Dan Kimball on “I Like Jesus … Not the Church”

They Like Jesus, But not the ChurchI’ve just started to read Dan Kimball’s new book, “They Like Jesus, but Not the Church” (Zondervan, 2007) and I can already tell that I’m going to have a hard time putting it down. Dan is also going to be in Portland on March 14th as part of the George Fox University “Ministry in Contemporary Culture Seminar” series. If Dan is as good in person as he is in print, this should be a great presentation.

So I was taking a few minutes away from Kimball’s book to answer some email, reply to blog comments and check my RSS feed, and what do I see but a mention that Dan has written an article titled “I Like Jesus … Not the Church” for Outreach magazine (March/April 2007). You can read the article here. They also provide a link to a lengthy excerpt from “They Like Jesus but Not the Church.”

Here is the opening summary to Dan article:

Today’s non-Christian 20- and 30-somethings are big fans of Jesus but are less thrilled with His followers and the churches where they worship. Pastor/author Dan Kimball reveals their six most common perceptions of Christians and the Church, what they wish church was like–and why you should be listening to these emerging voices.

Here are the six most common perceptions of the Church among post-Christian 20- and 30-somethings which Dan deals with in the article and book.

1) The Church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
2) The Church is judgmental and negative.
3) The Church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
4) The Church is homophobic.
5) The Church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
6) The Church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.

I’m sure the book is going to give me some good blogging material, but don’t wait to read it hear, go out and buy a copy.

35 Responses to “Dan Kimball on “I Like Jesus … Not the Church””

  1. JP Manzi says:

    I’m looking forward to this book, as a person their late 20’s, I’m quite sure I can relate to a lot of what is mentioned in this book. Looking forward to a review

  2. I’m a twentysomething who is in a church and I agree with that list. I just read over the article and it seems like Kimball defends all those things and just asks that they be put in prettier packaging. I know Kimball often gets accused of just being interested in the coffee and candles stream of the emerging church, and from this article I can see why. He isn’t rethinking theology or really asking why we do things, just trying to make sure we don’t offend others as we do them. For postmoderns who really are rethinking their world this sort of surface treatment isn’t going to cut it.

  3. Rick Meigs says:

    Julie: Interesting insight that I had not picked up on in my reading so far. Thanks for sharing it. I’ll keep it in mind as I continue to read the book. Dan does state (I’m not sure where I read it) that he is pretty conservative in his theology.

  4. Julie, I was not aware of that accusation against Dan. It’s interesting to hear that because in his chapter in Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches he makes the point that the emerging church, and being “relevant” is not about coffee and candles. I haven’t read his new one yet, so I’ll withhold judgment until I read it next week.

  5. Adam G. says:

    I must be horribly out of touch. I work in a corporate call center among hundreds of other people from differing backgrounds, and have had honest conversations with many about faith and spirituality. Many have nasty stories to tell about church problems, but I have yet to find a general dislike for church. It worries me to think I’m missing something, but I must be, because I keep reading about it.

  6. Rick Meigs says:

    Adam. It would be interesting to see if there are regional differences. Kimball is talking about twentysomethings on the West coast, although I’ve heard the same thing from others around the country and from national surveys from Barna and Gallop. Usually in my liberal progressive neighborhood, it is not “the church” they dislike, but evangelicals (called “e-van’s”).

  7. Brad Brisco says:

    Rick, thanks for the links, like others looking forward to the read.

  8. Webb Kline says:

    That is certainly my experience everywhere I go with the exception of possibly the deep South. It is definitely the case with college educated young adults everywhere, and even with most (not all) Christian school educated high schoolers and collegians.

    Missional evangelism is tantamount to separating Jesus from the organized church for me. I simply have no other evangelistic game plan, because most young adults simply can’t relate to God through what they see that the church has done to him. Their complaints are, for the most part, very legitimate and thoughtful.

  9. Rick Meigs says:

    Webb, I think you would like this book. I’m about 1/3 of the way through and it is a decent read, but I have picked up some of what Julie noted.

