What do Non-Christians Really Think About The Church

 Wednesday, April 16, 2008

This past weekend I went to the bookstore in search of a particular book, Lord Save Us From Your Followers. After seeing this new book, the title intrigued me. However, the book wasn't available. Undaunted I roamed the store and saw another book that peaked my curiosity. Unchristian, written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Happy with my purchase I set out for home and devoured the book within one day. This is a book based on 3 years of research about what the younger generation, particularly those 16-29 years of age, really think about Christianity. Eyeopening----yes, but not surprising to me as I read what "outsiders" (the term the book used) really think about the followers of Jesus. Said many times by those interviewed, it's not Jesus they have a problem with, but rather those who call themselves His followers. One man stated this about Christianity. "Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of of fearmongering that has lost its own heart." WOW!

It wasn't surprising to me that those on the outside view Christians as hypocritical, sheltered, have a get saved mentality, anti-homosexual, judgmental, and too political. I've often said if your going to talk the talk walk the walk. Unfortunately that doesn't always happen. I often find it unbelievable that a lot of Christians expect those who aren't christian to have the same ideals about morality that they do. Judgments are made about people without even getting to know the person. We jump to conclusions that often lead us camped out on the side of the road somewhere and wondering what the heck just happened. Are we really being Christ like? Are we following Jesus' example of Grace?

One job that I had, all the employees would meet in the morning and have prayer in the break room before clocking in. One day while working, a group of women were clustered together, and one said "Did you hear about that gay pride parade their having?" Yeah, one girl replied. "We'll I hope God strikes them all with lightning!" I couldn't believe what I just heard. Weren't these the same women I prayed with every morning? Unable to contain my anger and hold my tongue I stood up walked over and stated the following " The last time I checked God's Grace was extended to everyone. Do they not deserve the same Grace. Sin is sin, and there is no sin greater than the other." No one said a word. I'm not sure if they were caught off guard or simply searching their mind for a comeback reply. But none answered, they just looked at each other and quietly walked away. I have a couple of family members who are Gay, Muslim, and Louis Farrakhan Muslim, but I love them regardless of their sexual orientation or religion. Everyone in my family knows were I stand on these issues. We've had candid conversations, but at no time was I hateful, spiteful, or lacking compassion. I am simply the instrument that God uses. But if I'm brash and offensive I've totally turned this individual off and they may never come to know Jesus. It's about creating meaningful relationships and letting God do the rest.

A friend Kristina Alford has issued a challenge called the 3 challenge. Here it is in her own words:

The 3 Challenge:

Pray and ask God to reveal at least 3 people in our lives that we could be friends with.

Purposefully pray for them.

Purposefully set up times for coffee, lunch, dinner or outings to just hang out and do stuff with.

Invite them to be a part of our life—the good, the bad & the ugly of our lives

(Christ Followers aren’t perfect ya know—so key: to just be real…)

Realize that no matter what happens that we must choose to continue the friendship…even if they never come to know Christ…

a side note:

the idea was to not be so

“in your face”

and religious or fake…

but rather kind and encouraging,

simple, and real about life.

Growing up in the church I've seen some things done right and some done horribly wrong. If we are ever going to engage "outsiders" we must be honest with ourselves and evaluate what we've done wrong, learn from our mistakes and be willing to reach out to others in kindness, compassion, and love. I will leave you with this excerpt from the book Unchristian:

"Stephen, a seventeen-year-old from New Hampshire, offered this gut-wrenching description of his life in one of our survey: "what is God? Simply put, God is a figment of our minds grasping the sad fact that we have nothing else to believe in. I live alone. I am alone. I will always be alone. So Why should I lie to myself about a God that lets me live a life where the only people I care for treat me like s----? I want to die every day; that is my one wish. I pray to God for that, sure, but it's only because I need something. Every day I have to go through realizing that my life amounts to nothing. I quit."

"Does this tear you up? Do his thoughts about God offend you, or do you see them for what they are: an expression of his deep hurt? What would it take to help him, to keep him from suicide, to really see and develop his potential to be a Christ follower? It would take more than a few nice conversations. It would take sincere, deep engagement over many months to deal with his depression and anguish."

I recommend that everyone read this book!


chris April 16, 2008 at 8:21 AM  

Wow! I love your take on this and thanks for passing on the challenge!

Kristina Alford

laundrygirl April 16, 2008 at 11:13 AM  

Wow, it's wild that you are talking about this book today. On Saturday I went to the christian book store. I think the last time I'd been there was over a year ago. As I wandered around I came across this very book. I stood flipping through it and thought it was probably a good one. Sounds like you got a lot out of it.
This is a great challenge you have posted here. I am sure some will find it quite difficult. I have been reading blogs of many christians who have written about befriending those who are not believers. Personally, as odd as it may sound, I am taken back a bit and confused simply because I have never based my friendships on whether or not the person is a believer. It is rarely a part of the criteria so with regard to friendships - they are pretty diverse with regard to beliefs. Yet reading about the struggles others have and their need to challenge themselves to break out of their comfort zones broadens my view of the world. I see that not everyone has the same perspective as I do. And while this challenge may come easy for me, I have so many other areas I need to grow in. Come to think of it, maybe I need to take this challenge and befriend three Christians! I almost have to make a point to get to know other christians...

Evette April 16, 2008 at 11:52 AM  

You sound like me. I've never had a problem with making friends who are not Christians, its some Christians that have rubbed me the wrong in the past.We all have areas that we have to work on, but its knowing that you do versus not having a clue at all.

Chris Alford April 17, 2008 at 2:40 PM  

Evette (this is actually Chris and not Kristina)

I don't have a problem making friends who aren't Christ-Followers either. However, I've discovered that most ordinary people live busy lives...almost overwhelmingly so.

So, unless one is intentional about how they spend their time, one may end up with hundreds of friends, but very few to none who they've invested their lives into on a continual basis.

The 3 challenge isn't just about friendships, it's about investing yourself in 3 peoples lives in hopes to introduce them to a life transforming relationship with Jesus.

It's about asking God to burden your heart for 3 specific people who you will pray, fast, intercede for, and spend time with.

Of course, we hope to pray for and introduce everyone to Jesus, but it is impossible to intimately invest yourself in everyone. That's why we came up with 3. It could be 2...it could be 10, but we wanted to ensure that it was a number that one could actually invest in.

With a few exceptions, I've discovered that most of our friendships christian or non-christian are rarely the kind of friendship where we commit and invest ourselves into it.

So, as a follower of Jesus, I too want to be intentional about seeking out those who are sick and need Jesus' help. I know it is not I who can make a difference but it is Christ.

There are those for who this intentional investment into the lives of others comes naturally. But in light of the fact that 95% of churches are dying, stagnant or just swapping members it seemed important to issue a challenge to the church. Statistically, most Christ-Followers don't have deep relationships with non-Christians (other than family) after 2 years of becoming a believer.

So, the point of my comments is to challenge people to be intentional in loving their neighbors.


P.S. If Billy Graham is right, 50%+ of those who call themselves christians don't have a true relationship with Jesus...they've just got a cultural belief system that hopefully gives them a free ticket to heaven. Perhaps one could start at the local church...hmmmm!

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