One of the major issues coming to the fore again in this year’s political circus is the religious Christianity or non-Christianity of the candidates. What we have already witnessed in the Iowa Caucus and the mudslinging from Huckabee about Mitt Romney’s Morman beliefs I find codified in an observation Chuck Colson makes today in his Breakpoint opinion.
I know of many churches and organizations, where the older Christian crowd is struggling to keep youth within the church. Some of the mega-churches have adopted teen-freindly atmospheres, programs and co-opting the popular aspects of the secular culture and adding a Christian flavor to them. But as Colson notes, that is not enough. The secular culture is still winning out over applied Christian principles to our culture. The church continues to lose influence over the direction both our youth and the culture are going and the Secular and Atheist Left is at war with Religion in America, seeking to push faith out of the public, and soon – out of society altogether.
The growing dislike of traditional Christianity is due in part to perceptions being hoisted into the public conscience by both the secular media and the conditioning both schools and society have indoctrtinated the American people to adopt.
While I agree largely with Chuck Colson’s observations and ultimate conclusion about the need of the Christian Churches to MAKE DISCIPLES and teach a WAY OF LIFE as opposed to simply filling seats, he does not address the danger of lukewarm Christianity having no stones to stand up for itself and combat the attacks against it.
There is a delicate balance here. A majority of Americans who say they do not like the ‘intolerance’ of devout Christianity towards homosexuality and other sinful lifestyles is not a mindset Christians should bow down to accomodating. Being tolerant of ideas anethema to what it means to be a Christ follower is NOT the way to keep or grow a congregation and impact the culture. There are principles and sound doctrines worth standing up and fighting for – with all vigor and passion. Christians need to showcase that their values and beliefs are worth fighting and dying for, that the pursuit of keeping those principles and values entrenched in our society is far more valuable than anything else. A ‘live and let live’ lukewarm inward faith does little to illustrate to anyone why they should inquire about the hope that is supposed to be in each of us.
What the American Church is lacking, is the ability to teach others WHY living as a disciple of Christ and choosing this way and walking in it is a better hope and option for them than what the titillation and selfish values the culture offers. There are consequences to thinking and living the way the secular culture does. It looks, feels and seems good, and satisfies the basic desires – but consequences always follow, and misery results. This is what needs to be explained better – not in terms of the usual “Thou Shalt Nots’ – but in love, showing them that the Father has something better in mind for them, and that choosing His way is the path to peace, happiness and understanding.
Americans love looking at Jesus as the meek and humble man, who had nary a harsh word for sinners but acceptance of them in forgiveness and never flashed a judgmental eye on anyone. They seem to skip over the parts where Jesus got angry and roared like a lion in rage against those who perverted and sought to undermine what God clearly intended, and the same Jesus who told the adulteress to “Go and sin no more”.
Sometimes, standing up against what is wrong and fighting for what is right provides others with a desire to be part of that same something worth living for. What the Christian church is lacking, is teaching people to be good judges of what is right and wrong for our own benefits. Instead, what many are teaching, is that it is wrong to judge – period, because that is what the secular culture demands.
Jesus said that “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.” We should consider those words more than considering the reasons WHY the secular culture hates us. We need not conform to the world’s ‘judge not’ morality in the erroneous notion that the world will find us more attractive, and hate us less.
The world is going to hate us regardless. What we need to teach is the reasons why the world hates us, that none of us are any better than the world – but that living for and fighting for the hope we have in our faith produces far more blessings and happiness than by letting the culture run roughshod over us.
By Chuck Colson
What People Really Think of Us
As I discovered in Watergate, we humans have an infinite capacity for self-justification—which is why it is pretty good to get a reality check and find out how others see us. After all, only your closest friends tell you if you have bad breath.
That is a service David Kinnaman, president of Barna polling, and Gabe Lyons, one of our Centurions, have performed for us with their new book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity . . . And Why It Matters.
Kinnaman and Lyons spent three years polling young, unchurched Americans to find out what they thought about Christianity. Millions of young people, they discovered, see us as judgmental, hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too political, insensitive—and boring. Ouch!
Your immediate reaction—like mine—is that this characterization is grossly unfair. Why don’t these folks recognize all the good things we do, like helping prisoners and Africans with AIDS?
The answer is that, fairly or not, hostile press characterizations of us as judgmental, homophobic bigots have stuck. But this is only half the answer. A shocking 50 percent of respondents said they base their negative views on personal contacts with Christians.
As the authors write, “Many of those outside of Christianity . . . reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.”
Let’s be honest: Sometimes we do come across as judgmental, anti-homosexual, and excessively politicized. And all too often, when others misrepresent Christianity, we do not know enough about our own doctrines to explain the truth. Yes, we draw millions into our churches on Sunday, but let’s face it: We draw them in by offering therapeutic services that make them feel better, but not be better.
This truth was dramatically acknowledged last month by Bill Hybels, founder of the successful Willow Creek Church movement, when he announced the results of a survey conducted of his own members: Heavy involvement in church programs did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity. To his everlasting credit, Hybels had the integrity to announce the findings and repent.
Hybels clearly understands the problem: What the Church needs to do is to make disciples, to grow people in the faith, not be spectators. We must teach them what Christians believe and how to live out these doctrines in all of life. Like Hybels, church leaders need to examine whether they are making disciples and encouraging holy living.
This is exactly why Prison Fellowship recently revised its mission. We recognize that we must not just get prisoners into Bible studies; we’ve got to work with them toward a transformed life and help train them when they get out—a much tougher job, but it is what Jesus demands.
And this is why I have written a new book, The Faith, Given Once, for All, being released next month. It explains what all true Christians believe, why we believe it—and why it matters. We need to know what we believe so we can live changed lives—and defend Christianity against its detractors.
unChristian providentially challenges us at the very moment many are waking up to the need to clean up our own house. Once we do this, we will be able to reach out to those outside the faith and—in a loving, non-judgmental way—offer them the glorious Truth.