The theme of losing the next generation is extremely predominant today. It seems that the church has finally woken up to what has already been going on over the past twenty years and everyone is in a panic. There are a lot of books that have been written to address specific issues causing and caused by the cultural shift, but their singular perspectives lack a discerning eye to look to the past, listen to the present, and offer hope for the future like David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me.
You Lost ME: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith is the first book I have ever read the truly takes an honest look at all of the culprits and offers a positive outlook on where we can go to see Christ honored in our attempts to be His church. Kinnaman is a relatively young author – still in his thirties. This puts him right where he needs to be to accurately address the problem. As the president of the Barna Group, Kinnaman has all the research at his disposal and years of experience to make wise assessments to the changes that have taken place.
The book’s title comes from a generation of young adults who, after leaving the church, have placed the blame on the institution to say, “It’s your fault that I’m gone.” While Kinnaman is writing about this generation, he doesn’t condone their misplaced blame. He does, however, point out howthe established church has helped in hastening their rejection of traditional values.
Unlike the plethora of other books written on this topic, Kinnaman points out that there is not a singular reason why young adults are leaving the church and it cannot be over-simplified into the black and white answers that people so often are looking for. What he does point out are the many factors that have played a role in shaping our distinct society and the valuable lessons we are over-looking in our panic to rescue the church.
Kinnaman describes the factors which have largely influenced our society: access, alienation and authority. The present culture has more access today than any generation in history. Whether it is information, worldviews, or temptation, this generation should not be blamed because of the circumstances that they are under. The combined affects of growing up in broken homes and following after a culture that has little respect for marriage and institutions has caused the young adults to feel alienated and alone. With so much hurt and the ability to access information so easily, the next generation does not recognize traditional authority without scrutiny. While many older adults see this as an affront to their values, Kinnaman points out that this presents opprotunity. “A culture of skepticism is a culture of questions, and questions can lead to conversations, relationships, and truth.”
A proper way of developing an argument is to define the opposition with terms that they would agree to and acknowledge for themselves. Kinnaman’s description of those who have left the church is both respectful and accurate. You Lost Me defines those who have left the church as nomads, prodigals, and exiles. Nomads are those who still maintain that they are Christians and say that they aren’t religious, but they are spiritual. Prodigals, like Jesus’ parable, have completely abandoned their faith and some even hold hostility to those they have left behind. The term ‘Exiles’ comes from Kinnaman’s attempt to address a group of believers who feel disconnected from the church. They love God and want to honor Him but they feel like the church doesn’t understand them and won’t give them a voice or a chance. This last distinction was the most profound assessment that You Lost Me makes. Most other books point out the first two descriptors in some way, but few can recognize the third group without lumping them into one of the first two categories.
The argument of the book is well crafted and sound. The astuteness in defining the parameters of the time and the individuals is spot on. Kinnaman calls the church to be proactive in rescuing the nest generation with compassion and love. The church is always behind with the times, but this should not cause us to be overcome by not being aware of what is taking place around us. Too many churches are still asleep and will not recognize the problem until it is too late. They can reject the message of this book and disregard the need for change, but they will be changed when there is no one under the age of 40 in their congregation. We ought to be proactive and at the helm of cultural changes to anticipate where we might go next and compensate so that we will get there with discernment and wisdom. Readers of You Lost Me will be leading the way.
If you are a parent, pastor, or church leader, this book should be required reading. If you are a young adult who is feeling disconnected from your church, you ought to read this book with an open mind and a perspective of where you can learn to love the church. I think that every Christian college in America should have a course devoted to the contents of You Lost Me. We are losing the next generation and our best efforts, in ignorance, are only hastening the process. I highly recommend this book. It is the kind of book I will continue to study and come back to on a regular basis to be challenged, reminded, and renewed.