April 11, 2008
Live from Shift: Bursting the Christian Bubble
Dan Kimball calls us back into the world.
The final session of Shift 2008 featured Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, and regular contributor to Leadership and Out of Ur. Kimball shared some insights from this book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church.
He began with the good news - our culture is very interested in Jesus. He pulled a number of items from a bag: a Jesus bobble head figure, Jesus band-aids, a Jesus eraser, and then showed images from a Madonna concert where the queen of pop hung on a cross with scripture verses above to highlight the 12 million kids dying from Aids in Africa. Kimball says there is no doubt that people in our culture are curious about Jesus - and many find him very attractive.
Now the bad news - popular perceptions of the church and Christians are very different. Kimball showed a video of college students in his town describing Christians as judgmental, homophobic, and hypocritical. He humorously recounted the response of a girl at the health club when she discovered Dan was a pastor. She said, "Pastors are creepy" but admitted she didn't know any personally.
This, says Kimball, is precisely the problem. In an increasingly post-Christian culture fewer people have contact with real Christians. We've hidden ourselves in a Christian sub-culture bubble. As a result only "the loudest voices are defining who we are," he says. These loud and usually angry Christians are the only ones heard and seen by the culture. This is what people have based their opinions of Christians upon.
Kimball says the solution is getting outside the bubble again; obeying Jesus' prayer for his people to not be taken out of the world (John 17:15). Only when we have real contact with people in the culture where love and friendship can be established will we change their perceptions of the church.
Dan recounted a great story from his time hanging out with the girl who cut his hair. While he was attending a ministry conference in Texas, she'd invited him to a bar to meet her friends in a band. The band turned out to be "Satan's Cheerleaders." Also in attendance was the Lizard Man - famous for having his whole body tattooed to resemble a lizard. Because of his friendship with the hairdresser, Dan was able to engage the group in a conversation about faith. Later he walked out of the bar with Satan's Cheerleaders and the Lizard Man just as the ministry conference attendees were exiting across the way.
He ended with good news. "Most Christians and churches are not what the perceptions are," said Kimball. We aren't as judgmental, homophobic, or hypocritical as people think we are. We simply need to show them by getting outside our bubbles and reengage the culture.