Book Review: The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith by Gabe Lyons.
As a cultural observer, especially an observer of Christianity, Gabe Lyons provides insight into a slice of Christianity that he wishes to affirm. These Christians he tells us are from a broad spectrum – as the flyleaf says – “evangelicals, mainline protestants, Orthodox, Pentecostals, and others” who are finding a new way of being Christian. A way that he calls Restoration.
As an observation The Next Christians is helpful and encouraging on many levels. I appreciate the reminders that we are no longer living in a Christian culture that is informed by Christian values and a deference to the church. America is post-modern, post-Christian, and pluralistic. The analysis of how Christians tend to interact with current culture is also helpful and seems spot on. There are two major groups. Separatists tend to fall into three groups: insiders, culture warriors, and evangelizers. Culturals tend towards blending in or being philanthropists.
Lyons discerns that there is a new generation of Christians which he labels “restorers”. Restorers he says, “have a peculiar way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. Telling others about Jesus is important, but conversion isn’t their only motive. Their mission is to infuse the world with beauty, grace justice and love.” The bulk of the book is Lyons unpacking what this means in six contrasts. Restorers are:
- provoked, not offended
- creators, not critics
- called, not employed
- grounded, not distracted
- in community, not alone
- countercultural, not “relevant”
As Lyons develops these they are compelling. I found that I agree with most points – especially those having to do with authentic and genuine love that engages with the world in a redemptive manner. The call for Christians to get beyond pragmatic methodology is helpful as well.
But there is something just a bit unsettling to me (and this will probably get me listed as one of the dated, not-“next”, Christians). Restorers want “Christian” to mean something different than it has meant, something that is defined more by cultural engagement, rather by doctrine. At least that is not a well developed theme. That said, I really believe that The Next Christians is encouraging and helpful; very much worth reading if one keeps in mind that there is true doctrine. And that doctrine needs to be at the forefront .
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.