When asking people to describe Christianity, the Barna Group found several provacative analogies:
The Titanic -a ship about to sink, but totally unaware of its fate.
A powerful amplifier – undermined by poor wiring and weak speakers.
Cats – they look like they’re thinking deep thoughts but are just waiting for their next meal in reality.
Ostriches – heads in the sand.
Hobby – diverts people’s attention from the real issues.
All of these images reflect that Christians are perceived to be sheltered.
The current perception of Christians: They are boring, unintelligent, old-fashioned, and out of touch with reality.
What does this mean?
Christianity is seen as lacking spiritual vitality and mystery. It is disconnected from the spiritual world, which most non-Christians believe can be accessed and manipulated. Yet, Jesus offers access to the supernatural. Faith means making decisions based on the Holy Spirit’s prodding, even if they seem irrational.
Christians are considered to lack intellectual vigor. They are unwilling to face their doubts and questions. Yet, some of the greatest thinkers in education, government, the arts, the sciences, and social justice have come from Christian thinkers and leaders. Today’s Christian leaders must make their faith evident.
Christians live in a bubble, interacting only with other Christians who think and act as they do. They can no longer relate in a relevant way with those outside of their Christian circle or « club. » Christians tend to offer simplistic pat answers while young people are comfortable with a relativistic worldview in which contradictions can co-exist.
The new perception Christians should strive for: They are engaged, informed, and offer sophisticated responses to the issues people face.
Christians should be in the world, not of the world (John 17: 14-18). God has set Christians apart to be light and salt in this world (Matt. 5).
« We must practice a balance of purity in this world and proximity to this world. Otherwise, we are useless, providing neither light nor taste in this terrifying sphere. If we only practice purity, being sheltered, we « inevitably become pietistic, separatist, and conceited. If we live in close proximity to the culture without living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from fallen culture and useless in God’s kingdom » – Mike Metzger in Fine Tuning Tensions within Culture: The Art of Being Salt and Light
Christians must, in humility, realize that they don’t have all the answers to life’s questions. As one of our pastors said this week, God is complicated! For example, why does an all-powerful, omniscient God desire us to pray for others? We can’t truly know.
Christians should not shelter themselves out of fear. Perfect love casts out all fear (I John 4:18). We should be motivated by love and confidence (II Tim 1:7)
Christians should not be offended by non-Christians. The only people who offended Christ was the self-righteous hypocritical religious leaders of his epoch. Don’t be shocked by the actions and attitudes of others.
Christians should be helping those in desperate situations, the « widows and orphans » of our generation (James 1:27). Christ did not come to help the healthy, those who have their lives all together, but rather the sick, those who know they need help (Matt. 9:12-13, Acts 10:30-48).
Like Daniel, Christians need to be prepared to minister to a people that have values unlike our own. These include both intellectuals and the overlooked of this world. In fact, young intellectuals are those who are most likely to find Christians to be too sheltered and naive. Even more telling, Christian young intellectuals also share their frustration with out-of-touch perspectives in the Christian community. Yet these Christians have great opportunities for breaking stereotypes and to redeem the areas in which they have influence rather than condemn them. Other Christians are reading out to outcasts. The well-known organization TWLOHA (to write love on her arms), which ministers to self-injurers, was founded and is led by Christian Jamie Tworkowski.
For another discussion of this subject visit Being in, but not of the world.
Eight practical questions for Christians to ask themselves when interacting in the world.