Yesterday I started to read two books that I've had for a few months now. One is The History of Islam that Basheer and his bookstore-working friend gave me when we were in Damascus. This is a three volume set and I foresee it taking a while to get through since I will likely read off and on as I read other books.
The other is a book I bought for Andrew, but I thought, too, that I would like it. It's called They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. As the subtitle says, this book gives "insights from emerging generations." I've only read the first couple of chapters, but already I recognize myself and find myself challenged by what he writes. Especially about the Christian bubble or subculture. You know where you mostly hang out with Christian friends, go to Christian events, your church, your religious groups, your Bible studies and so forth. The author challenges us to see the heart of Jesus and how He went out into the world, listening to the people, spending time with them and meeting needs.
Dan remembers a time when he found himself in the church all week. He was there for staff meetings, he was there planning events, studying for his sermon -- all within the church's walls. He urges us to break out of our Christian bubble prison and engage with the world. He says he loves the heart of Jesus and how Jesus was willing to break out of the religious circles of His day. Jesus met with sinners because He knew it was the sick who needed a Physician, not the self-righteous who didn't even recognized how spiritually sick they were!
The author urges us to get to know the "natives" of our culture. He changed his ways by going to coffeehouses to prepare for his sermons. By going there, he met the workers, asked their opinions of things (which they LOVED!) and got to know the regulars. (This reminds me of my McDonald's days because I got to know many of the regulars and workers quite well so I can totally see this scenario that he describes.)
Asking people about Jesus while on a California university campus garnered very positive responses, however, questions about the church were a different story. "The church messed things up," and "They took the teachings of Jesus and turned them into dogmatic rules" and "Christians don't apply the message of love that Jesus gave" were among the replies. (pg. 37)
The author claims that we are so busy planning church events -- worrying if there will be good snow for our ski trip or how well the Valentine banquet will be attended -- that we feel complacent about those outside the church. We often aren't thinking of their eternal destiny or if they are experiencing the abundant life that Jesus gives; instead we often point fingers and complain about how horrible things are in our society. (pg. 41) Ouch!
"Jesus spent time with those who weren't religious. He talked with them, he listened to them, he cared for them, he cried for them. He died for them. . . . We need to have our hearts constantly broken for people, like Jesus' heart was broken. We need to look around us and see people through his compassionate eyes." (pg. 48)
The author asks if we are planning our escape from this prison of the Christian bubble. Like other books I've read recently and even a movie I saw the other day, the message seems to be: make relationships! Spend time listening to people and build friendships with them. Care for people.
And this is all just from the first 2 chapters....whoa!