Do you want to keep a pulse on the next generation of seekers? How do they perceive Christians, and why should it matter to us? The Barna group, in a revealing glimpse at a cross-section of teens and young adults, encourages us to learn how Christians can become effective in impacting lives. Authors Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons provide us with important data that will determine the survival of the NextGen church. Here are just a few of their findings.


 •            Fewer than one out of ten young adults mention faith as their top priority, despite the fact that the vast majority of Busters and Mosaics attended a Christian church during their high school years.


•            In 1996, 85 percent of outsiders were favorable toward Christianity’s role in society. Even the perceptions of the youngest generations mirrored this finding.


•            Now, however, nearly two out of every five young outsiders (38 percent) claim to have a “bad impression of present-day Christianity.” One-third of young outsiders said that Christianity represents a negative image with which they would not want to be associated. One out of every six young outsiders (17 percent) indicates that he or she maintains “very bad” perceptions of the Christian faith. This group is at least three times larger than it was just a decade ago.


•            Among those who expressed an opinion about born-again Christians, negative opinions outnumbered positive perceptions by more than a three-to-one ratio (35 percent to 10 percent).


•            Among those aware of the term “evangelical,” the views are extraordinarily negative (49 percent to 3 percent).


•            We found the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity are antihomosexual (an image held by 91 percent of young outsiders), judgmental (87 percent), and hypocritical (85 percent). Out of the top 12 perceptions of Christianity, nine of the dozen views were negative.


•            The most common “favorable” impression is that Christianity teaches the same basic idea as other religions; more than four out of every five young outsiders embrace this description. Three-quarters believe that Christianity has “good values and principles,” and most outsiders indicate that Christians are “friendly.”


•            The vast majority of outsiders within the Mosaic and Buster generations have been to churches before; most have attended at least one church for several months; and nearly nine out of every ten say they know Christians personally, having about five friends who are believers.


•            People’s impressions have been forged through a wide range of inputs: experiences at churches (59 percent of young outsiders said this influenced their views) and relationships (50 percent) are the most common ways their views about the Christian faith are shaped, followed by the input they receive from other religions (48 percent) and what their parents have told them about Christianity (40 percent).


•            The media certainly do affect how outsiders view Christianity, but less than one might anticipate. Books were mentioned by slightly less than half (44 percent), followed by visual media (movies and television–31 percent) and music (16 percent). Only 9 percent of young outsiders and only one-fifth of young churchgoers (22 percent) said that Christianity has received a bad reputation from television and movies.


•            One-fifth of all outsiders, regardless of age, admitted they “have had a bad experience in a church or with a Christian that gave them a negative image of Jesus Christ.” This represents nearly fifty million adult residents of this country-including about nine million young outsiders-who admit they have significant emotional or spiritual baggage from past experiences with so-called Christ followers. Among pastors of Protestant churches, three-quarters said they often encounter people whose negative experiences create major barriers to their openness to Jesus.


•            Three out of every ten young outsiders said they have undergone negative experiences in churches and with Christians. Such hurtful experiences are part of the stories of nearly one out of every two young people who are atheist, agnostics, or of some other faith. Outsiders who are Mosaics and Busters are two and a half times more likely than older outsiders to say bad experiences have degraded their picture of Jesus.


•            Many young Christians harbor significant concerns about the Christian faith as well. For instance, four out of five young churchgoers say that Christianity is anti-homosexual; half describe it as judgmental, too involved in politics, hypocritical, and confusing; one-third believe their faith is old fashioned and out of touch with reality; and one-quarter of young Christians believe it is boring and insensitive to others.


•            A majority said that when deciding how to spend their time, they try to choose activities that will help bring people closer to Christ. Most young Christians indicate that they intentionally build friendships with other people so they might get a chance to explain their faith in Jesus.


•            Two-thirds of young born-again Christians say they believe that most outsiders have a negative image of Christianity. Another one-third admit that the way Christians act and the things they say make them embarrassed to be a Christian. (Pg 39)


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