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Dialogue Church to Non-Church - Let's Listen
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter and Craig Spinks
The Outsider Interviews:  A New Generation Speaks Out on Christianity (Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, 2010.  199p.)

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This book and the related Interview Project was inspired by the book written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian:  What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity, and Why it Matters.  Kinnaman and Lyons surveyed a representative set of people to determine their perception of Christians, the church and Christian faith in the USA.

Kinnaman and Lyons Henderson and his team decided to develop the dialogue aspect of the original survey approach of Unchristian.  They wanted to engage a set of the younger public who were not active Christians, and facilitate a friendly forum for them in a church setting.  They chose key metro areas of the US to set up these events, filming the core statements and exchanges and debriefing them as they went, for the benefit of the church at large.

This 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.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Dialogue on Emergence
[review] Graduation to Reality The Church Emerging
[Review] Postmodernism The Church's Challenge and Opportunity
[TXT] Postmodernism and the Emerging Church:  Some Thoughts
[Review] Uncovering the Hidden Kingdom

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First reading notes written 4 December 2011
Review posted on Amazon and OJTR 23 January 2012

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2012 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email: orville@jenkins.nu
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