Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reasons or Excuses?

Mohandis Gandhi once told the great Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones something to the effect that he really liked Jesus but he didn't see too many Christians that looked like Jesus. In other words, Gandhi may have become a Christian if it weren't for...

Christians.

Today a vast majority of people, especially young adults between 20 and 39 are saying the same thing: we like Jesus just not ___________. Fill in the blank: the church, organized religion, Christians, Christianity, all of the above. {answer: all of the above.}

Now, on one side of the coin, I have never met a person who has told me the above and has also made a serious or even half-hearted attempt to research the claims of Christ or connect with a church long enough to begin to understand that, like many organizations, the church has its good and bad. Have we forgotten that the church has led the way on most of the good social reforms that this country and many other countries have experienced? Yes, the church has its flaws and some shameful bits in its history. All I am saying is that, to be fair, if one is going to point out all of the admittedly terrible things that Christians have done throughout our long history, one should also point out all of the very good an helpful things that the church has done in our history.

But, fairness to Christianity is not what I am thinking about today.

The Barna Reasearch Group put out a book last year called, UnChristian. The basis of the book is what young adults are saying about the church. No surprises: they are saying the church and Christianity is irrelevant, judgemental, hypocritical, etc.. Barna's suggestions for the church? Don't be irrelevant, judgemental, hypocritical, etc...

DUH!

But, here is my (real or percieved) dilemma: It seems to me that most Christians will read that book, or want to address those issues by saying, "Yes! And if every church/Christian had my denomination's values/theology/tradition/rituals, etc...then we would make great strides toward addressing those criticisms." As a United Methodist, there are certain values and perpectives that I believe would indeed go a long way toward addressing those criticisms. But, I am sure that my friend Father Roy at St. Robert's Catholic Church would have different ideas of how we can live in ways that would address those criticisms. And, I am just as sure that my friend Rev. Dave Galbraith at Peace Presbytrian Church would disagree with us both.

You get the idea.

I think we need to take these criticisms seriously if they truly point to reasons why people are not becoming followers of Jesus Christ.

So, what to do?

I have my ideas, but I am really interested in yours.

What are your thoughts? Are these serious issues and legitimate criticisms? In what ways are modern Christians/the church/organized religion keeping people from becoming followers of Jesus Christ? What should we/could we do about it?

Please respond to these questions by posting your comments/thoughts/suggestions. Perhaps this can be a kind of e-conversation between us all?

I look forward to hearing from you!

And as always I am...
...with you on the journey.

Peace and much agape,
Jeff

3 comments:

Amy Ford said...

Hi Jeff,
I think that we(everyone) get so wrapped up in the denomination that we forget the real point to Christianity....Jesus!!!
How many times have we heard what are you, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist? The list goes on and sometimes so do we. We need to quit worrying about what people are and start worrying about spreading the word of Jesus because isn't that what it is all about? Religion and denomiations are man made, not God made. You can go all the way back and see that people tried to conform the bible to what they believed not necessarily what Jesus said and so a new religion or denomiation was formed. Sometimes we try to sugar coat what Jesus expects from us and that just defeats all of His expectations. Just like in every part of our lives, there are going to be things that we may not necessarily "agree" with when it comes to the church that we attend but if we can remember that our churches are filled with people and by nature people are sinners and only by the grace of God and Jesus blood are we able to be saved, while then we have gotten somewhere. We are too busy trying to conform to society instead of being real disciples of Jesus Christ.
Grace and Peace,
Amy Ford

Lore said...

In 1991 my family had the opportunity to move to Durham, NC. Sitting on the swing in the playground of our apartment complex, a conversation with another mom went something like this (condensed version) - "I'm a Christian who happens to worship at the Methodist Church, married to a great guy for nearly 10 years, 2 kids, cook red meat on the grille, ride bikes and don't recycle," I said. "I'm an athiest, divorced, two kids, a vegan, walk alot and recycle everything." she said. OK - could we be any different?! Being two gals far away from family we walked together with our strollers - the only thing we had in common. On the eve of our family returning to Michigan, she and I stood on the porch in tears. Looking at me she said "When I met you 9 months ago I was determined to dislike you and your Jesus.I expected you to tell me I was a sinner headed to hell (ok - having spiritually grown up on a church that taught this it did come to mind but God thankfully shut my mouth!)But instead you took an interest in my life, asked questions and just cared about me and my family. I've come to like you and your Jesus."

I'm not sure where this friend is, but she is prayed for daily and through her God taught me an incredible lesson - Christianity is relational - it's not about our sins or theirs, it's about loving others like God loves us through the gift of His son Jesus Christ. It's an on going journey that thankfully, has a patient and ever loving God in charge!

Love'n the journey - even when it includes alot of stumbling, falling and getting back up!

Blessings,
Lore

Alta said...

To many people on the outside of the church tend to critize the christians on the inside as we do not portay Christ. We condem, judge and send people to hell. Non-christians have a tendency to think that Christians are suppose to be perfect. Unfortanatly we are not. We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, going to an inperfect church, with an impefect pastor, but with a Perfect God. We who say we are christians need to put the love of God out there and extend our hand to them as God has extended his hand of love to us.
If God is love, why are we not loving, if God is healing, why are we not healing, why are we not putting out God's hand through ours. Why are we not helping people as we should. We should be a light on the top of a hill and not hide the light of Christ. This is a dark world with no Christ, and he is the light in us, so we should let our light shine for him.