Book Review: The Next Christians
Gabe Lyons' new book explains why the end of Christian America is good news.

If you have not yet encountered Gabe Lyons, let me encourage you to do so because he is a person worth your time. As co-founder of Catalyst, founder of Q (a learning community dedicated to mobilizing Christians for the common good), co-author of the tart and challenging book UnChristian, a dedicated husband and father of three young children and only thirty-five, Lyons has already packed some significant achievements into his young life. Now comes his latest work, The Next Christians, an engaging and exceptionally well-written look at how the newest generation of Christians is making its mark for Christ.

Lyons' builds his thesis on two foundational concepts. The first is that American society has fundamentally moved away from its theological and moral roots. Historically, our culture was dominated by a Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic but now it's pluralistic, postmodern and post-christian. Over the last few decades the church has been displaced from a position of cultural prominence and pushed to the periphery. Thus, a new narrative, in many ways antithetical to traditional faith, is shaping significant elements of our society.

Yet, according to Lyons, this situation is not at all hopeless. Ever the optimist, he quickly moves on to articulate his second foundational premise of ‘restoration'. Restoration is both a mind-set and a life-style. A ‘restorer' envisions the world as God meant it to be and then actively works towards mending its brokenness in the name of Jesus. At heart, restoration is the extension of God's kingdom by God's people. It concludes the larger biblical story of God's good creation that was broken by the fall and initially renewed by Jesus' redemptive death and resurrection. As Lyons argues, ‘Christ's redemptive work is not the end or even the goal of our stories; redemption is the beginning of our participation in God's work of restoration in our lives and the world. Understanding that one idea literally changes everything.' (p. 53)

He uses the rest of the book to show exactly how this happens. In Lyons' view, the next Christians will not fight or flee from the culture nor will they merely blend in as philanthropic ‘do-gooders'. Instead, building on the innate power of ‘ought', they will work towards transforming the world into what it should be. Their strategy is one of engagement defined by being provoked into action, serving as creators, following their call, practicing the spiritual disciplines, developing community and living in a counter-cultural fashion.

October 22, 2010

Displaying 1–8 of 8 comments

Nick Traegler

November 14, 2010  5:43pm

The call Lyons has for us at the end of the book is something we need to take seriously in a day and age that so many people, including Christian leadership, fail with organization and start to procrastinate. I was reading a commentary once that talked about a story D.L. Moody gave as why he became so devoted to helping others follow Christ ASAP and it came on the Sunday of October 8th, 1871. He had talked to a man where he asked if this man wanted to receive Christ as his savior, and the man told Moody he wasn't completely sure yet so Moody told him to sleep on it a couple of days and talk to him next week. Unfortunately, that was also the night of the Great Chicago Fire and that man never got another chance to receive Christ. We so often have the mindset that we can push things off til the next day and it will be fine but tomorrow might be too late. We need to stop getting sidetracked from whats around us and focus in on life-changing things that can only happen from Christ.

Report Abuse

Leah

November 08, 2010  9:30pm

I too have seen Gabe Lions speak and thought he had some great insights! I also loved that he was extremely passionate about what he had to say and about reaching the American culture for Jesus. One thing I would like to unpack was his statement about transforming the world. "In Lyons' view, the next Christians will not fight or flee from the culture nor will they merely blend in as philanthropic ‘do-gooders'. Instead, building on the innate power of ‘ought', they will work towards transforming the world into what it should be." I often wonder what this would have looked like in the mind of Jesus. As Christians, are we called to change the world that we are in, or simply call people to a better one? I think that while it is important to address the physical and emotional needs of those we are ministering to, we must ultimately keep in mind that we are citizens of heaven, not of earth. Our primary responsibility is to bring people to Jesus. Only in the reign of Christ will this world be as it should be. On the flip-side, I do believe that one of the ways we can attract people to God's love is by building a testimony of restoration. We simply have to keep everything in a balanced perspective – 'gospel focused', as Gabe says.

