Review: Ready to Return?

Ready to Return? The Need for a Fundamental Shift in Church Culture to Save a Generation
by Ken Ham with Jeff Kinley; Research by Britt Beemer

Why have so many 20-somethings left the church, and what will it take to reclaim them? How can we make sure that 20-somethings that remain don’t disappear? This book uses research to show what went wrong and what the church can do about it.

…or so the back of the book claims.

This book purports to conclude a trilogy that began with Already Gone and continued with Already Compromised. I haven’t read “book two,” but the first book was a good look into what was missing for many people who have left the church: a grounding in what Scripture teaches and connecting it to their lives. I enjoyed the first, and the back of this book grabbed my attention.

Except… this book is not about what it says. Not at all. There are a few pages talking directly about why 20-somethings leave the church, and a few pages that identify specifically what can be done and what changes need to be done. Now, what it says there is great. For instance, the book encourages churches to listen to the questions younger people ask.

Never avoid the hard questions. God is not threatened by our confusion or questions. He can handle them. And His Word can give us direction and insight when faced with mystery and apparent contradictions in Scripture.
Never judge a young person for asking what may be considered a “taboo” question in some Christian circles. (97)

Frankly, this is great advice. I’ve heard stories of pastors that refused to let people ask questions or told people to “just believe” instead of actually honoring the question and finding what the Bible says and how it applies. Those stories irk me to no end. Yes! Honor questions! Find the answer!

I wish the rest of the book was like that.

Frankly, much of the book is apologetic rhetoric that’s not wrong, but not what this book was advertised as. There’s a long chapter on Noah’s Ark that talks about how science backs up the possibility of what Scripture talks about and gives a lot of evidence that, hey! The Bible was right all along! And all of that is great. …except that’s not what the book was supposed to be about.

A lot of the book focuses on the failing morality of our nation, too, often focusing on homosexual marriage and abortion. Once it makes the caveat that all sin is equal, but you could fool me by how much the other two are mentioned in the text. The book often comes off as legalistic. Yes, it does talk about Jesus and his rescuing us from our sins, but the Law never pierces (it points the finger at others most of the time), and the Gospel is hardly comforting. “Jesus, the fountainhead of faith itself, is the One who perfectly modeled it for us” (150). If Jesus is not our substitute, his example will not help us.

There’s also a chapter that says that one of the reasons so many people slip away is public schools. It heavily advocates home schooling, and Christian schools only if home schooling isn’t a viable option. I have major issues with this. Look, most parents can do far better in teaching their children the faith, and I think that needs to be emphasized in many congregations more – mine included! But this chapter leans so heavily against public schools that I think the author overstepped himself.

Basically… the book didn’t deliver what it said it would, was legalistic, and wasn’t helpful. Already Gone I remember being far more helpful in every measure. Go check that out (by the same authors) but this one you can skip.

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