    I did jump ahead to the final chapter which is titled, “Criticism of This Book” where Dan attempts to deal with some of the valid questions from pastors and leaders he has encountered. Question #5 is, “I don’t find people like this in my community. Isn’t your opinion skewed because you live in California and interviewed people there?” He gives a whole page to dealing with his answers, which is, in my paraphrase, “there are pockets that are more conservative and have large Christian populations, but the perspective in this book are working there way across North America and becoming the norm.”

  10. Adam says:

    Rick, I’m wondering if it isn’t just regional, but also based on class differences. Surely there must be people in nearby New York City who share these anti-evangelical perceptions, and now that I think about it, it does seem strange that I’m in New Jersey and not finding people who dislike church (although most don’t go to church anywhere, when the topic has come up around me I haven’t heard a lot of anger). The group of people I work with are all “working class” and I have referred to myself elsewhere, honestly, as “working poor.” So the people I know and associate with may not represent the middle and upper-class.

    Also, and this just dawned on me, most Americans I know (I know as many immigrants as I do American citizens) are politically liberal and reject the Republican agenda as represented by the Bush administration. So to the extent that evangelicalism endorses those political viewpoints, I suppose it would be rejected.

    In all honesty, I got stronger negative reactions about church from people in Bible-belt Arkansas than I do in New Jersey.

  11. Eric says:

    I was so close to adding this book to my shopping cart when I was ordering Rob Bell’s “Sex God”. Now you make me regret not adding it. :)

    I’m glad to know it’s good. I’ll have to pick it up sometime.

  12. Webb Kline says:

    I think Adam makes a good point about the political aspects of it. The Christian Right has been very damaging to the image of the Church from my observations, and I lean decidedly conservative. Also the class differences certainly come into play as well. I can attest that the stereotypical poor in Arkansas would lean left and have negative feelings about the Church, largely because there is such a deep base of conservative evangelicals in Arkansas who support the agendas of the Christian Right.

    Come to think about it, the political side of evangelicalism does come into play in many of my conversations with nonbelievers. I often find myself pondering how it is I can call myself a conservative while espousing such disdain for the ideologies of Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and the like. All I can say is the whole ball of wax sometimes seems kinda corny. Not a good choice of adjectives probably, but what else fits? The Corny Church. A query-prone moniker if there ever was one. I like it. ;-D

  13. Cas says:

    Deleted by Moderator.

  14. Rick Meigs says:

    Cas… Thanks for sharing and know your comments are welcome.

    Can you show me where “Paul had political statements.” I don’t recall one place where Paul, Jesus or any of the other Apostal’s make “political” statements.

  15. Paul says:

    thanks rick, i’m sure it will be a very readable book. Can i ask who Dan’s audience is – is it church types or those outside or both?

  16. Rick Meigs says:

    Paul, Dan says this book is written for leaders.

    He has a companion book coming out in November of 2007 titled “I Like Jesus but Not the Church” which is written for people both inside and outside of the church. According to the prepublication information, “It is a book for those who are looking for answers themselves and for those who need help to answer their friends’ or family members’ questions about negative perceptions of the church and Christianity.”

    Does this help?

  17. Paul says:

    Thanks Rick, yes it does – i imagine if Dan is writing for leaders he’s trying to flesh out the views of people outside the church rather than try and interact with people who may be feeling these things – i imagine his 2nd book will give an excellent balance.

  18. Cas says:

    Hi Rick,
    Paul made a political statement when confronted by the commander in the book of Acts 22:22 …read the whole scenario to pauls appeal to ceasar in Acts 26:32. The church has need of men to keep the church on an even keel. As the elders in 1 Tim 5:17, there are 2 classes of elders, teaching elders and ruling elders- these were the ones involved in business and structural affairs of the church. There are threads of political stands through the whole bible…not to say this is our purpose but it is a platform for God to move many controversial issues our way. If a referendum was challenged to allow the age of consent to be 13 years of age…and christians did not make a stand and vote against it… how do we make wise political changes. When Jesus picked up the coin and voiced give to ceasar what is ceasars and God what is Gods… Was this a political statement…Are they dealing with the structures and affairs of Government.

