Why are kids disappearing from churches? This is the question that Dan Kimball raises in his new book, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church: insights from emerging generations. He gives several reasons gained from his own experience of growing up outside the church, and now as a pastor of an emerging church, from those inside and outside his congregation.
He identifies six common misperceptions of the church and I won’t list them here – read the book! I think that he has identified significant areas – he has gained theses insights from getting out and getting engaged in dialogue with non-Christians.
One of the antidotes he suggests is that we get into relationships with non-Christians. He wonders where our sense of urgency is on this issue. He challenges us through this picture:
It’s as if we have all fallen off a ship, and some of us, through God’s grace, found a lifeboat, but instead of helping others get out of the water, we ignore their screams. We don’t want to get in the cold water, and so we sit around, happy and warm, listening to our CD’s on our iPods and complaining that people outside the boat are making too much noise. Instead, we should be desperately paddling around trying to help others into the boat, where they too can experience warmth, community, and safety.
I was personally challenged by his questions on the subject:
- Am I numb or neutral toward people outside the church?
- Do I intercede daily for people outside the church?
- Who am I praying for now who is not a Christian?
- When’s the last time I had coffee or dinner or gone to a movie and hung out with someone who is not a Christian?
I think this is particularly a challenge for those of us working in Christian institutions – when do we find the time for connecting with others in our community who are not Christians? When we do connect are we able to develop the kinds of trust in our relationships so that there is mutual listening, sharing, and opportunities to discuss matters of faith?
Last week I suggested that we get our kids out and using what they are learning. I believe that we need to be equipping them earlier with apologetics as they are intersecting more often with other kids through soccer leagues, clubs, ballet, and a host of other activities. It seems that this could be a good topic for parents, church and school to discuss and plan for. How could we model and share with our students about the relationships that we have with non-Christians? What would they learn from how we engage with them and share our faith?