Faith for Exiles, David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019.
Summary: The results of a Barna study identifying five defining characteristics of resilient young Christians who continue to pursue Christ in our generation.
David Kinnaman has been studying youth culture for some time, especially trying to understand the reasons many young people are leaving the church, detailed in his book You Lost Me, reviewed here several years ago. This book is different. Based, as were his previous books on Barna research, he and his co-author Mark Matlock look at five key practices that help account for a resilient Christian faith amid what they call “digital Babylon” in which are youth are often discipled far more on their screens than in their churches.
The book walks through each of these five practices and the survey data that distinguishes “resilients” from prodigals/ex-Christians, nomads who are unchurched, and habitual church goers. These practices are:
- To form a resilient identity, experience intimacy with Jesus. Resilients clearly identify as Christian, consider Christ central, experience intimacy with God and talk with Jesus.
- In a complex and anxious age, develop the muscles of cultural discernment. They learn wisdom for living faithfully, with those who differ, stewarding their sexuality and their money. The Bible serves as an anchor for that wisdom and resilients spend far more time digesting Christian content.
- When isolation and mistrust are the norms, forge meaningful, intergenerational relationships. Resilients connect meaningfully to a local congregation and have strong relationships with adults one and two generations ahead of them, especially those who genuinely care for them without ulterior motives.
- To ground and motivate an ambitious generation, train for vocational discipleship. Resilients are equipped with a robust theology of work and calling and engaged Christianly in their workplaces. There is no sacred-secular divide and Christians are supported and equipped for workplace discipleship.
- Curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by engaging in countercultural mission. Resilients have a strong sense of mission worked out in countercultural practice in their lives. They live as exiles in Babylon discerningly seeking the peace and prosperity of the city. Life is about the big thing God is up to in the world and not one’s personal fulfillment.
The book both explores the practices of churches that have equipped resilients, including a special section on mentoring, and tells stories of many Millennials and Generation Z youth who are living the resilient life outlined in these pages. The book strikes the right combination of stories and statistics, empirically grounding and personally elaborating its conclusions. This is not the book to provide fodder for intergenerational criticism, but rather one that offers hope for what God is doing in the rising generation, and wisdom for those in preceding generations who want to bless, mentor, and release these resilient disciples.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.