i finished reading Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but not the Church the other day. this was the first time i read Kimball beyond his blog or his comments in others’ blogs, and more than anything i was struck by his passion and compassion for the church and the world.
In They Like Jesus, Kimball gives several examples of positive views that our culture and those within it have of Jesus: as a man of deep spirituality, good teachings, and charismatic attractiveness. he focuses on emerging generations (essentially those in their teens through 30’s) and their criticisms of the church of today. he gives a lot of weight to those criticisms, explains the reasons for them, and makes suggestions towards correction. to make his points and create suggestions he interviewed several people both in and outside of the church and quotes them extensively.
the criticisms of the church that he focuses on (both in this book and the next) are:
- the church is an organized religion with a political agenda
- the church is judgmental and negative
- the church is dominated by males and oppresses females
- the church is homophobic
- the church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
- the church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally
in each of his responses he describes why people view the church in these ways, why it’s problematic, and how the church can respond in a positive way (read: change), become welcoming and honest, while not compromising core beliefs or biblical principles.
i felt that Kimball wrote with integrity, being honest about how the church is seen in this culture, while writing with love and passion for both the church and those who find themselves outside of the church because of those reasons.
towards the end of the book he has a chapter specifically on what the people he spoke to wish the church were like, emphasizing the importance of listening to those ideas, and making suggestions for implementing them as a way of staying true to the biblical view of the church.
another thing that impressed me was that he included an appendix responding to the criticisms he received from christians regarding the content of the book, answering questions addressed to him concerned with the idea that listening so intently to those outside the church would dilute the church’s mission and message.
Kimball’s book is an important one for those who truly want the church to be the community of God on earth and who want to see the church move from being an obstacle in many people’s path to God towards becoming a place of invitation and authenticity.