Report Abuse

sheerahkahn

November 01, 2010  12:03pm

"I am less concerned about the advent of a post-Christian America than I am enthusiastic about the advent of a post-American Christianity." I find that quote of yours intriguing, and I must say it does conjure some rather fascinating ideas that I should be entertaining instead of the current set of diatribes cycling in my thoughts. Thank you for that quote, Jim.

Report Abuse

Jim Gustafson

October 24, 2010  5:18pm

I will have to read this book. (I liked UnChristian very much.) For 2 years, my Facebook quote has been one of my own: "I am less concerned about the advent of a post-Christian America than I am enthusiastic about the advent of a post-American Christianity."

Report Abuse

Megan

October 23, 2010  2:23pm

Gabe Lyons has come twice now to speak in chapel at the college I attend, Lancaster Bible College. This past year he spoke for our day of prayer and challenged our student body to make sure we are actually engaging the world we live in, and not being stuck in our Christian bubbles. And even in those bubbles that we are being real and open with one another. I would agree with the author of this blog when he says "If you have not yet encountered Gabe Lyons, let me encourage you to do so because he is a person worth your time". Even if you do not agree fully with his generalizations, Lyons has great insight into what is going on in the world and how we as Christians can and should be making a difference for the Kingdom of God.

Report Abuse

br thomas

October 23, 2010  8:28am

I am wondering if someone might provide some insight about this quote: "they will work towards transforming the world into what it should be" I have heard others speak of this, but it's never been explained, but is presented as a fact. 1. What is meant by transforming the world into what it should be? 2. What is the role of the Christian in this "work"? What is the role of God? 3. Is this "work" reflected in the early life of the church or did this come about as the church evolved over the centuries and became more involved in civil affairs? I would be grateful for some insight. Thank you!

Report Abuse

steve

October 23, 2010  4:00am

Indeed, sheerahkahn's comments are a challenge - are we really much different than the people of the 1600's - or those of 1600 BC? - we all of us a mix of good and bad, all in need of God's Mercy. I too am wary of generalizations, but whither go historical tendencies seem peripheral to Lyons' call to work toward transforming the world, which obviously is greatly in need of it. As we pray, 'Thy will be done on Earth...'. I thank God that Lyons notes "the next Christians must emphasize the whole Gospel and stay committed to keeping it first". Maybe then we can avoid the errors of many sword-wielding Crusaders and Conquistadors, Drone bomber pilots and rifle-toting Liberation Theologists to name a few. I applaud Lyons for his fresh vision of what 'ought', can, and should be. Really, the Gospel is an astounding and revolutionary call. Just like we walk blind amid the miracles all around us, life and creation, just so due to familiarity we are dulled to the radical message of Christ. A pity.

Report Abuse

sheerahkahn

October 22, 2010  3:26pm

"Lyons' builds his thesis on two foundational concepts.The firstis that American society has fundamentally moved away from its theological and moral roots. Historically, our culture was dominated by a Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic but now it's pluralistic, postmodern and post-christian." Uh...umm...hmmm /sigh I want to be constructive here, so I'm going to be very careful about what I say. My concern is that the author's desire to publish his opus on "fixing" the church has influenced his subjectivity which has trumped the historical record. I'm hoping that is not the case, as I have read many well intentioned Christian authors who have assumed the "moved away from theological and moral roots" argument as uncontested historical fact, rather than a mythological narrative that begs further investigation. Primary sources from the colonial period point and illuminate a culture that is unfettered by anything we would call Christian morals, sober and temperate behaviour, or cultural rectitude. Abortion, out of wedlock births, sex before marriage, murder, open homosexuality, open and outright drunkenness, violence in the streets, government graft, individual and corporate greed, public sex, etc. It's all there...if you really wanted to read about such things in the primary sources. But for some reason, the assumption is that how it went in Puritan New England is how it went all over the colonies...until you start reading the diaries, also known as primary sources, about the Puritans which then starts to beg the question of the purity of the Puritans. Me thinks there is far to many unsubstantiated assumptions that modern Christian writers make about early America, which have elevated our colonial forebears to an unearned pedastal of moral and theological honor. If we can't be honest about our past, how can we be honest about our present, or much less our future?

Report Abuse