It is tough being a Christian. In fact so many are finding the association with that term so unbearable that they are choosing different roads. Fortunately some of those detours are simply to shed the term “Christian” and pick up the term “post-Christian.” Some simply have decided to call themselves spiritual and keep the Bible as their primary reference. Websites like theooze.com give people who no longer feel comfortable with being in a church building a way to interact and have “fellowship” with other believers.
Unfortunately some turn to atheism.
It is no secret, and in fact it is something that is stated boldly and directly, that many atheists have had much experience within the church. If you would take the time to read about atheism and what many atheists care about, you will discover that there is much “anti-church” conversation and specific concerns that the church had turned its back on empirical truth for what they would label as unfounded “truth” that is represented when people read the Bible as a scientific proof-text.
Students at Kentridge High School in Seattle wanted to start a Bible club nearly a decade ago. At the time the administration refused to recognize the club. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund brought a petition to the local court to appeal to the right of the students to hold meetings.
The court sided with the school administration. The higher court of appeals also kept the club from forming. The attorneys for the students stated that the school had recognized other such clubs, implying that there was direct discrimination at stake against Christian students.
Unfortunately this is another case where Christian students (and attorneys) acting in an unChristian manner. The problem with this case presents with a particular part of their membership requirements: “they require their members to hold certain religious beliefs.”
Ouch! what ever happened to accepting people the way they are? It seems that so many Christians forget that Jesus told stories of banquets where he challenged people to invite the poor, needy, and weak instead of the wealthy and influential. He praised the gift of the widow’s mite and accepted invitations to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes. How Christian is a club that requires right belief to become a part? Could it be that this was the sticking point? And could it be that all the other clubs made no such requirement?
According to research by the Barna Group presented in the book UnChristian, more than two thirds of people who are not a part of a church say that they are not willing to speak to a Christian about their faith. Notice that they do not want to talk to Christians; this is not the case with other faiths. What makes people put Christians into a category that allows more space on public transportation?
It doesn’t take much time to realize that the church is losing market share in cultural influence. I am not sure that this ever was a “Christian nation” by any working definition out there, but the church has definitely been more of a part of shaping our world than it is now.
It may be startling to know that many people outside the church are less and less receptive to the things that Christians say about faith. I remember a time not too long ago when most people at least knew the basic stories of the Bible, but many today cannot even say with confidence that the believe the Bible to be true.
We have our work cut out for us. It is so important to begin to learn about where people are on their faith journey, both individually and collectively.
UnChristian can begin to help us understand what is happening in our culture and what people are adopting as their perceptions of Christianity and why. With well-researched information from the team and Barna Group, the book brings together perceptions of people outside Christianity and begins to make suggestions about what may be contributing to the image problem of the church.
Take this information to heart and use it to give yourself new understanding and compassion for those who are not part of the church. Within the pages of UnChristian you will read about some of the pain and genuine frustration that many have who have formerly been part of the church but left after being hurt and abandoned.
My only caution is don’t stop with the book. Talk to people and build relationships with people that you know who are not a part. Find out what their stories are and what they are aching from. Discover where they are on their journey of faith by open and honest discussion. Then join them in their journey and be patiently willing to encourage them to take the next step.
…when he faced the Pharisees. Several months ago I spoke on that particular point. It is interesting to me that the only people that Jesus addresses with the word “hypocrite” were those in religious authority.
It is no coincidence that most of the world, and this includes many people within our own ranks, consider the word “Christian” to be synonymous with hypocrisy. In a survey published in UnChristian, 84% said that they knew a Christian personally and only 15% said that they saw lifestyle differences among those Christians.
Could it be that Jesus is saying all the same things to us that he said to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law? Could it be that we have become the people who are so much more concerned about the cleanliness of our outsides while the inside of our cups are molding and putrid?
Perhaps it is time to take a look at ourselves and find ways to become more open and honest about our lives. It is not enough to suggest that Christans “are not perfect, just saved.” True community and genuine relationship requires us to present ourselves as people who struggle. Not that we have to air all our dirty laundry, but we do need to remind people that our clothes do get dirty and that perhaps there is a way to wash them.
Take some time to share some thoughts on what that means in your life and church.