Dan Kimball has a thoughtful review about Bill Maher’s new movie “Religulous” on his blog. I often enjoy Kimball’s posts and wanted to pass this one on to you. I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, so I don’t know that I will get around to watching this one, but Kimball raises some very important questions. And I really appreciate that for him the result is being energized for ministry. You can read his post here.
Dan Kimball has a very interesting post about the apparent contradiction between conservative Christians, who often don’t allow women to speak in church, supporting Sarah Palin’s candidacy for Vice President so enthusiastically (with the real possibility that she could be the leader of the country). You can read his post here.
I recently read Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices by Frank Viola and George Barna. In case you haven’t heard anything about the book, Pagan Christianity? looks at many of the most taken for granted church practices in protestantism and argues that they come not from Scripture or the teachings of Jesus, but from pagan practices that were co-opted by Christians.
I found the book to be interesting, thought-provoking, and challenging. But I often got pretty frustrated with the basic premise that was, to me, applied too broadly and without nuance. To over simplify my understanding of the premise of the book: Anything that has become part of the practice of the church that did not come directly from Jesus and the New Testament is bad. (Like I said, I may be overstating it or oversimplifying the argument, but that is the best I can do in a nut shell.) Nevertheless, the authors make some excellent points about how much of what we do today in the church encourages a view of active clergy and passive laity. This is a huge problem!
In any case, I was intending to write a review of it in a week or two, in part in order to create the space to wrestle with some of the thoughts I had about the book as I read it. However, yesterday I read Dan Kimball’s review of Pagan Christianity, and it says what I would have tried to say much better than I would have said it. Kimball promises a second installment where he will post Viola’s response to the questions that Kimball raises at the end of the post. Kimball also references several other reviews in his post. If you have heard about Pagan Christianity? and you are interested in reading a review that is sympathetic yet critical, I would highly recommend this review.
For those of you who may have read this book, what are your thoughts about Pagan Christianity?
I wanted to answer this question as a separate post because I am hoping more of you will notice the discussion and contribute your ideas. So, what one book would you recommend on emergent if you could only recommend one?
I am going to immediately break my own rule, because I can see a few different ways of coming at this. So here is the one book I would recommend if you wanted to learn more about emergent but you only had time to read one book:
- They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. I think this books is just a great book, so I want everyone to read it. But I think it also lets you inside Dan Kimball’s heart. It lets you see why the whole emergent conversation matters. I have to confess that this book doesn’t really explicitly deal with emergent at all, so if you are trying to learn about what emerging folks believe, etc., this is not the one book you should read about emergent. But it should be the one book you read to learn about how to better love people who are outside of the church.
- A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. My perception is that this is one of the books that really started to gain attention and build momentum for the emerging church movement. This books describes a conversation between a pastor who is close to burnout and someone who helps him rediscover his calling. I have to be honest and say that most of the books I have read like this were somewhat frustrating for me because I wanted them to be a little more concrete. I much preferred McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy and The Secret Message of Jesus.
So that is my .02. I am sure that there are other folks out there who have an opinion. What one book about emergent would you recommend if you could only recommend one book?
The short version is that the book was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. The book is very readable and flows more like a conversation than a lecture or a technical discussion. The basic organization is that it gives some thoughts about why it should matter to Christians that non-Christians like Jesus, but not the church. The second part of the book discusses in more depth what it is about the church that they don’t like. Kimball does this in a helpful way that respects both those who don’t like the church and those who are in the church. The final part of the book discusses what we can/should do about it. You really sense Kimball’s heart here. I think if he could get you to do one thing as a result of reading his book, it would be that you would commit to getting to know people who are outside of the church. Listening to their stories, befriending them, and praying for them.
If you have discovered that you have become trapped in the Christian bubble, this book will help you plan your escape. I highly recommend it.
I picked up a copy today of Dan Kimball‘s book They Like Jesus But Not the Church. I have only read about half of the introduction, but it is off to an excellent start! He shares the story of speaking at an evangelism conference and the people there just not getting his approach of just trying to get to know people and actually befriending them. One of the pastors asked if he “sealed the deal” (meaning prayed the sinners’ prayer). When Kimball said that he had not and that he was trying to get to know people and befriend them the pastor responded, “Well, then you’re wasting your time, brother, and I will pray for you that you seal the deal with them.”
If that story starts to get you fired up a little bit about how much that pastor is missing the point, I bet this would be a book that would speak to you (though I can’t fully endorse it, as I have not actually read it yet). I found myself thinking, and I bet that guy didn’t even actually pray for you…
Having recently read and posted about Kinnaman and Lyon’s book UnChristian, I was struck by some obvious similarities between the insights that Kimball draws out about how the church is perceived. Here is a comparison of what Kinnaman and Lyon note that people dislike about Christians and what Kimball discusses in They Like Jesus But Not the Church:
UnChristian traits according to Kinnaman and Lyon’s research:
Outsiders see Christians as:
- Only concerned with conversion (getting you to pray the sinners’ prayer)
- too political
Here is what Kimball says Emerging generations think about the Church:
- an organized religion with a political agenda
- judgmental and negative
- dominated by males and oppresses females
- arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
- full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally
The similarities are remarkable and suggest that these two books really have profoundly grasped the way Christians are viewed by non-Christians. It is a wake up call.
In a previous post Dan Kimball actually noticed a comment I made about thinking it would be cool to have lunch with him and he replied. So, in case you find this post too, Dan – I have a question. Have you read UnChristian and if so how do you think it meshes with They Like Jesus But Not the Church? Oh, and will you be in the northern Oklahoma area anytime soon to grab some lunch? I know of a great Mexican place in Blackwell, OK!
Finally, here is a link on Dan Kimball’s blog where he discusses They Like Jesus But Not the Church.