2008. It's leap year. We get an extra day. It's coincidental that the year with 29 days in February also brings us the summer Olympic games and national elections for all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and many in the U.S. Senate, not to mention the seat at the Oval Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. In time. In good time, all that will come.
Meanwhile, two generations of younger Americans have come to some sobering conclusions about those who claim to follow Christ. I've just finished reading unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. It's a 2007 book that contains the results of a three-year study of how so-called outsiders perceive so-called insiders who claim to follow Christ. Sobering work, but also important work. Also hopeful work. No matter what the findings, knowing is better than not knowing. That's hopeful.
By way of example, I'll simply cite one paragraph by Gabe Lyons who commissioned the research leading up to the findings and the publication of the book by the Barna Research Group:
Christians in the older generations will need to work hard at rediscovering what it means to follow Christ in today's culture. It may start with an honest admission that some of what you may have called Christianity has no connection with the faith at all. It may require letting go of the baggage that surrounds ardent denominationalism, or decisively stepping away from the comfortable Christian subculture. It could mean taking the risk of being labeled "worldly" or "liberal" because of a biblically based commitment to advocate for cultural issues, like social justice and caring for God's creation. Maybe it's a willingness to consider how much your faith has become entangled with Western values that are at odds with the heart of Christianity, such as consumerism and materialism. Overall, it requires openness to the idea that you may be living an incomplete or inaccurate version of the faith. ("unChristian", p. 225)
No pastor, church leader, Outreach Committee, mission developer or church planter who proposes to relate to Americans under the age of 60 should let the next month go by without reading this book. It is that pertinent, that relevant. Yes, it is!
My only question is this. Gabe Lyons, the man who commissioned the research, was 28 years old when he gave up a good job and financial stability for his young family in order to found a non-profit foundation in order to fund the research. Why did a man only two years older than my daughter have to do this? Why not the president or presiding bishop of any major church body? Why not the Vatican and Pope Benedict? Why not your local faith community or congregation?
Could it be that the church as we have known it has become so isolated that it cannot conceive of what it does not know and/or has no desire to find out?
Don't know, but thank God a young Christ follower the age of Jesus simply could not rest until he had turned his and his family's life upside down in order to find answers to questions everyone should have been asking. Thanks, Gabe. Thanks a million!
Happy Leap Year!