As I began reading “The Next Christians,” I hadn’t had the benefit of reading Gabe Lyon’s previous book “UnChristian.” The previous book outlined the decline of Christianity in America. “The Next Christians” offers a much brighter outlook on the future of the church and gives a title not to just this book, but to an emerging movement of Christians.
One of the great pictures Lyons paints in his book is that the next Christians are focused on restoration. Their goal is not just to get people “saved” by focusing on our sin and our need for redemption (which we truly need!). But, as Lyons puts it, they focus on the whole story, beginning with the goodness of God’s creation and the ultimate restoration that will take place at Christ’s second coming. His contention is that the church has at times only focused on our sin problem and how to get to heaven and avoid hell. The next Christians are telling the entire story and striving to be agents of restoration in our world today.
To describe the next Christians, Lyons identifies what they are not. While it is dangerous to use labels or stereotypes to describe a group of people, Lyons does a good job of characterizing many in the church. He uses two broad groups – Separatists & Cultural – to describe a large segment of today’s church goers. Separatists do their to not associate with today’s culture while Cultural Christians take on many aspects of the culture. Cultural Christians take what society says is “cool” and puts a Christian spin on it.
Lyons does a good job illustrating these two definitions, but does it to show how the next Christians strive not to blend into culture, not separate from it, but rather engage in it and to begin bringing about restoration.
He then uses these phrases to flesh out what the next Christians look like: provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; countercultural, not relevant. He also uses real-life stories of people who show what it looks like to live as an agent of restoration.
What Lyons describes in this book is a shift of focus on what the church should be about. Lyons tells stories of Christians who move to the inner city, who meet in community, who take jobs in the “secular” workplace, all for the purpose of being the church in today’s culture and bring about restoration. He identifies some of the challenges of being a next Christian and how it also a call to some fundamental practices of Christ-followers – listening to God through His Word, spending time in prayer and meeting in community for both encouragement and accountability.
The Next Christians is not a call to abandon the church of today or leave your current fellowship to start a whole new gathering. More than that, it is a challenge to see how we can be agents of restoration in our particular segment of society, to see how you and I can use our God-given gifts and abilities in the places where God puts us.
You can read an excerpt here.
(I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review and thoughts on this book.)