  19. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks Cas. I don’t see Paul making, to use your original term, political statements in any of these verses. Where does Jesus or Paul call for the overthrow of the Roman government that oppresses the poor? Where does Jesus or Paul call for new laws to bring fairness and justice to all citizens of the empire? These would be political statements. Using a coin to answer a question designed to trap Jesus certainly doesn’t qualify, IMHO.

    Cas, know that I respect your view on this and really appreciate you sharing them.

  20. fyna ono says:

    After reading the various reviews and viewpoints, will definitely buy this book — but no matter, i think that those who look for excuses to persecute christianity will find them, no matter what. First, let me say, that I have been a member of a few small churches that became megachurches. A couple that have been and are in/out of the news. Sure, I didnt necessary “like” all the members but God dealt with me on that issue. One service I was near back as usual, and during worship I got a bit “in the flesh” and thought “why am I here? I am surrounded by phonies! What AM I to these people??” Then I clearly heard the Holy Spirit “say” within me ONE word … and that one word answer was : “catalyst” … I about jumped from my seat since it was very strongly stated to me. About 30 seconds later, during worship the pastor stopped talking. With a huge smile he says “some of you may be asking yourselves why am I here? Well to you God is saying you are here if only to be a catalyst among others. Someone to encourage or give example of how to walk the walk…” Upon ending that sentence he caught MY eye, still grinning too. Heh, well, that humbled me real fast!

    But regardless of personal revelations, this issue of “not liking church” seems to become more prevalent an excuse for others to not accept Jesus as saviour and Lord over their life. And this is not a NEW thing under the sun. Just we are more globally aware vai internet & TV than ever before. Sure “the war” makes it all the more talked about. But – this subject can be overtalked to the point where the name of JESUS is still overlooked, no matter the good intentions for redirection, and in the end no one is with excuse — either you truly sought to know GOD or you didn’t heed the small still voice of the Holy Spirit urging you to seek God while “He may be found.”

    While the issue of “not liking Christians” vs. “liking” Jesus is monumental in the world, we still are not focusing, or refocusing, our seeking of Jesus or urging others to seek Him. As the Holy Spirit here on earth is constantly looking for the heart that seeks God, so should we be. The Holy Spirit (who Jesus said “its imperative, urgent, that I return to the Father and send you the Holy Spirit”) s our strength and guide (just read what Jesus had to say about the HS – go to John 15 and keep reading to the end of that gospel)

    If we as Christians would rely on obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit, and continue to love others as Jesus instructed us to, I think they would be less “issues” such as this one. And even if not, Jesus told us, “do not be SURPRISED if the world hates or rejects you … it hates and rejects me and so shall it be with you …” We as christians need to DISCERN what “others” really think or not. Recognize if you are being played for a fool and just part of some mind game. Be a CATALYST and refuse to let the “world” conform you to itself.

    I just think given all those scripture references above should tell us to not be alarmed if the world hates / rejects us … IF we are indeed living our lives as the Lord called us to do so, being His followers. If we truly know that the Word of God is truth, then even when governments use the bible for political gains, we know that God will expose their trickery. “Be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves.” If we do “pony tricks” at church to satisfy the “unsaved” then we are not helping the so-called “unsaved” OR the “saved” either. (And as far as Jesus talking about the coin, I agree with RICK MEIGS post. That was I think, to been obivous but maybe some bible versions do not make it clear? Yes a trap that Jesus eluded.)

  21. Chris says:

    Hey, Rick. It’s looking like I’m gonna be making the big move down to Portland sometime within the next year. What sort of missional communities are in the Portland area?

    Also, (I’m not interested so much in churches that are trying to be missional) I’m just looking for a group of people that are aligning their lives with the life of Christ, sharing leadership, and living incarnationally within a tribe.

    Does anything like that exist in Portland? I’m starting to plan my move down, and figure out where to live and start looking for work, all that sort of stuff. Could you email me? topher.benson@gmail.com


  22. Michael says:

    Deleted by Moderator.

    Cas and Michael. It is perfectly alright to disagree on any subject, but you must do so with with gentleness and respect, and above all, love.

