It has been a great learning experience for me to engage in this dialogue with my son about David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me–both online and offline. This will likely be our last set of posts on the book, but who knows, we may find something else like this in the future! I will also be posting a review of the whole book in the next few days which will include links to all our posts.
In the third part of Kinnaman’s book dealing with “Reconnections” Kinnaman summarizes his recommendations to the church in these words:
Now that we have met the nomads, prodigals, and exiles and explored their perceptions of the church and Christianity, allow me to share three things I have learned from studying the next generation: (1) the church needs to reconsider how we make disciples; (2) we need to rediscover Christian calling and vocation; and (3) we need to reprioritize wisdom over information as we seek to know God.
Reading this again, I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Ben and I were talking last night and I shared that I hoped Kinnaman wasn’t just going to give us six easy counters to the disconnects he observed. I said my own sense was that the church needs to go back to our gospel, back to our roots, rather than a new set of slick techniques. That would only confirm this generation in its opinion of the church as inauthentic.
I’m especially encouraged that the kinds of relationships Kinnaman envisions are intergenerational relationships. For too long, the church has age segregated itself (as well as in other ways). In my own life I experienced the power of this in a relationship with a disc jockey who served as a leader in our local Jesus Movement in the early 70s. Much of this took place in the front seat of his VW Beetle on the way to rallies. The combination of wisdom and affirmation was critical. Equally I find myself enriched as I work with younger colleagues and graduate students whose doubts, questions and insights challenge me to dig deeper. I constantly learn from my son, who questions my frameworks and teaches me everything from computers, blogging and contemporary sci-fi to remembering how much “in process” I was in my twenties–and still am.
What so engaged me as a young Christian was a faith that spoke to life Monday through Saturday. So I resonate with the focus on vocation and calling. I honestly wonder why many of us then settled for a privatized faith lived only in our personal devotional lives and church gatherings but not out in the world. Perhaps it was because we focused on big scale evangelistic endeavors and political crusades and church growth schemes, but failed to talk in pulpits and small groups, and informal relationships about living out our call in the circumstances each of us lived in every day, with the people we met each day and the real needs both in our own communities and in communities we had connections with in other parts of the world. Whatever it is, I hope this generation can do better at living out called lives in the places we live and work.
Kinnaman talks about prioritizing wisdom over information. We definitely are information rich! As I write this blog, the WordPress site suggests all sorts of content (including some of my own blogs!) that connect to what I’m writing. I’d like to think my son and others could look to my generation for wisdom and yet our track record suggests otherwise. We created so much of the information technology being used today but did it make us wiser? I think of the kind of information the “Masters of the Universe” on Wall Street had in 2008 and yet it failed to protect them from hubris and the imprudent and arrogant decisions that brought us into what many are calling the Great Recession.
As I think of wisdom I think of the foundational statement in Proverbs that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When I was younger, I was put off by that phrase “fear of the Lord”. As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve begun to think that some fears are healthy and to realize that all of my life is lived coram deo–that is, before God. That makes you think twice about certain actions! The flip side of that realization is that a life well-lived is one that seeks the pleasure of God, that values this above all else. There is also a wonderful freedom when we so believe and live that we know we have nothing to fear of God, and because of this need not fear anything or anyone else.
Kinnaman is right. Terrabytes of information can never give us that kind of life. Information cannot answer the question of how to live well. There just might yet be a place for the church, not in losing people, but in helping them find their way to that kind of life. What do you think, Ben?