For some time I have had a sense of this image problem, yet I never fully realized its depth, not until an unlikely source pointed me in the right direction. The telephone call that began this adventure is still lodged in my memory. Let me explain.

"David, I am quitting my job."

I couldn't mistake my friend Gabe Lyons's self-assured voice. "Really? Are you crazy?" I blurted out.

"Probably," he said, with the rounded edges of his slight Southern accent. "But I am sure it's the right time, and I have a clear sense that it's now or never. And God has given me a vision for what I am supposed to be doing." He paused and then said matter-of-factly, "I can't do it here."

"Well, what are you going to do, Gabe? Where are you going to work? You must have a plan. Do you have a company in mind?" (As a professional researcher, rarely do I have trouble coming up with questions. This moment was no exception.)

"I am not going to work for another company. I am going to start my own organization. It's going to be a nonprofit. I know I'll have to raise funds to make it work, but I want-"

I interrupted him. "But you're leaving a great job! You're being mentored by a widely respected Christian leader. It pays well. You have a chance of really helping a lot of people spiritually." Trying to persuade my friend to reevaluate, I urged, "You should really think about this before you make such a big change."

When I finished, Gabe was quiet. Good, I thought. He's thinking about my advice. I felt a glimmer of pride. It was solid feedback, I reasoned. Then after a few moments, I broke the silence, "Gabe? You there?"

"David." He spoke my name slowly. I could hear the frustration. "I have thought and prayed about this more than you know. My family is behind this. I am going to do this. I don't look back once I make a decision." He paused. "Will you let me explain what I feel God has been leading me to do?"

I couldn't think of much to say. "Yes, of course ... sorry."

"I am gonna sound crazy, I know, but I want to help a new generation of leaders understand the perceptions and images that young people have of Christianity-what people really think of us." He spoke thoughtfully and deliberately. "People have a lot of opinions about our faith, and every time I strike up a conversation with a friend or neighbor, it seems like those perceptions are incredibly negative. Let's face it-what people think becomes their reality, and although we may not deserve all those images, some of their thoughts about us may be accurate."

"Well, you're right about the negative perceptions," I said, mentioning some research my company had done on the subject. "But what do you think you can do?"

"I am still trying to get my head around this," Gabe replied. "I believe that the image young people have of the Christian faith is in real trouble. They hold stereotypes of Christians, and we make assumptions about them. I don't understand what all that looks like, how that happened, or even whether it's something that can, or should, be fixed. But I want to help start conversations and lead people to start thinking about how to bridge this divide between us and them."

Then my friend Gabe spent some time describing his ideas in greater detail.

"Wow," was all I could muster. "That's a big vision. You know me; I hate to see you leave a great career, but this new direction sounds like something you should consider."

Gabe laughed. "I already told you, David. I am doing it, not considering it."

I laughed too, as I thought about our different personalities bouncing off each other again, as they had so many times in our friendship.

"But how I do it is another thing. There is lots to do," he said, his voice trailing off. "Oh, and I have an important question for you."

"Yeah, what's that?" I asked, oblivious to how his request would shape the next few years of my life.

"I am going to raise some money to fund a major research project on this." He paused to let the moment hang out there. "And I would like you to do that research."

That's how this book began.


I get a chance to learn something with every research study our firm, The Barna Group, conducts. Yet I could not have imagined how much God would use this research to open my eyes. At first, I took on the project because I felt we would learn how Christians could connect more effectively with people outside the faith. If we understood outsiders' objections, I reasoned, perhaps we could better connect with them. But what we found was their perceptions are more than superficial image problems. Often outsiders' perceptions of Christianity reflect a church infatuated with itself. We discovered that many Christians have lost their heart for those outside the faith. The negative perceptions are not just "images" conjured up to debase Christianity. Yes, the issues are complex. No, it is not always "our" fault.

