As the year comes to an end, I want to introduce you to something new that will hopefully become a big part of the website moving forward, book reviews. In an effort to read more, these posts will serve as my encouragement and motivation. I want this to be a place where you can be introduced to what’s out there (some good oldies) and what’s new. It’s almost impossible to weed through every new book, so hopefully, this will help you if you can’t get to every single one on your reading list.
The first book I want to review for you is Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock. The book is a culmination of several years of study and research into the habits of young Christians. It was done in connection with The Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, and the intersection of faith and culture. If you don’t know much about them – check out their website immediately. It’s been a constant source of information for my time in ministry and very beneficial.
A simple synopsis of the book is this: Young Christians (18-29 years old) live in Digital Babylon (a world trying to influence them and turn them from God). That existence has forced those who possess a resilient faith to develop specific traits to thrive spiritually in a hostile world.
There are several key takeaways.
First of all, the introduction does a good job of describing our society (in particular, young people), which has allowed technology’s influence to outdistance theology. Through an all-encompassing presence in our lives, Digital Babylon’s (the name they give our present age) pride, power, prestige, and pleasure have colonized our hearts and minds. Now, instead of turning to older adults and traditions (i.e. the Church), many young people turn to friends, social media, and algorithms to find the answers to big questions about identity, faith, and sexuality.
When reading the introduction, I couldn’t help but think about King Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. When faced with an early test of his leadership, Rehoboam trusted his friends instead of his father’s advisors and his fool-hearted counsel helped divide the nation.
After they studied the 10% who have thrived spiritually and made their faith a priority in all aspects of life, they came away with five practices that produce a resilient faith. Below is a list of the five traits and a brief summary from the text of the book itself.
Trait No. One – To form a resilient identity, experience intimacy with Jesus.
Unfortunately, the Church has responded to the identity pressures of our culture by offering young people a Jesus “brand experience” rather than facilitating a transformational experience to find their identity in the person and work of Jesus. Young people are growing tired of the stage show, they want something authentic.
Trait No. Two – In a complex and anxious age, develop the muscles of cultural discernment.
Resilient disciples take part in robust learning communities, that is, they learn how to think in company with other Christians who are learning how to think. Making resilient disciples does not mean protecting young Christians but preparing them for life on mission. Cultural discernment is about teaching young people not just what to think but also how to live. We must prepare them for the world as it truly is, not as we wish it to be.
Trait No. Three – When isolation and mistrust are the norms, forge meaningful, intergenerational relationships.
Our churches must be places that cut through generational clutter and reconcile people to one another in and through Christ. Relationships are meaningful when we are devoted to fellow believers we want to be around and become. If a young person can say, “these are my people – I belong here” they may be likely to also say “You are my God – I belong in Your presence.”
Trait No. Four – To ground and motivate an ambitious generation, train for vocational discipleship.
Resilient disciples are God-centered in their thinking about work, they believe integrity in the workplace matters, they believe the Church needs to help them live out their faith in the workplace. More than most, they believe “I do not have to work in ministry to be working for God’s Kingdom.” They also spoke about how the Church has helped them prepare for that responsibility. (I personally found that part very encouraging, as it’s something I see lacking in my own life).
Trait No. Five – Curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by engaging in countercultural mission.
Resilient disciples live a faithful presence by trusting God’s power and living differently from cultural norms. To them, Christianity is meant to be at odds with purpose-less, going-through-the-motions life.
I thoroughly endorse this book. If you are a Church leader of any kind (i.e. Elder, Deacon, Minister, Bible Class Teacher, Volunteer), get this book right now and read it today. The practices they observed are noteworthy, the research is enlightening, and the connections they make to everyday life will encourage your own growth in Digital Babylon.
For years, I’ve read David Kinnaman’s books beginning with Unchristian and continuing on to You Lost Me and now Faith For Exiles. I would endorse them as well. He’s a talented writer, but more than that, a talented collector of information with (from my pov) a willing desire to translate those stats into real, physical ministry.