Miracle in a Dry Season    Dangerous Passage



Lost and Found

The Advocate

Lost and Found
by Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley and Jason Hayes

Reviewed by Marshall Hughes

Jammed full of thought-provoking statistics and analysis, Lost and Found is a must for those actively involved in youth ministries. If you have at least a fairly strong interest in youth ministries, it’s the kind of book you’ll want to discuss, and argue, with friends.

Within the last few months, the American media has run a number of stories that should be worrisome to Christians. I’m not referring to the nonstop “Is Barack the Messiah?” articles, but articles such as the Christian Science Monitor’s “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s recent article on the ban of Florida hospice chaplains using the word “God,” or Newsweek’s recent “The End of Christian America.”

Many churches across our fruited plains are, following Europe’s lead, dying out with the passing of older members and a dearth of young members to take their places. This hits home for me personally when I periodically worship at a Japanese church in California where the average age of members is close to 70 years old - seventy and rising.

With that as background, the 2009 release of Ed Stetzer’s Lost and Found - The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them seems to have come at a fortuitous time. There are a lot of statistics and tables to digest and mull over, particularly in the first part of the book, so don’t think this is an easy read to be done while checking e-mail or watching TV with one eye.

The first third of the book discusses who the young are today (particularly the unchurched) and what they believe about God, Christianity and the church. The middle third is an analysis of what the needs are of the young unchurched, and the last part of the book focuses on particular churches who are having success reaching the young, and what they are doing to achieve their success.

Among the more interesting points from the first part of the book regarding the unchurched are:

*The more education one has, the less likely one is to believe in the God of the Bible. (Given what passes for education these days, this is hardly a surprise.)

*The unchurched are not worried about the afterlife. (So talking hellfire and brimstone might not be the best tact.)

*Some 83% of over-30 unchurched agree with the statement “I think Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.” (Ouch.)

*More than four in five younger unchurched people believe that God or a higher supreme being exists. (The figure is, however, dropping.)

The authors don’t just quote statistics, they have some thought-provoking ideas, too. For example, the idea that the old model of bringing people into the faith was behave-believe-belong, whereas the new model is belong-believe-become.

While the last part of the book might be slightly less meaty than the other parts, there is still some beef to it. One interesting finding is that inviting someone to serve at a church-sponsored service event (i.e. feeding the homeless) seems to be, at a minimum, at least as successful as inviting one to a church service. This is because the young unchurched a) don’t want to sit through a church service and, b) do want to be involved in service to the community.

Other topics discussed in the later stages of the book include:

*people seem to like traditional church buildings more than new, gymnasium-style churches.
*music is very important to some people’s choices of church.
*young people want spiritual mentors

If the last part of the book had to be effectively boiled down to one thought, the closest one could come would be rule No. 1 of the public relations world: know your audience.

The one part of the book that really doesn’t work is the curious insertion of two-and three-page excerpts here and there of what appears to be parts of a novel. At best, they dumb down the rest of the book.

You probably have to be truly interested in the themes discussed in Lost and Found to enjoy reading it. It is written for a fairly thin slice of Christian readers, and if your interest in evangelizing the young in America is less than hearty, you might give up part way through the book. Conversely, if you think this book will interest you, you are probably right.

Marshall HughesMarshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.