However, if we do not deal with our part of the problem, we will fail to connect with a new generation. We are not responsible for outsiders' decisions, but we are accountable when our actions and attitudes-misrepresenting a holy, just, and loving God-have pushed outsiders away. Often Christianity's negative image reflects real problems, issues that Christians need to own and be accountable to change. My purpose in writing this book is to pry open the hearts and minds of Christians, to prepare us to deal with a future where people will be increasingly hostile and skeptical toward us. A new generation is waiting for us to respond.

Three years ago, when Gabe first called to describe his job change, the research excited me. But the Barna team has the privilege of doing a wide range of fascinating research, so, frankly, I had no unusually high expectations for the project. For the most part, it just represented more deadlines!

Along the way, Gabe and I found that this project deeply shifted our perspectives about those outside of Christianity. We felt compelled to share these findings with you in this book. The things we were learning in this research started to spill out in other projects, writing, and conversations. Artists will tell you that, after a long creative session, they start to perceive the world through the lens of their medium. Research is like that for me. I don't see reality clearly until I have a chance to analyze it thoroughly through carefully constructed research.

What began as a three-month project has turned into a three-year study to grasp the picture God was revealing through the data. In that process, I have examined more than a dozen nationally representative surveys (reflecting thousands of interviews) and listened attentively to the stories of people who are on the outside of Christianity. A major component of the study was a series of interviews we did with a representative sample of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds. We also interviewed hundreds of pastors and church leaders. And we probed the views of Christians to understand their thoughts on the issues and how much they are in tune with the image problem and the deeply rooted issues it represents. Through these surveys and interviews, the Lord has graciously helped me understand the experiences and in many cases the very real offenses, confusions, questions, discouragements, and disappointments that people have had when interacting with Christianity.

It's not a pretty picture.


Using the lens of the careful, scientific research we conducted, I invite you to see what Christianity looks like from the outside. In fact, the title of this book, 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. I will describe this in greater detail in chapter 2, but for many people the Christian faith looks weary and threadbare. They admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him.

One outsider from Mississippi made this blunt observation: "Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart."

After thousands of interviews and countless hours studying non-Christians, I believe outsiders would want this book titled unChristian. Young people today are incredibly candid. They do not hold back their opinions. I want to capture outsiders' expressions and views in these pages. I don't agree with everything they say. Yet if I am going to be your guide to the hearts and minds of people outside Christianity-if you are going to really understand them-I feel compelled to represent their viewpoint fairly and candidly, even if it is uncomfortable for those of us who are Christians. To engage nonChristians and point them to Jesus, we have to understand and approach them based on what they really think, not what we assume about them. We can't overcome their hostility by ignoring it. We need to understand their unvarnished views of us. Therefore this book reflects outsiders' unfiltered reactions to Christianity.

So unChristian it is.

Even though some of the realities are uncomfortable, I have no intention of picking on Christ followers. Far from it. My purpose is not to berate Christians. You won't find here the names of any Christian leaders who have done wrong things. From time to time, I will use an anonymous illustration to show why some of the negative perceptions exist. Yet the point is not to pick on any particular person. Every Christ follower bears some degree of responsibility for the image problem (I'll explain that later); it is not helpful to assign blame to those who have made mistakes.

Still, for the things we can influence-our lives, our churches, the way we express Christianity to others-I hope that by helping you better understand people's skepticism, your capacity to love people will increase, offering them genuine hope and real compassion through Jesus Christ. Paul, the most prominent writer of the New Testament, says, "While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds up the church" (1 Cor. 8:1).


Along with describing the data and experiences of outsiders, this book includes the reactions from over two dozen Christian leaders and pastors, some well-known and others less so. As Gabe and I talked about the direction of this book, we felt that you should hear from these leaders. They are on the front lines of dealing with the hostility that Christianity faces, and you should understand what they are doing and how they are thinking. These men and women, in action and attitude, are helping to reshape the negative images. They are helping to articulate a "kinder, gentler" faith-one that engages people but does not compromise its passion for Jesus or its theological understanding of him.

