I went into reading Dan Kimball's The Like Jesus but Not the Church without the intention of blogging all the way through it, and that still is not my intention. That said, I finally got around to reading the second chapter and I am rather too convicted to not write anything about it.
Here is what I am taking away immediately: Dan Kimball is on to something, and that something is more important than most of us realize (and by "most of us," I think that I mean we Reformed types who are too quick to write off Kimball because he is labeled "Emergent"). To this point in the book, he has framed that "something" as the problem of a Christian subculture that sucks all of us into it. And even I, a steadfast opponent of most Christian music, Christian radio, Christian clothing, and all the other Christian crap you get at "Christian stores" (as opposed to Christian book stores), have been so sucked in.
Allow me to ask you a blunt question, dear reader: why don't you share the gospel with non-believers?
Of course there are a number of you to whom that question will not in fact apply because you regularly share your faith. But if statistics hold true (which they usually do!), the majority of us spend almost all of our time with other Christians, fail to make relationships with non-Christians, and generally are unfruitful in terms of evangelism. How is it that we can have such a supposed high view of Jesus but not go to the effort to invite others into relationship with him?
That effort, according to Kimball, is simply reorganizing our lives in such a way that we stop spending all of our time with other Christians. His primary test for this is to ask who you socialize with. The convicting truth is that almost every social gathering that I am a part of is with all Christians. Like I said, I have been sucked into the Christian bubble despite having never purchased a "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus Chocolate Bar."
It really is simple: we Christians need to stop making church into a social club so that it can instead be the launching point for God's mission in the world, namely the discipleship of all people to Jesus. For Kimball this means, at the very least, writing his sermons in a coffee shop instead of in his office. Pretty simple, but from what I understand, pretty effective (although I am curious to hear more about the development of these relationships). And to be sure, that is not all Kimball does to get into the non-Christian world.
The point is this: we take far too lightly the problem that we Christians tend to spend almost all of our time with other Christians. How can we expect to see the gospel go forward in the world if this is the case?
Maybe all these people who like Jesus but not the church have gotten the wrong idea from the outspokenness of Christian leaders who many of us would distance ourselves from. Maybe all they hear about is the way the religious right are the anti-gay war mongers who seat Republican presidents. Maybe they drive around and see weird Christian bumper stickers with weird Christian lingo on them (What is a "rapture" and why would that guy not want his car in case of it?). Maybe their perceptions of Christians (and thus of Christ) are actually not quite right.
But what have you and I done to make them think otherwise?