unChristian, by David Kinnaman, was an interesting read for me. The book explores the perceptions that non-Christians have of Christian culture at large, with some largely negative results. Christians are perceived as judgmental, antihomosexual, politically-charged, and sheltered. Kinnaman is one of the head honchos of The Barna Group, a research firm that does quantitative and qualitative studies around issues of faith. This book is the result of a three year study on the perceptions of Christianity from the next generation...which is my generation...which is what makes this book so interesting for me.
It was hard to believe, but I deeply resonated with some of the feelings of outsiders about the church. At the very least I could empathize and understand how certain perceptions came into existence. As a member of the generation Kinnaman calls "Mosaics" and a leader in the local church, I felt like I was reading the book having two opposing perspectives inside me. On the one hand, I love the bride of Christ and passionate about following Jesus. On the other hand, I have seen and experienced some of the negative perceptions expressed in the book (especially judgemental and sheltered attitudes). What I think will be the biggest struggle for readers is having an attitude of compassion and grace instead of becoming defensive. It is difficult to hear that one's faith and motives are being judged--sometimes rightly, sometimes unfairly--based on the unChristian actions of other believers. It is an enlightening and well-written book that helps us understand how to engage the next generation in America.
The second book I finished, The Challenge of Jesus, is written by Christian historian N.T. Wright. Wright dives deep into the first-century Jewish culture of Jesus, evaluating Jesus' message as a primarily Jewish message about the kingdom of God. This book has sparked an interest in me to have a deeper understanding and appreciation for early Jewish culture. Jesus was a first-century Jewish man, speaking to first-century Jews. So it can be difficult for 21st century American man to fully grasp the nuances and depths of Jesus' message. Wright's book has given me a deeper understanding of the gospel and its relevance. While "getting saved" is important, Jesus message centers primarily around the kingdom that God is establishing and proclaiming Himself to be the Jewish Messiah the prophets spoke of. It is a challenging book to read; Wright has a great deal of brilliant stuff to say about Jesus, which takes some time to ponder.
Now I just have to finish a few more of these youth ministry books I've been reading for so long! Then I can buy the boat-load of books that have been sitting in my Amazon.com shopping cart for weeks. Hooray for books!