I hope you will be challenged and inspired through the research and the contributors' thoughts. The church desperately needs more people who facilitate a deeper, more authentic vision of the Christian faith in our pluralistic, sophisticated culture.

Before we dig in, allow me to describe some important details about this book. First, let me clarify some of the language. The main group we studied is "outsiders," those looking at the Christian faith from the outside. This group includes atheists, agnostics, those affiliated with a faith other than Christianity (such as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism, and so on), and other unchurched adults who are not born-again Christians. According to the research, part of the problem is we often describe these people with derogatory labels and terms, which they often find offensive. Christians use terms like "pagans" or "the lost" or worse. Other phrases are also inadequate, such as "nonChristians" (which defines them simply by what they are not) as well as "nonbelievers" or "seekers" (labels that are not necessarily true of all outsiders).

Labeling people can undermine our ability to see them as human beings and as individuals. I am not entirely comfortable using the term "outsiders," since it seems to classify people by where they are not, but for the sake of discussing perceptions, we have to use something. And I do not believe that, in the sense we are using it, most outsiders would take offense.

I will also use two terms that relate to the primary generations we studied, Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) and Busters (born between 1965 and 1983). This book will focus primarily on the oldest Mosaics, those in their late teens up through age twenty-two, and the youngest Busters, primarily describing those under thirty. For the sake of clarity, unless I specifically describe otherwise, when I mention Mosaics and Busters, I am referring to the sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-old set. Keep in mind that identifying a "generation" is an analytical tool for understanding our culture and the people within it. It simply reflects the idea that people who are born over a certain period of time are influenced by a unique set of circumstances and global events, moral and social values, technologies, and cultural and behavioral norms. The result is that every generation has a different way of seeing life. Recognizing the generational concept as a tool, rather than as definitive for every person, means that exceptions are to be expected.

Second, this book is based on the belief that God wants us to pay attention to outsiders because he cares about them. The Bible says he patiently gives everyone time to turn to him (see 2 Peter 3:9). He is described as a father who waits for the safe homecoming of his children, even if they have disappointed him (see Luke 15:11-32). As Christians, we should have this mindset toward outsiders.

And because of the sheer number of outsiders, we need to recognize their concerns. There are about twenty-four million outsiders in this country who are ages sixteen to twenty-nine. It is significant to note that outsiders are becoming less and less a "fringe" segment of American society. Each generation contains more than the last, which helps explain their growing influence. For instance, outsiders make up about one-quarter of Boomers (ages forty-two to sixty) and Elders (ages sixty-one-plus). But among adult Mosaics and Busters, more than one-third are part of this category, a number that increases to two-fifths of sixteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds.


Excerpted from Unchristian by David Kinnaman Copyright © 2007 by David Kinnaman. Excerpted by permission.
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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Unchristian 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Un-Christian The book Unchristian is a book about a Christian author, David Kinnaman, sharing negative perceptions among young people have on Christianity and explores what can be done to reverse them. In the book he tells of stereotypes Christians tend to have. Kinnaman focuses on the stereotypes Christians have on non-christians, and how non-christians view Christians. Kinnaman gives great examples of how Christians are viewed, for example saying that as Christians we feel that non-christians are terrible people and we don't give them a chance. This book conveys difficult truths in a spirit of humility. I feel every Christian should read this because it will influence and challenge their faith. This book shows that not everyone believes in Christ and that Christians will be challenged along their spiritual journeys. Overall this is a great book and shows Christians how to love and accept non-christians.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am saddened, shocked, yet inspired to reach this next generation; the generation raised on cynicism, sarcasm, disbelief and mistrust. After reading "UnChristian", it is clear to see why Christians are viewed as researched in the book. To read this book though, one must remove the initial instinct to become defensive and not say "that's not me." At some point, what is being discussed--is you, even if only in a minor way. My heart has become burdened not only for the next generation, but for Christianity. I know I am not always the best representation of Christ, I am a work in progress. I would highly, highly , recommend this book. I have passed it on to the pastor of my church. I think people in the business of spiritual warfare need to know what is going on in today's world and minds. Not compromise the word of God, perhaps a different approach is needed. This book is a good start.
Deb58 More than 1 year ago
I am a Methodist Pastorial Candidate. My District Superintendent recommended this book. It is excellent information for today's church leaders both laity and clergy. With declining numbers in America's young church goers this is an insight into why they are not attending church.
Jaybrams More than 1 year ago
From time to time a book will come along and blow your mind away with deep spiritual truths, setting off a series of emotional responses much like those experienced during youth camp in your teen years or a call-to-change type of conference. Perhaps the "drug" wears off over the next few weeks as your spiritual mind and body return to normal, or maybe you¿re able to hold on to the transformation that took place so quickly and powerfully because the book was just that good.

