I have recently read or heard several believers state that they are ashamed to be called or referred to as “Christians.” The claim is usually made that Christians are so vilified in culture that the term is actually harmful to our witness and work.
Most of the time those who make these statements have good reason for concern and they often make their points with heartfelt passion. They refer to churches that are filled with believers who lack true belief, authentic lives, and display only marginal commitments. In addition, they point out that many persons stumble over the claims of Christ and never give an ear to actually hearing the gospel because of these professing Christians.
In their concern for the kingdom, these pundits give the usual statistics about how many persons in the United States are “spiritual” but not religious and how many current believers are willing to “do” church without ever attending a church. What typically follows are calls for church discipline, changing church structures, planting house churches, planting relevant churches, and doing ministries in effective ways.
I agree most of the time with the concerns and I can see value in most of the suggestions on how we might reach our culture in more effective ways. To these concerns and suggestions I might add a few of my own. When I search scripture for answers for today I am encouraged that these trends are not new and the problems we face have already been recognized with solid answers provided. A few observations:
1. Stay with scripture. Many are involved in researching the problems, identifying trends, criticizing current congregations,believers, and offering solutions. Unfortunately for some, scripture is only quoted not followed. We make serious mistakes if we think that analyzing trends and changing methods will change the world. It never has unless solutions come from scripture and are put in contemporary contexts.
2. Stop blaming everyone else. If you have answer, share it. If you don’t, seek one. If you can’t then be quiet. Trends, surveys, research and cultural solutions are only that. Also, invite those who have been in the fight for a while to join the dialogue. Describing the problem is not finding the solution. If you think your data is correct, shouldn’t all believers and congregations be served with it. New is not always better when its just new.
3. Try to gain some perspective about why things are the way they are right now. This just did not happen overnight. Be aware of what happened in the 70’s and 80’s when similar concerns were addressed. We are going to need new understandings but we have to understand them in a larger context that the last fifteen years. There are some people who have been at this a while with keen insights that might be helpful.
4. Give solutions that are helpful to pastors and congregations. If you do not help the Body of Christ you are wasting time. Deliver the information and solutions to those who are in the trenches with all ages not just one segment. We must have a kingdom view that includes everyone.
5. Remember that all our problems are spiritual and thus have spiritual solutions. Knowing the times, understanding salvation history, trusting the Bible, following the Spirit’s leading, and exalting Christ is always the foundation. There is no power on earth that can overcome righteousness, purity, and the power of God that transforms our lives and the lives of those we encounter as Salt and Light.
6. Make sure your own life is transparent and authentic. Hiding behind the problems of others is not the same as honestly finding solutions to those problems. There are many researchers, critics, new voices, and dreamers today with some great insights and ideas. But in the end, those who count are those who do something.
I pastor a local church that deals with a multitude of issues with the people we have and those we reach. We have a culture we live in, a context we serve in and a future we move toward with the confidence that God will allow us to enjoy our work and fulfill our mission.
God is at work to bring history to its proper end with Christ as Lord and His saints serving Him forever.