I’ve just read They Like Jesus But Not The Church and I’m going to have do some experiments. Kimball’s theory based on a number of out-of-church experiences and conversations is that people are open to knowing more about Jesus but that more often than not the church gets in the way. Hard to argue with that really.
What is more questionable is how well this crosses the Atlantic and how easily his observations fit the UK. For a start our evangelicals are far milder, and our fundamentalists are tame by comparison so the description of church that he paints is not one I easily recognise and I’ve grown up in the church. Of course we’re also British which means we’re quite apologetic and polite about things. No doubt we can be offensive, rude and inconsiderate and sure our arguments can be a bit simplistic but all in a very British kind of way. But I’m glad for all those things, some of the descriptions he paints of Christians in the US are truly terrifying.
The second difference is that we’ve been in a post-Christian society for some time now and I think you can make a decent argument to say our emerging generations emerged a generation ago. Post-modernism isn’t new the church is just a bit slow to catch on. Thirdly my impression is that here people don’t know about Jesus much at all, for many ordinary people issues of faith are not often on their agenda. The greatest insult to the church is that we are not considered offensive but instead we are harmless. We lack the ability to excite strong emotion much of the time (although our small band of extremists experience this more often) and so society is indifferent by and large.
I found the book interesting and readable but Christians here are missionaries in a different culture and so we need to learn different lessons. Worth a read though.