In the book Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, author David Kinnaman reveals the findings of landmark research study. The results are not encouraging for the church.
Of those surveyed, 86% were aware of born-again Christians. 35% have a bad impression of us. 55% have a neutral impression. Only 10% had a good impression. When the term “evangelical” was use, the numbers were worse: 49% have a bad impression. 48% have a neutral impression. And only 3% have a good impression.
Why are these numbers so low? 6 broad themes emerged from the research. Theses six areas represent the most common points of skepticism and objections by outsiders:
· Outsiders consider us hypocritical – saying one thing and doing another.
· Outsiders say we are only interested in converting them and do not genuinely care about them.
· Outsiders think we are bigoted, especially towards homosexuals.
· Outsiders perceive of us as sheltered and out of touch with reality.
· Outsiders consider us to be motivated by a political agenda.
· Outsiders think of us as judgmental and unloving.
Kinnaman’s book suggests this over-arching finding: “Christians are primarily perceived for what they stand against. We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.”
So how do we remedy these false perceptions? How do we convey a right sense of who we are – and more importantly – who God is? Here are several ways:
1. We must declare the wonders of Jesus so that all will know that we are for Jesus and not against them! Our great mission and goal is to be ministers of reconciliation between lost people and a loving God. This is what we are for! And if we are truly for it, we must talk about it and demonstrate it in our conversations, in our tweets, on our Facebook walls, at work, and wherever and with whomever we meet.
2. We must be the church, not simply go to church. The most important ministry we do is the informal, unplanned, incidental ministry we do for others outside our own church buildings and programs.
3. We must examine our own hearts and attitudes and see if things we have done or said have contributed to these false perceptions. While we must stand firmly on what Scripture requires, the greatest requirement of us is love. Without love, we are just noise.
4. We must intentionally, actively engage people “in their world”, and not expect them to explore the claims of Christianity in ours. If we want them to know who we are, what we believe, and what life under God’s loving control is like, we have to go and show them. They aren’t likely to come to church first.
5. We must be genuine. Our relationship with Christ must be clearly seen in every sphere of our lives. Sunday-only Christianity has done more harm to the cause of Christ than all the atheism in the world. We must show that God is real, our faith is real, and that this life we live is an abundant one.
Remember, God has no need of our defense, nor does His Word. If we will live as His people and talk as His people and serve as His people, the world can see him rightly reflected in us. That’s what it means to give God glory.
For His Glory,