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The Outsider Interviews: What Young People Think about Faith and How to Connect with Them Paperback – November 1, 2012
From Publishers Weekly
Inspired by, and supported with, a foreword by David Kinnaman, author of the bestselling unChristian, this tandem book/DVD puts faces on Kinnaman's findings of Christianity's image problem. In four cities, the authors interviewed Christians, but also agnostics, atheists, Muslims, gays, and other groups Christians are believed to reject. At the heart of the problem, they've discovered, is a Christian "swagger" that repels would-be Christians. They advocate the persuasive power of listening and truly liking people, choosing to use the word "like" rather than the over-used "love." In their words: "Jesus is the God who likes people." Each chapter includes tie-ins to the DVD interviews and a reader's guide for discussion. The book's narrative that recreates the road trip the authors took to do their interviews seems indulgent and boring. But the combined impact of the book and DVD is stunning: the authors have heard and noted important ways Christians can improve their outreach by being more like Jesus, who meets people where they are.¯
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
EXCERPT FROM CATALOGThe three of us hit the road in the fall of 2008. We wanted to interview some Outsiders and Insiders in four different cities in America. Truth be told, we were just as interested in hearing from Insiders, particularly about where they find points of agreement with Outsiders. We also wanted to know what enabled them to call themselves Christians while still disagreeing with some of the main cultural ideas their spiritual elders fought so hard to establish over the past thirty-five years.Even though we talked with both groups, we decided to call this The Outsider Interviews as a way of erring on the side of the people Jesus misses most. Dietrich Bonheoffer said, "The church is only the church when it exists for others." When it comes to connecting with Outsiders we think the church has much to learn. We have not sought them out for their opinions or asked them to help us become a better church. Instead we often have marginalized them and, worse, objectified them. We only need to look to our own lexicon for evidence of this trait. Here's a few of the names we've come up with to keep them in their place: Lost, Unbelievers, Unsaved, Unrepentant, Unregenerate, Heathens, and Reprobate. We wanted to change this bad habit. We wanted to let Outsiders know we really did value their opinions and insights. We also wanted to model to the church the ancient practice of honoring the Outsider. The Old Testament is filled with the stories of one famous Outsider after another becoming central to the story of God. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Namaan, the entire city of Nineveh, and Gentiles (like me) just to name a few.As you will experience, this ancient approach continues to make an impression in the twenty-first century. More than one Outsider told us they were shocked Christians were actually listening to them. Klarisa, an Outsider in Kansas City, tore our hearts out when she said, "If Christians would listen and show some interest in me, I would be very open to their story." What if evangelism in our time is more about listening than speaking? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I read the book first. It's a quick read. The book is framed around panel interviews of people who are not currently involved to a Christian church, aka The Outsiders. Jim's co-authors, Todd Hunter and Craig Spinks, traveled together to a handful of cities around the country to host small conferences on themes of Christiantiy, culture and relevance. Each gathering featured a LIVE panel discussion of people who had been recruited to come share their thoughts and views about their experiences and perspectives on Christianity. Like a woman named Rio, who in the Denver gathering, openly spoke of her struggle of reconciling her Christian spirituality with her sexual orientation as a lesbian. '
Other panelists in other cities included atheists, disenfranchised Christians, non-religious people, people of different races and backgrounds...yet they all had one thing in common: they are all young people primarily under 30 years of age.
The Outsider Interviews, says Jim and Todd, is their response to the staggering statistics provided by best selling book, Unchristian, which reports that statistically speaking, young people have a negative view of Christianity. (Those of us living in the Pacific Northwest don't need a book report to know this; here in Portland, the label Christian carries so much baggage that many people now opt to describe themselves as Christ followers)
The Outsider Interviews, as a response to unChristians's overwhelming statistical research that young people are at odds with the Christian faith, is a kind of What's-the-Story-behind-those-statistics kind of book. Unchrisitan has the bones of the stats; Outsiders has the flesh of the stories of the people behind those stats.
Back to the DVB packaging of the book... ok, I wasn't interested in watching the DVD. I want to skim and read a book, not watch it. I figured just reading it would be enough, but it was not. The book feels fragmented at times and has several gaps that confused me with my reading. Only later, when Iinterviewed Jim Henderson, did I understand that the DVD is an integral part of the reading experience of this book. The book is more of a response to the interviews gathered and filmed.
I don't want to get bogged down reviewing the packaging, which, super quick, I give their publisher, Baker, a BIG THUMBS UP for taking the risk to try something innovative. In the digital revolution publishers ned to work hard to find creative avenues for the media of books to evolve into. This is one such innovation. It did not work for me as a 46-year old reader, but it very well may work brilliantly for others, such as small groups, church planting teams, evangelists, and most of all Christian Parents of Wayward Adult Children.
