by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Kinnaman and Matlock give us a wise and accessible guide to being a Christian in the secular society of today. For nearly a generation there have been voices calling the church to rethink its mission and life in the post-Christian West. While I’ve read several excellent books about Gen Z and the millennial generation, the majority of the content has been descriptive, not prescriptive. While I’ve gained a greater understanding of those we long to reach, I also find myself wishing for a “to-do” list. Early in the book the authors give us exactly that. Here is a part of a to-do list in five practices of resilient Faith.
Practice 1: To form a resilient identity, experience intimacy with Jesus.
Practice 2: To develop the muscles of cultural discernment in a complex and anxious age.
Practice 3: To forge meaningful, intergenerational relationships when isolation and mistrust are the norms
Practice 4: To ground and motivate an ambitious generation, train for vocational discipleship
Practice 5: To curb entitlement and self-centered tendencies by engaging in countercultural mission Kinnaman and Matlock give us a summary of a decade of work, research, thinking and listening to discover hopeful ways forward. They are considerations that we can implement in our churches to encourage and equip young adults. The authors provide us with statistics that give credence to what they say. They are part of the Barna group that provides underpinnings to the claims they make. For example, as part of their research with young resilient disciples, they kept probing the data to discern the story behind the resilience of those who they are studying. They purport that if the people they attract, support and emulate, what can they learn from them? What makes them tick? What practices seem to distinguish these powerful examples of faith from the norm? The authors’ state: “We are bombarded in digital Babylon, with unprecedented force and frequency, by conflicting, chaotic messages about what matters and how to live. The latest blog post, the newest music, the most popular television show, and even the news all do their level best to convince us we should care and what to do about it”. (which is usually to buy something). “These messages are constantly changing. We must anchor our search for identity in something deeper and truer, which means we must like learn the habits of devotion.” The authors give us some insight that is important for our movement forward: “Sometimes we mistake being on the path for making active progress as a disciple. But many young people are dutiful churchgoers while remaining otherwise spiritually inert. Church involvement is a necessary but insufficient condition for resilient discipleship. This is a very important finding! They attend a church with some frequency but are missing critical elements of belief, practice, or passion for their faith. Another 3 out of 10 are nomads rarely attend church or engage in their faith but are still satisfied to wear Brand Jesus. Another one-fifth turn into prodigals (22%) people who no longer identify with Christianity in adulthood.
As a mother of three adults that are all millennial generation, I have a front-row seat to what life can be like for young Christian adults. The stories shared in Faith for Exiles, reflect what my sons have seen and experienced. As a woman in ministry, I highly recommend this book. Many women’s ministry teams are struggling to reach younger generations. Millennials seem uninterested in our ministry offerings. They rarely attend, and our efforts to reach out often fall flat. We may even assume the faith of these young adults is stagnant or lukewarm. Faith for Exiles reveals that’s not always true and offers advice for how we can better reach the next generation.
This is a book that you will return to frequently – it has statistics to ponder and examples of how the practices can be carried out. It is an informative book that provides insight into the hope of the future of Church goers.