David Kinnaman’s new book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith, hits the shelves this week. It follows in the line of Kinnaman’s penetrating research and analysis in the book, UnChristian. Publisher’s Weekly describes You Lost Me as “a must-read for anyone concerned about the future of Christianity.”
The closing section of the book carries short articles from a variety of Christian leaders describing what they feel will be the most important issue/idea/factor in drawing young people to Christ…or driving them further away. What I wrote for this section is below-arguing that the Church must make the Gospel touchable if we are to reach a culture weary with advertising, entertainment and technology. You can also see the Publisher’s Weekly review and You Lost Me on Amazon.
Un-market the Gospel
Today’s young adults have been saturated by marketing since infancy. From Internet pop-ups to movie product placement, market messaging has harnessed every artifice imaginable to compel behavior: buy, join, wear, vote, acquire. Little wonder that religious messages easily end up in the same “junk mail” folder in the marketing-weary mind. If we are to reach the heart of the disillusioned, we must give up trying to equal marketing messages in hipness, volume, or entertainment.
Real substance is the one great foil to the faux world of marketing. That’s why authenticity is viewed as today’s highest virtue, even when it’s ugly or vicious. In a world yearning for authenticity, any Christian message that draws its impact from technique, technology, or “new paradigm” methods will do no more than draw short-lived attention. We must make truth touchable. The Good News must be as tangible as the wood of a cross. Without a visible expression, words like transformation, grace, and radical discipleship will be quickly dismissed as just another hyperbolic sales pitch. But these words made visible—even imperfectly—will crash through competing messages like a bulldozer through a Hollywood set.
Emphasizing the visible doesn’t mean downplaying the significance of words or ideas. Robust biblical vision and language are as vital as ever. But every idea we share must be paired with a tangible expression. We speak of God’s adoption of us as we adopt the orphan. We describe grace as we visit the prisoner. We tell of God’s provision as we provide for the hungry and destitute. This is the un-marketing of the gospel: incarnating eternal truth in wood, dirt, and skin.