The book and DVD would be extremely helpful for those moms and dads who raised their child(ren) in a Christian home only to have their sons and daughters flee the pew as soon as they are of age and beyond the prodding reach of mom, dad and youth pastor. The content of the interviews and how they are framed within the book will inform angsty Christian parents and youth pastors of what is going on in the minds and hearts of today's American young adult. It's not as bad as you'd think, and America's emerging adults are not as antagonistic towards God as one might be led to believe by the startling data of reports such as unChristian and other media reports.
The content of the writing is easy to read, conversational in tone as one might expect from a book framed around informal interviews. A book authored by three writers presents challenges in how will the authors combine their voices without confusing the reader. Henderson, Hunter, and Spinks solve this by each of them writing in first person with clear authorship established. I always knew who was saying what in each chapter.
I enjoyed some of the insights offered by the authors as they processed how the various interview panelists affected them. In one chapter, it was noted that most of the pastors they were trying to partner with could not find Outsiders for the guys to film and interview. This is a sad commentary about clergy who have become disconnected from the larger culture around us. (though it is somewhat glaring that the authors did not delve into their own social networks to find willing interviewees!!!)
The Outsider Interviews provides various microcosms of varying worldviews and perspectives from a wonderfully diverse group of young adults. This is the strength of the takeaway of the DVB (dvd/book).
Best chapter in the whole book drives home how crucial this book can be for Christian parents of young adults. Chapter seven, written by film maker Craig Spinks, the youngest of the three authors and the videographer of the interviews, writes with tender respect of the conflict he has endured with his father over things like homosexuality. His father, clearly a Boomer with a modernistic worldview, is at odds with post-modern minded Millennial son who says he still follows Jesus, but seems to have problems with church. It's a portrait of a father and son who very much love each other, and yet are baffled by one another's perspectives on issues of faith, church and values.
"...Why do you have such a problem with the church?"
For some reason this question made me realize that most of our conversations of late have been focused on hot-button issues, and we've never really talked broadly about my journey of recycling my faith, so I took this opportunity to share a bit of that with him. It was a long answer to a simple question, but I eventually got back on track. "I don't have a problem with church, nor do I think it's a waste of time, but the traditional expressions of church just don't work for me the way they used to." page 125
My Bottom Line:
For those who are bewildered by the exodus of young people out the doors of the church, this book together with it's companion DVD, can help provide some context as to why so many are leaving the fold, but not the faith. It is a great primer for parents, youth pastors, missional practioners and church planters who are trying to understand the mindset of young people who have rejected traditional forms of forms of church and concepts of God for a variety of reasons. The Outsider Interviews can be a helpful tool in bridging the gap between older church folk and disenchanted young folk. The design of the book with the DVD makes a perfect set-up for small groups to read and watch together.
The book comes with a DVD of the personal and public group interviews with several non-Christians or non-traditional Christians, background on the project and discussion of the issues. These three authors organized interview-dialogue sessions in three US venues with people outside the church, to get their perceptions on Christians and the organized churches of America.
This is very enlightening and can be instructive to churches and individual Christians who are really serious about understand and communicating with the people around them today. The interviews are open, undefensive, respectful and practical.
Interviews were arranged in three metro areas of the US, with the purpose of filming before a live audience of active Christians. This gives this representative Christian audience a personal opportunity to hear the discussion and perspectives of a variety of people, most unbelievers, but some believers but outside the formal church.
On the DVD we get to sit in on some of the planning sessions where the project leaders sat down with the dialogue participants to go over questions and general intent and preview the format of the sessions. The actual filmed dialogue sessions included a question and answer period at the end, allowing interaction with the local Christian audience who observed the dialogue session. The dialogues themselves are simply conversations, and appear to be rather natural and free-form, though all the participants previewed the overall structure ahead of time.
The book is about the background of the project, an introduction to the participants in each session, and a journal of the production team. We are privy to their preparations and discussions, including early misgivings and uncertainties about the project. We benefit from some of the producers' own questioning reflections, their debriefing after each filmed interview sessions and the suggestions they garner from the interviews for the church at large.
The DVD sessions include a pre-interview with each participant in each of the filmed public dialogue sessions, as well as some after-session comments. This whole project and the published Digital Video Book (DVB) is thoughtful, well-researched and prepared, sensitive but direct and well-produced. Believers and non-believers alike will find substance here.
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