They are provoked, not offended, creators not critics, called not employed, grounded not distracted, in community not alone, and counter-cultural, not relevant. These are the six characteristics Gabe Lyons uses to describe what he calls, the Next Christians. His book, by the same title, gives us a glimpse of what might be called the future of the Christian faith in America. In the midst of a post-modern, pluralistic culture, more and more Christians are discovering ways to express their faith that break the mold set in an era when Christianity dominated the public square in America. In huge numbers, they are leaving the shackles of the cultural conclaves that formerly defined Christianity in general, and Christians in particular.
In his earlier work, UnChristian, author Gabe Lyons, describes with painful accuracy how outsiders (non-Christians) view Christians, and the Christian faith. In his book, The Next Christians, he looks at the rise of a new generation of Christians.
Like most of you, I grew up in an era when the church still occupied the center of our culture – the town square. In our lifetime, however, we have seen the church become a marginalized icon of the past, much like the Church in Europe – out of touch, and out of step with the world around it. But, there is hope! There is good news because as we see the “death of Christian America,” we can also see the birth of a new expression of biblical faith. This book explores what that faith might look like.
Author Gabe Lyons sees the next movement of Christians as those who will rediscover the full story of the Gospel, and recalibrate their conscience to allow them to be “in the world.” Their passion to participate in the divine work of restoring broken people in a broken world, will, in turn, force them to rethink their commitments to one another, reimagine a renaissance of creativity, and redeploy the church where the world needs it most. In the process they will experience a radical revitalization of their faith.
Next Christians see what’s wrong in the culture. They recognize evil and see the messy results of sin. The difference is how they respond. Rather than being offended and condemning, they are provoked to respond with grace and Christ-like compassion.
The word, “restoration” best describes the driving passion of “Next Christians.” Tired of being seen as judgmental and self-righteous, these believers seek to engage those around them with urgency and passion to restore people to the purpose and design God intended when He created them in His image. The author states, “God longs to restore His image in them, and let them loose, freeing them to pursue His original dreams for the entire world.”
The good news is this new era of transformation has begun! The last chapter of the book is replete with example after example of Next Christians living out the restoration mind-set of Jesus. Their actions reveal the same attitude Jesus had toward the poor, the outcast, the broken, and the rejected. They desire to participate in the restoration process, not just tell people what to believe. Restoration becomes the standard by which Next Christians measure their lives, with the Gospel at the heart of this restoration.
Given the recent tectonic shifts in our culture, it is imperative we clearly define and live out what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and we anchor our definition in the Scripture. This book helps to do just that!
I encourage you to read it. Whether you agree with everything the author says or not, you will be enriched and challenge by his message.