unChristian is NOT one of those books.

Your imagination will not be captured, your spirit will not soar, and your soul¿s craving will remain unsatiated. What you will find, though, is a challenging, thoughtful, practical look at what a growing number of outsiders (The author¿s term for those outside of the Christian faith) aged 18-30 perceive about our faith, and more importantly, an analysis of our execution of the faith we so strongly profess.

The book is chock-full of statistics, highlighted by personal stories and quotes from those surveyed, presented in such a manner that does not bog down nor overwhelm the brain. While the results provide necessary context to the discussion, the real strength of the text is in David¿s ability to show fairness concerning where and how we¿ve failed coupled with a straightforward approach towards change.

One of the best features of the book is the quotes from other Christian leaders at the end of each section along with the extended ¿reaction¿ section at the end of the book. Most of these guys and gals I¿ve heard of, but their perspectives gave varying insights apart from Kinnaman¿s and also enabled me to get to know a bit more about other perspective authors I might want to read. I appreciated David¿s willingness to let others from a wide array of backgrounds speak on the issues.

Bottom Line: I think it¿s a healthy read for all Christians. For some it will not have a major impact because you¿re already living in such a manner reflective of Christ, for others it will serve as a good reminder and self-check specific areas of your faith, and for many it will challenge you to change (for the good) deep within your faith. But, you may want to have another book to read along side of this one if you're looking for awe-inspiring or entertainment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the points of view were very valid, the over zealous reactions of conservatives have branded good religion. I noted Joel Olsteen seems to have moved beyond the over the top religious right and back to faith and good values. If you want an interesting point of view on religion and the perception of the youth read the chapter on religion from a book titled 'Save Generations Y and Z'. That book also had a GREAT driving contract for an up and coming teenage driver. Read it for that if nothing else.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christians telling Christians exactly what those with a negative view of the faith are actually thinking! No more guessing, no more assumptions, and best of all, effective and 'real-world' advice on how to truly connect for those that either can't "see outside of themselves" or can't "get a clue/hint". Being a non-Christian, I have to strongly recommend every Christian with a non-Christian acquaintance read this: you'll know what's keeping them 'away', and they'll know you ACTUALLY understand, instead of you ASSUMING you understand. If I could give this book a higher rating, I most definitely would!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
unChristian is an eye-opening book that reveals some of the harsh yet real views of Christianity from those who are ¿outsiders¿ to the religion. The authors Kinnaman and Lyons based their writing off of research conducted on people¿s views of what Christian¿s are like. They then took the most popular terms that people associated with Christians and analyzed seven of them in further detail, providing explanations for why people think that and suggestions for Christians on how to change these perceptions. Although this book can be extremely unsettling because of the truth in its content, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it. As a Christian myself, this was a great tool for me to use in learning how to change my thinking and my behavior so that I am painting the best image for Christ that I can. I was able to see how my good intentions can come off in ways I hadn¿t imagined, and unChristian allowed me to see what better alternatives there are in handling specific conversations dealing with things like homosexuality, so that people will listen. I believe this book is best suited for Christians reading it, but it can also be an interesting read for those who are not Christians as well. It can help those without an understanding of the faith gain insight into how Christians view the world and especially how they deal with what people think of them. This book is also not especially difficult to read, so I would recommend this to any one in high school and older who is looking for a book on Christianity that will really catch them off guard.
SallyVan More than 1 year ago
