When countries change, culture shifts, and morals go down an unpredictable path, it’s easy for anyone to feel uneasy when they face the future. As America reaches more and more for secularism, that same uneasiness is especially true for Christians.
But as bleak and uncertain the future may seem, the time for Christians to move forward is now. Though with so many denominations, disagreements, and dissonance present, how? That’s where Gabe Lyons comes in.
In Lyons’ The Next Christians, he sends out an inspirational all-call for Christians to return to the Gospel, one of restoration for the world as God would have in His kingdom. He is challenging Christians to live out the Gospel in a way that makes Earth look more like God’s Kingdom and less like the fallen world it is. Lyons is not making up any new doctrine. Rather, from coupling the message of Scripture and seeing the newest movement rising in American Christianity, he largely outlines in his book what the ‘next Christians’ look like.
He does this by explaining in the first several chapters the spiritual problems of America as well as detailing how most Christians react to Western culture. We tend to either isolate ourselves or we mix in too much, watering down the message of Christ. Finding a balance is not without difficulty, but Lyons spends the rest of the book laying out some of the attributes the next Christians possess, like being “Provoked, Not Offended…Countercultural, ‘Not Relevant'” (the titles of chapters five and ten). He does so with personal anecdotes and insight that make the book so practical, it’s tough to put down.
The author purports that most Christians today focus solely on the Fall and Redemption parts of the Gospel (that is, simply the fact of our sin and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross). While Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are undoubtedly the centers of the Gospel, we tend to leave out the Creation and Restoration aspects. We leave out the facts that God originally created everything good before we messed it up, and that He is going to restore the world back to its perfect state with His children in the future. Leaving out these two parts, according to Lyons, is like taking out the first and last chunks of pages out of a book. Thus, most of Christians’ interactions with unbelievers tend to be awkward and ineffective.
What Gabe’s saying all throughout the book is that there is a fundamental problem when Christians seek to get involved in their church but could care less in affecting their workplace or neighborhood (or ravaged parts of the world). Of course, the next Christians are overcoming this since their focus is solely on the Gospel, not on being culturally-relevant or attention-seekers.
My favorite aspect of the book lies in something mentioned above: he emphasizes all-throughout and at the end that the driving force behind the next Christians is their love for Jesus. Without Christ and the Gospel, there is no point for Christianity. On that note, there are so many questions that arise from this topic: how exactly do the next Christians seep into culture the right way? How do they engage culture without conforming? Gabe wonderfully closes up all the crucial loose ends here. Again, he explains all this in such an inspirational and practical way.
My one concern for this book lies in the weak focus on evangelism. While Lyons does emphasize it’s great significance alongside the ‘restoration’ work, I feel as though it can lose it’s importance in the excitement of this book. As Christians it is of utmost concern we do not forget the specific words of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Authentic, loving evangelism is always a main priority for Jesus’ followers.
So as the title suggests, there is hope for America and the world in the end. It’s in Jesus, and He wants to use us in a way we’ve overlooked in our consumer-driven society. It’s time to be the hands and feet Paul tells us we are. If you call yourself a Christian, then you need to pick up this book. Good luck putting it down!
***I received The Next Christians as a complimentary copy from the folks over at WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. They are awesome!