A pastor struck up a conversation with a woman, as they talked, it became clear she was a prostitute. Casually, he asked, “Do you go to Church?”
“No! why would I go to church? I already feel like trash, they’ll only make me feel worse!” she responded angrily.
Her answer speaks volumes about the state of Christianity in the world today. I’m an Evangelical Christian, pastor, and missionary; still, I can’t escape the fact that the gap between the way we Christians see ourselves and what the world sees in us dwarfs the Grand Canyon.
We think we’re the good guys, just trying to help, but the world often sees us like the Saturday Night Live character Enid Strict/Church Lady.
,“Church Lady” doesn’t define all Christians, but the world sees her in enough Christians that we can no longer deny it’s a problem we need to fix!
Lets take a look at the biggest complaints non-Christians & former Christians have about Christians and Christianity.
Christians are Judgmental
According to the Barna research group 62% percent of non-Christians or lapsed Christians feel they are judged by professing Christian
“… more than six in 10 non-Christians and lapsed Christians (62%) say they would be open to talking about faith matters with someone who listens without judgment — the top quality they value — but only one-third (34%) sees this trait in the Christians they know personally.” Barna research
Many of these would be interested in discussing faith based issues or even know more about Christianity if they were accepted as they are.
Christians are Hypocrites
In the eyes of much of the world, Christians lives, especially Evangelicals show they don`t practice what they preach.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
The uncomfortable truth is, in some ways Manning was right.
- 33% of marriages among Born Again Christians Breakup compared to 34% of divorced non-Christians –a virtual mirror image. Why is the differences so small, if Christians live what they believe?
- In recent decades’ the controversial moral failings of number of Christian leaders has badly damaged the image Christianity at large.
Isolated & Opinionated
Many Non-Believers feel Christians are too isolated or segregated to effectively relate to an unbelieving world, again a partially true statement.
Too often Christians live at their church; It’s not unusual for today’s churches to have programs or services almost nightly. A great plan for discipleship, but it leaves little time for followers of Jesus to truly invest in and understand an unbelieving world. As a result, many Christians have few non-believing relationships and even fewer meaningful friendships with non-believers.
A common complaint among non-believers is that Christians see them as projects. We are quick to tell others what we believe without taking the time to learn what they believe.
“Similarly, their hopes of talking with Christians who do not force conclusions (50% vs. 26%), demonstrate interest in other people’s stories (29% vs. 17%) and are good at asking questions (27% vs. 16%) appear to go unfulfilled.”
What’s the solution?
The answer is in the complaint. If we take a hard look at the criticisms of non-believers, we see all their objections speak to the same issue.
We have become less like Jesus and more like His persecutors; we’ve become cheap imitations, whitewashed tombs!
In His time, Jesus was seen as a dangerous, subversive revolutionary by spiritual and political leaders, but the masses were drawn to him seeing a friend, deliverer and savior.
Conversely today, the average non-believer often see Christians as the religious and moral judges. The exact opposite of the Lights to the World we are called to be!
To fix the problem, we need to take a hard look at the objections of non-believers in comparison m to the defining traits of Jesus ministry. Only then can we identify where we’ve strayed from His example.
Defining Traits of Jesus Ministry.
Jesus life and ministry were unique and marked by qualities attractive to the most broken and marginalized people of His time, they gladly accept His teaching. Let’s take a look at what these qualities were:
- Unconditional love — Jesus loved people where he met them in whatever state they were in. Shouldn’t we?
- Grace — Even when we were still sinners, enemies of God, Jesus went to the Cross for us, though we’d done nothing to merit His sacrifice.
- Mercy — While our sins deserved death, he Paid our ransom.
- Forgiveness — without exception, any person who comes to Jesus is forgiven, a new creation with a clean slate .
When we stop loving the law more than people and return to living out the unconditional love of Jesus 24/7, we will see an awakening in the world and a renewed hunger to know Jesus!
A Gospel for Everybody
Christians Don’t get to decide who is worthy to hear the gospel, that decision was made for us long ago. In the Great Commission Jesus told us,
“…go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Matthew 28: 19–20 NLT
That’s every person you meet without exception no matter how different or offensive they are. If their in front of you should treat them just as Jesus would!
The bible often refers to people groups as nations refer to people groups. so nations refer to the homeless, to the poor, to Christians, to Democrats, to the LGBT people groups, and Gasp, even Trump supporters.
We are to teach Jesus commands to all people. be aware, the call is to teach, not force acceptance or change. You’re, to preach the word the rest is up to Jesus.
No, I’m not suggesting we, water down the Gospel. What I’m saying is if Christians actually live out Jesus teachings, let God be god and bring change in His time, people will again be drawn to Jesus.
A Time to Heal
It may sound easy, but in truth, it’s an uphill struggle. The world’s views of Christians didn’t develop overnight and they won’t be changed by a few random acts of kindness. This is where the rubber meets the road and it demands a real effort from you.
A skeptical world needs to see a consistent long term change in Christians o see us differently. We need only die to self and live out the gospels to reveal Jesus to an unbelieving world.
A Model to Follow
Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3–8 are an excellent model to follow:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
A Church They’d Go To
Late one night a pastor was in an old dinner when the bar crowd started to pour in. Sally was particularly loud sitting down Tony, the pastor, she asked, “ya want some company. “
“No thanks.” he responded.
“Dam, looks like I ain’t making no money tonight.” sSally shouted. She and her friends sat talking and laughing with Tony.
Soon Sally Got up saying, “Well gotta go check on Mom and the kids, but I’ll see you tomorrow night for my birthday”.
After she left Tony asked, Does she come in at the same time every night.”
” Like clockwork”, answered Larry the cook.
Why don’t we give her a birthday party? I’ll get here early and bring the cake,” suggested Tony.
Surprised, Larry said, “Great idea I’ll get everything else ready.”
The next night Tony arrived carrying a big cake that read, Happy Birthday Sally, and the dinner was decorated for a party. When Sally came in with a few friends the people waiting shouted surprise, happy birthday.
Fighting back tears she said, ,“You’re joking this ain’t no party for me, who’d give me a party?
Larry said, “We would Look your name’s even on the cake.”
After singing happy birthday, for her she blew out the candles. Picked up the cake asking,
“Can I take it home and show my mom and kids ain’t no one ever give me a cake before.”
They all said, “Sure Sally it’s your cake.”
Walking out the door still in tears sally said, “Damn, they ain’t never gonna believe this one! I promise I’ll bring it back”
getting up to leave Tony said, “Well I’ve got to go. I was just in town for work and I’m heading home tomorrow.”
Larry said, “ Sorry to see you go, that was great what you did for Sally. Yea she’s a Hooker, but she’s good people. Hey, what kind of work do you do anyway?”
Tony, answered, “I’m a pastor and I was teaching at a c local church.”
Larry quipped, “yeah right, what kind of pastor are you?
“The kind that gives a birthday party to hooker,” said Tony bluntly.
Larry quickly shot back, “I’ll go to your church any day!” (excerpted from a video by Tony Campolo)
There you have it, the Gospel pure and simple. Find a Sally or Larry in your life and be Jesus to them. Do the stuff, Listen, accept, love and serve; Let Jesus do the rest.