This was a book to show evangelicals how the rest of the world views them...it was an eye opener, but I felt an accurate one. Our book club's response was almost along generational lines and that is one of the best things about this book...it does challenge your preconceived notions about what our neighbors think of us and what they hear, when we make certain statements. After reading this book, I am much more careful what I say and how I say it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
unChristian points out the obvious - that Christians are, in my humble opinion, UNCHRISTIAN. So for me, this book just delivers the obvious. What I have observed and experienced: Christians have 'evolved' into a political, right-winged - and yes, I'll say it, 'terroristic' group in my own country. If one purchases this book thinking it will make a difference, don't get your hopes up - just love without condition - the way Christ loved - which was by today's Christianity - UNCHRISTIAN!
richardblake More than 1 year ago
Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did – by Asking Questions In the book “Questioning Evangelism – Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did” Randy Newman asks his readers to look at evangelism in a new way; following the example of Jesus by asking questions. Using examples from personal experiences Newman introduces an approach for designing questions that are more engaging and less confrontational. He combines a balance of biblical theology, infused with compassion, in a distinctive merger of apologetic information and relational evangelism. Newman teaches evangelism and apologetics at the C. S. Lewis Institute in the Washington D.C. area. He is a for a former staff member of Campus Crusade, and originator of Connection Points, which specializes in helping people of different backgrounds dialog in questions of faith. “Questioning Evangelism – Engaging People’s Hearts the Way Jesus Did” can be used for individual study and challenge or in an interactive group setting. A study guide is included to generate stimulating discussion and personal application. I was personally challenged as I pondered the concept that: evangelism “happens” in relationships, developed through challenging questions while allowing me to: Declare the gospel, defend the message, and dialog the truth to a new generation. “Questioning Evangelism” has given me a new awareness of how I can more effectively share my faith in todays culture and within my community. A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The content presented here is interesting and relevant to church-going Christians and non-believers alike. That said, it would have been a better read, and certainly more straight-forward, had it been trimmed down, especially if the third-party contributors at the end of each chapter hadn't added so much fluff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone who thinks that homosexuals will take kindly to the soft-spoken bigot will be sorely mistaken. What starts as good research quickly becomes a self-help guide for Christians concerned with (reasonable) outsider criticism. Overall, it's a tolerable read for this outsider--but certainly no more than that.
Rodtyme More than 1 year ago
This book was an unusual read in that it presents a detailed analysis of the perspectives on today's Christian faith without being opinionated and yet presenting conclusions drawn from empirical research supported by anecdotal references. The information presented here rings true in a "that really explains the differences in viewpoints that I couldn't quite put a finger on" sort of way. Best of all, it provides a Biblical backdrop on how to address and reconcile the differences that exist across generations with a genuine emphasis on a Christlike response. Highly recommended reading for both those inside and outside the Christian faith and in particular those who work with the younger generations...
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Paige37449 More than 1 year ago
This book was probably one of my favorite books that i have ever read! Its mixture of statistics and examples really helped me to identify with the book. I am a Christian, but i am always striving to be a better person and set a better example for Jesus Christ. How i act is not always how Jesus would act. This book was very eye opening! It helped me to realize some of the ways that i need to better my Christianity! I know now that as a daughter of God i will always need to be learning. Learning new ways to worship him, and also continue to learn how i can teach others about Christs love without pushing them away. This book has a solid foundation and it shows throughout the entire book. If i was to recommend this book to a particular person i would recommend it to other Christians. We are all constantly needing more and more compassion for those who may not be Christian. Otherwise we will not bring anyone to Christs love.
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