    Grace and peace to you both.

  23. Rick Meigs says:

    Chris… I’ll drop you an email.

  24. NW Prodigal says:

    In some fashion, the Emergent church idea is attractive. The idea of smaller communal groups engenders the idea of more intimacy between believers, which is a good thing. Christians are supposed to make their needs known to each other (physical and spiritual) so that none are without necessities (Ephesians 4:28).

    I am currently trying to find a church in the Portland area that is closer to what I see taught in God’s word. It is hard to take any church serious that advocates these two things:
    “Sin you must” instead of “if you sin” and
    “Once saved, always saved” vs. “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)

    Just consider the way the modern day church de-emphasizes righteous living and emphasizes forgiveness. Why not just close all the churches and send every believer home? Most church attenders are not true believers. They and the devils believe in one God and in Jesus Christ; but that won’t save any or either of them.

    I’m disgusted by all the denominations and a church on every block in Portland, but it’s always the same old, same old. Get saved and live like the devil.

    If I thought the emergents were truly interested in getting away from the corporate mindset of most churches in America for the sake of concentrating on living the way Christ said we would have to, I’d buy into it. By this I am referring to Christ’s definitive statement: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

    Now, to me, that means what it says. Deny yourself – stop doing what you or the flesh want, and do God wants from you. In other words, saying no when you’re tempted. Resisting temptation and not giving in. Take up your cross – do the hard things, like talking to people about Christ, striving to enter into the narrow gate yourself and working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

    Being a Christian isn’t like taking a pledge and becoming a member. It’s becoming a disciple, learning and working at being Christ-like. Not making excuses for yourself or sin.

    If there’s an emergent church that is interested in the true walk instead of the catechismic talk, I’d be very interested in checking you out.

    Unfortunately, while the intentions are good, what I see so far is a watering down on the fundamental truths in order to widen the gate for more people to enter the kingdom. But ask yourself, which kingdom has a wide gate?

    Still searching for the true people……
    God help us all!

  25. Rick Meigs says:

    NW Prodigal: Thank you so much for commenting and sharing. Your sincere expression of what is missing in most churches is not far off for many. Jesus followers have had it so easy that they have become like the world in so many ways, but I do believe the tide is slowing turning.

    If you would like to have coffee some morning and talk about this more, just let me know. I’ll buy.

  26. NW Prodigal says:

    Thanks Rick, for your encouraging words. I appreciate it that you took the time to respond that way.

    I’m a new Christian, but have a very fundamental background. It surprises me that so many so-called believers have only the slightest interest in reaching out to the lost (and in Portland, that seems to be most people). I’m interested in reaching out to all sinners, but the churched ones are the hardest to convince they aren’t there yet. That’s why I detest the idea of eternal security. We are New Covenant people. To me, that’s the same as a contract. Grace is free to we who believe, but we have to give back to God. Not to earn His grace, but to prove to Him and ourselves that we are sincere in our belief and to prove we trust Him.

    Christ never promised an easy walk or peace on earth. He promised division and persecution and temptation. If it was easy, He wouldn’t have said “few there be that enter in”. We can’t earn our salvation, but we have to pass the tests.

    Sincere Christians that I’ve met have these things in common:
    1. They love God and His Word above anything
    2. They love and care for others
    3. They want to do more than just go to church
    4. They could care less about what the world thinks is important and valuable
    5. They really feel like strangers in a strange land

    To me, that’s what being “born again” is all about.

    I’m in no way perfect or over myself yet, but I want my life to count for more than what I have or what I can get. And I don’t want to be guilt tripped into tithing just so some church can become a showpiece cathedral that’s all about making people feel good and never have to think about the unfortunate and the forgotten.

    I’ll send you an email soon.


  27. Rick Meigs says:

    Hey, a first name. Thanks Steve! Looking forward to getting together for no other reason than to put a face with a name and some good conversation.

  28. This topic has been quiet for a while, so I’m curious, Rick, have you finished the book? I should have run out to get it.

