Jumping The Shark
By Keith Giles
A recent study by Barna Group, a Christian Research agency, reports a sharp increase in skepticism about Christianity and a resistance to the Gospel message among young people aged 16 to 29 years old.
*The full study is found here:
Some have suggested that Christianity in America “Jumped the Shark” a long time ago, but reports such as this one certainly give ammunition to fuel assertions such as these.
We have to face the fact that, by and large, our most popular leaders have communicated a message that is divisive and separatist in nature. Our churches have not engaged the community. Our focus has largely been on ourselves, our buildings, our programs, our talent, enlarging our ghetto. We’ve not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We’ve not put the needs of others above our own. We have not taught others to obey all that Jesus commanded us. We have failed to obey him ourselves. We have forgotten our call to be Salt and Light in this world and it’s time to repent.
According to the report by Barna (linked above) the younger generation is turned off by the anti-homosexual posture of the Christian Church in America. They are repulsed by our lack of concern for the poor. They are incensed at our judgmental attitudes.
Common negative perceptions (among non-Christians) include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians.
Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.
Reading this makes me want to get on my knees and pray for pastors across America to wake up and smell the coffee. We need leaders in our churches who are willing to take a stand and start swimming upstream. We have to disentangle ourselves from the popular Christian Subculture that encourages us to remain aloof from the society around us. We have to disengage from the political component that co-opts the Republican Party under the banner of Christianity. We have to stop posturing ourselves as a people who are “Against” something and start getting involved in demonstrating what it is that we are “For” as followers of Jesus.
"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:12)
How we live is just as important, perhaps even more important, than what we say. Our message must be lived out, demonstrated in action, if we ever hope to regain the ground we've lost with this current generation of young people.
Hopefully by now we’ve started to see that it really matters what we say. It really matters what we do. Actions really do speak louder than words and our behavior as ambassadors of Christ over the last few decades has suffered greatly.
This is why I’ve recently written articles about the need to re-define what it means to follow Jesus. Calling ourselves “Christian” says nothing about who we really are or how we live our lives.
A whopping 89% of most Americans would call themselves “Christian” and do so without any real thought as to what that might suggest about how they should live out their everyday life.
We cannot hide behind a label and excuse the hateful behaviors of those who call themselves after the name of Jesus. We have to start living life against the grain.
This is the Christian life. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is subversive.
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In a recent article in Christianity Today’s “Out of Ur” blog, is an article outlining the results of a “multi year qualitative study” into “what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not.”
Being a “program driven” and “seeker sensitive” church, Willowcreek has spent millions of dollars setting up all kinds of programs designed to increase participation and therefore making the participants better disciples of Jesus.
What the research actually showed is that all these programs did not lead people into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Having spent 30 years building this church model and advocating it to others, Hybels has called this report the “wake up call” of his life.
“We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.” - Bill Hybels
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