Restoration is the key word for understanding the next Christians according to Gabe Lyons. It is the idea of joining with God in the restoration of all things that permeates all of life. Rather than privatizing faith, nominally accepting faith, or simply attending a weekly service the next Christians embody their faith as it shines forth in the daily rhythms of their lives.
The entire premise for Lyons’ book is the shift in Christian America (if there ever was such a thing). As with most culturally and theologically clued in Christians, we are living in the midst of dynamic changes in western civilization. The common Christian foundation that most of the American population was familiar with in the past is now mostly gone. Culture has become much more pluralized, secularized, and yet concurrently, spiritual awareness and seeking has risen. Against the tendency of past Christians, Lyons states that the next Christians will not retreat or separate themselves into an insular entity in response to the shifting cultural situation. Instead he states six characteristics that will and do stand at the forefront of the next Christians. They are the following:
- Provoked, not offended
- Creators, not critics
- Called, not employed
- Grounded, not distracted
- In community, not alone
- Countercultural, not “relevant”
According to Lyons, the common thread found throughout the next Christians, is their dedication to holistic gospel restoration. The entire gospel addresses their entire beings and is embodied in their entire lives primarily in the above characteristics.
Overall, I’d recommend this book for someone who is contemplating what is next for Christianity or, like Lyons, has come out of a rather conservative Christian background. (This is typified by a stress on proclamation evangelism epitomized by the “Romans’ Road” or the “sinner’s prayer, living within the Christian bubble, abstaining from all alcohol, etc.) Lyons does a great job bringing together stories of people who are living out of this restoration mindset. He also does a good job bringing out the cultural and theological foundations found in the next Christians. However, if you are a next Christian or have read material from the Emergent or missional camps, this will be a nice review. For me ( a seminary grad, 28 years old, interim pastor, leading a smaller faith community, work in a public school) most of this was an encouraging reminder of what I am currently working on. Regardless, it is a good introduction to some of the newer thoughts of the next Christians.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.