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“Christianity has an image problem,” according to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (11).  In demonstrating this claim, the authors of unChristian (Baker, 2007) present extensive research on the perceptions of outsiders (their term) with regard to Christianity.  Their conclusion: Outsiders perceive Christians as hypocritical and overly sheltered judgmental homophobes who are primarily concerned with conversion as they foist their political agenda on the nation and world.  With these perceptions in mind, the authors propose an image overhaul that is characterized by listening and engaging Christlike compassion.  Without engaging in a full dress review, here are two thoughts that were constantly on my mind as I read this book. 

1. Any program that suggests charting a course for Christianity based on the perceptions of outsiders ought to be approached with caution.  It is hardly the case that those who walk according to the flesh who do not have the indwelling Spirit of God can be expected to have accurate perceptions about what Christianity is and what our mission is about.  Our vision of the church’s future should be driven by God’s revelation of himself in the person of Christ and in the writings of scripture.  Our vision of the future should not be primarily driven by outsider perception. 

2. That said, outsider perception might be telling.  The prophet Ezekiel chastised ancient Israel for profaning God’s name among the nations.  The prophet declared the word of the Lord saying, “But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’  But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations to which they came” (36:20-21 NRSV).  As I read this book, I couldn’t help but wonder if the prophet would say to the modern church, “But when they came to the outsiders, they profaned my holy name, in that it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they do not manifest his holy character of self-giving love and righteousness.'”  If this is the case, then the Holy One will, of course, once again be concerend for his sacred name, and his people ought once again be wary of his judgment and welcoming of his discipline.

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