Monday, June 24, 2013

BookPastor >> "The Outsider Interviews"

This week's recommendation is an excellent book that gives us a glimpse into the thinking and perception of a new generation to Christianity. For anyone who is concerned about reaching out to the next generation, this book is essential reading. The review was first published in "Panorama of a Book Saint."


TITLE: Outsider Interviews, The: A New Generation Speaks Out on Christianity
AUTHOR: Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010, (198 pages).

Do you want to have a strategy to reach the category of people called, "Young Adults?" Is your Church facing an exodus of young people? Are you baffled as to what is going on in this unique age group who grew up with you when young, and now preferred to grow up independently instead? If your answer is YES to all three, then you may want to consider this DVB, which is a clever label to denote a book and a DVD package. The DVD comprises videos of interviews conducted with young people in their 20s to 30s. Conducted with young people from four cities, the DVD shows the responses as they are, with questions from the audience as well as facilitation by some of the researchers. The book on the other hand presents the reflections on these interviews by three seasoned researchers on the Young Adult situation in the church today. Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, and Craig Spinks give their take on the contexts of the new generation, the perception of Christianity having an image problem, the clash of tradition with modernity, the nature of diversity in a pluralistic environment and many more.

The authors are keen to find out the stories behind the grim statistics that show the demise of many churches' young adult groups. What I find most illuminating is the need for leaders to learn how to listen attentively, to learn humbly, and to love these people passionately. There are basically four cities that the interviews have been held, namely Denver, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Seattle. Generally, four persons are selected in each city location. Half of them profess the Christian faith while the other half are either atheist or agnostic. Care is also taken to have equal representation from both genders. What is lacking perhaps is the multi-racial component, as the interviews are based on people who are predominantly white, though there is a Muslim and a Jew somewhere in the mix. The topics covered are very wide. From homosexuality to same-sex marriage, internal Church conflicts to external perceptions of Christianity, from Republican to Democratic politics, hypocrisy to image problems, the young people highlight a diverse range of issues that cover culture, politics, social awareness, cultural nuances, and of course the Church. The DVD gives readers and viewers a first hand look at the actual interviews and feedback concerned. There is also a segment from the perspective of the authors.

In the book, the authors reflect on what they have heard and each of the three authors pick a topic to discuss in greater depth. As Jim Henderson is the main interviewer and facilitator, he contributes the most, covering at least six out of nine chapters. He presents the case for readers to take the initiative not just to talk about the gospel, but to live out the gospel of love through care. Some of the observations are as follows:

  • Christianity has an image problem
  • Many Christians do not listen to the inner longings of the young people
  • Many Christians tend to elevate doctrines and principles more than loving people.
  • There have been too much politicizing of Christianity in the political arena
  • Christians do not know how to handle differences maturely
  • One can to be intentional but not manipulative
  • Learn to notice people and care for them
  • Dialogue is actually easier than most people thought
  • Many young people do not just want to be invited to come. They like to serve.
  • ...
Finally, Craig lists six lessons to learn.
  1. Do not take things too personally. Most of the time, people just want to disagree rather than judge a particular belief;
  2. Give others the permission to be different.
  3. Speak less from absolutes and more from personal stories. For example, rather than saying "All churches are irrelevant," say "In my experience, the church I have attended has not been relevant."
  4. Debates are natural reactions to disagreements about something. Learn to turn debates to respectful dialogue
  5. Do not jump to conclusions. Do not be too quick to label people.
  6. Ask lots of questions.
Todd affirms that styles can change but evangelism boldness never goes out of style. Nice.

Henderson shares five take homes with regards to constructing a bridge between generations.
  1. Obtain a list of things to be researched, for clarity, and for understanding different viewpoints
  2. Obtain feedback all the time, in conversation and dialogue
  3. Adopt skills of bridge building
  4. Be open to changes to be made as each opportunity arises
  5. Do not be too easily intimidated by people questioning you on your lack of experience, or age, or anything.
Henderson's words are worth remembering.

"From my point of view, Boomers have an activist streak and Millenials an optimistic one. When these differences intersect, a unique force field is created that can facilitate the building of a bridge not only for themselves but for all the outsiders who are trying to find their way into the Kingdom. When intergenerational activists and optimists collaborate, innovative practices and unpredictable acts of love emerge." (165)

See the book video below or click the link here.

For more interviews, click here

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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