Let’s be honest: Christianity in America has an image crisis, and justifiably so. Somehow the most beautiful story ever told got diluted into a hybrid of culture and religion that people are finding less than appealing.
Not for lack of a good narrative– even some of my atheist friends have privately conceded that as far as narratives go, we’ve got the better story. Instead, people are rejecting Christianity not simply or entirely because they don’t believe it, but because too many of us are just plain ole $@%#’s about it. Meanwhile, we have people like Matt Walsh arguing that Jesus didn’t care about being nice, and that neither should we.
What a shame. Evangelical Christianity is in a tailspin and it’s not a problem with the message, but the messengers. The last thing we want to do is encourage people to be more of a you-know-what about being a Christian.
I can only imagine that if God’s justice is exceedingly fine (which I believe it is), we’re going to have some answering to do for the people who walk away– not because they’re rejecting Jesus– but because they’re (understandably) rejecting us.
If we’re going to take this reformation seriously and actually help reform Christianity here in America, we’re going to need to have an uncomfortable conversation:
Fellow American Christians, let’s be honest with ourselves. We’re going have to start learning how to be Christians without being total #@$%’s about it.
I know for some of us that goes against our nature and what other Christian voices are telling us. Yet, I think if we’ll embrace the uncomfortableness of change and start living our Christianity in a new way, we might actually see people say: “I want in with whatever that is”.
You know, what the plan originally was when Jesus kicked this whole thing off.
So how can we be Christian without being total #@$%’s about it? In my opinion, here’s a head start:
Sure, we’ve got free speech and the right to plaster our car with in-your-face, confrontational bumper stickers, but even scripture itself says just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something. They’re not making the Gospel “attractive”, they’re not winning anyone over, and 9 times out of 10, they’re cheesy too.
2. Let’s try holding beliefs with confidence, but also with humility.
Everyone who holds an opinion thinks they’re right– that’s kinda how opinions work. People aren’t turned off that we believe in certain propositions to be true, they’re turned off because we’re arrogant about it. Yes, let us hold our beliefs with confidence but also with a humility that says “but I could be wrong”.
3. Learn to disagree with dignity.
People of Christianland: we’ve got to learn to disagree better (myself included). You’re not always right. I’m not always right. They’re not always right. However, we can discuss our differences without going off the deep end. Try this: the next time you’re tempted to fire back with “you’re wrong” try responding with “that’s an interesting perspective. Can you help me understand how you arrived at that belief?” Trying to understand someone who disagrees with you shows that you’re willing to disagree without being a $@#& about it.
4. Stop saying “farewell” to Christians we disagree with.
If you’re not familiar with this reference, it was coined by John Piper who famously tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” as a way of publicly declaring Rob to be outside of orthodoxy. While most of us don’t like Piper, we’ve been all too happy to pick up this trendy habit of publicly saying “farewell” to one another. I think it’s just time to admit when we say “farewell” to someone, we’re usually being a $@&% about it. When we give into this temptation, we’re declaring ourselves to be the gatekeepers– the ones who say who is in and who is out. I say, we just stop.
5. Let’s not withhold money from poor kids because the person giving it to them might potentially be gay.
Three words: World Vision nonsense.
6. Maybe we should try to love people into the kingdom, instead of trying to bully them into it.
Let me be clear: experiencing overwhelming love from a Christian is a far greater motivator to explore this Jesus stuff than is being on the wrong end of an argument. I’m guessing we could count the number of Jesus followers on one hand who ended up believing because someone shamed them, bullied them, or intellectually arm wrestled them into God’s kingdom. Try love; I promise it works better.
7. Realize that if your coworkers liked your preaching, they’d hire you to work at their church.
Work is a time for, well, work. Sure, be yourself. Establish meaningful friendships. Heck, even be open and authentic about your faith- I am. However, work isn’t the time or place for “open air evangelism”. Your co-workers are a “captive audience” in that they can’t leave– which means, it’s kinda a @$%# move to use their captive presence as an opportunity to constantly preach at them. Just be a good worker, a loving colleague, and work to establish a culture where people say “I really like working with Christians“.
8. Stop pretending that one political party has a monopoly on Jesus-ness.
When Jesus stood before Pilate, he declared that the Kingdom he came to inaugurate– the Kingdom you and I are tasked with building– was something that was “not of this world”. We must remember that the new culture Jesus came to establish is radically different from anything a worldly empire has to offer. As such, neither dominant political party in America does a very good job at standing for the cultural principles of Jesus. When we marry Jesus off to a political party, we combine Kingdom with empire, and miss the fact that Jesus came to replace empire with something so very different.
9. Start helping the oppressed instead of acting like you’re oppressed.
Let’s just shoot straight on this one: We need to get over ourselves. As Christians, we’re not the minority. In fact, we make up 78.4% of the population. Christians hold almost every political seat in the country. On top of being the majority and the religious group that’s in control of the country, we’re also disgustingly rich. What does this mean? It means that WE’RE NOT BEING OPPRESSED. We’re not being systematically persecuted. So we need to stop acting like it, because it’s making us look like a bunch of you-know-whats. Instead, let us become the defenders of those who actually are oppressed– immigrants, women, the poor, etc. You know, the stuff the Bible talks about all day long.
10. Learn to be a servant.
Here’s the deal: no one hates a servant. Everyone loves the one person on the team who humbly says “what can I do to help?” and who is constantly ready to get their hands dirty serving others. Jesus himself totally got this principle and said that he “came not to be served, but to serve”. As people who are called to be “little Christs” we need to just get busy serving the world around us, meeting needs and washing feet in the tradition of our Rabbi. People are tired of hearing Christians talk about power, control, and taking the country back. But servants? Everyone loves a servant. This is precisely why Jesus said “whoever wants to be the greatest must be the servant of everyone.” I think maybe we should just start taking Jesus seriously.Yes, Christianity in America has an image crisis, and I share in the disdain for it. However, it doesn’t need to remain this way– you and I can actually shape culture and change things. You and I can make the message of Jesus attractive again, we can change the cultural connotation one thinks of when they hear the word “Christian”, and you and I can shape the Christianity that will be handed to our grandchildren.
Well, we’ve got to learn how to be a Christian without being a total $@#& about it.
These ten steps will help.