The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.
David Kinnaman, author and President of the Barna Group, said he “was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences.”
There were a number of youth who said, in essence, “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”
I don’t think this is simply an issue of the church being too traditional or modernistic. Instead, it’s the result of a reactionary, compartmentalized, fearful Christianity that has forgotten what faith and the good news are all about. The problem isn’t that the church is traditional, but that it’s going through the motions, that it’s heartless, inauthentic, and out of touch with people as people. We preach the gospel, and people go away thinking they’ve heard the gospel, the Good News. Yet, the gospel often gets lost, either because we haven’t really spoken it, haven’t lived it, or the communication hasn’t been understood by the listener.
In this case, we have a book full of research that leaves no doubt as to what the next generation thinks of Christians and Christianity.