    I’m surprised by Julie’s comments saying Kimball “defends all those things and just asks that they be put in prettier packaging. I know Kimball often gets accused of just being interested in the coffee and candles stream of the emerging church, and from this article I can see why. He isn’t rethinking theology or really asking why we do things, just trying to make sure we don’t offend others as we do them. ”

    Julie, I must be out of the loop, but who has accused Kimball the things mentioned?

    It is true that Kimball’s books are not “rethinking theology” books, they are more rethinking ecclesiology – which often touches on theological issues, but that is not the main thrust of his books.

    I have had the privilege of attending Kimball’s church a few times, and know personally that though he is very conservative in his theology he is very contemplative and very engaged in rethinking many things.

    Just like we can’t judge a book by it’s cover, we can’t judge a whole person by a book they’ve written.

    I’m looking forward to reading Kimball’s latest book, and yes, you could call me a Dan Kimball Fan, but this is because I see in Dan a man seeking God, seeking truth, with courage enough to challenge the establishment and change his world.

  29. RickB says:

    I have no relevant comment on the current discussion. Rather I simply wish to say to Rick M., well done. you are moderating the discussion well and encouraging others to love. as a pastor I am currently witnessing fighting within the church. it is painful to see the body hurt itself as well as its testimony in the community. it seems to me that the internet is an easy place to do all of these things, so I say to you well done for deleting what is not edifying and encouraging love among the brothers and sisters. Well done.

  30. Rick Meigs says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Rick. If we can’t demonstrate and practice gentleness and respect among ourselves, I don’t see how the message of Jesus will be well received by not-yet-Christians.

  31. Rick Meigs says:

    Elizabeth: Thanks for commenting. I did finish the book and thought it was well done. I too am a Kimball fan. That being said, I can understand exactly what Julie is saying. Dan takes about the perceptions not-yet-Christians have about Christians and the church and how we should address them, without stating the obvious, the perceptions often are based in reality. There are churches that are judgmental and negative, that are male dominated and oppress females, that are homophobic, etc. It would have been nice to see Dan say something like, “Hey, if you are this way, stop it!”

  32. Jeremy says:

    It’s a must read book. I finished it in about a day and a half. I couldn’t put it down. You need to read it.

  33. I read Dan’s exerpt on relating to homosexual persons and will be interested in reading the rest of his book. He takes a refreshingly honestand grace-filled look at how evangelical Christians have not respected and honored others by taking harsh positions that turn such persons away from the church, and ultimately away from a relationship with Christ. However much he says that church leaders must engage in a compassionate discussion about homosexualityhe still seems to not be open to seeing how others may interpret scripture differently than he does. Yes, he asks some of the questions that are asked about specific biblical passages, and states that leaders must be ready to engage those questionsin discussions with others, but actually he leaves little room for anyone to differ from his own rather fundamentalist position on the interpretation of those same scriptures. In other words, he’s already formed his own opinion and he isn’t going to budge no matter what anyone else may offer that could make a difference in his outlook. I find that somewhat inginuine. Oh, I have no doubt he would talk with me in a respectful and grace-filled manner. I just don’t think we’d ever be able to agree on anything, even though he seems to say that one can be Christian and gay. Where I draw the line in his reasoning is that he casts gayrelationships as a sin like extra-marital sex. Those of us who are Christian and gay and living in committed relationships firmly believe that our relationships are no different from any married couple. In fact, in our church, we hold Holy Union worship services for those who wish to acknowledge that God is present in their relationship and that God is blessing their relationship.

  34. Ken Fleck says:

    I don’t know about this…I talk to many 20 somethings and under and they are not fans of jesus at all. I’ve had some that tell me they don’t even believe Jesus existed.

    We need to continue to lift up the Name of Jesus and be the church to reach this culture. Our battle is not against the flesh but against spiritual powers…

  35. chandra says:

    I googled “hate church, love Jesus”! Ended up here. So, I am one of those people who hate church but want more of Christ Jesus. How does one recover from church abuse and retain some sense of spirituality in Christ? Sure I can hear folks scream, the means of grace. Somehow, Christianity seem so vacant and hollow to me. I am looking for substance and find nothing.