Just a short while ago I found myself sitting, as I normally do, with a small group of ministers. During the course of our conversations a startling question arose regarding the current cultural environment the Christian Church in America finds itself. The question:
“Why would any thinking person want to be a Christian?”
Two of the more popular responses to this question included;
“Christianity is the great moral path of personal discovery leading to God”
quickly followed by
“Our Christian life, and the connection we have with Christ, is a powerful and purposeful faith journey that enlightens and improves not only ourselves but the world around us.“
After listening to several variations of these two answers, I chimed in and asked these gifted people, “If your answers truly reflect the innate value of being Christian then where does the Christian journey demonstratively differ from any other world religion?”
The ministers assembled then started a considerable amount of “theological tap dancing” trying to arrive at an agreed upon answer. Their frustration was clearly evident as collectively they struggled to find consensus. After about 30 more passionate minutes of debate As they continued to passionately debate some of the finer points of how to best describe “Why any thinking person would chose to be Christian?” it seemed apparent they truly couldn’t agree.
What was painfully obvious was the practical differences between NON-Christians view us “Christians” and other religions, philosophies, and cultural disciplines have become remarkably blurred. Since the ministers couldn’t answer the questions to their own satisfaction, how would anyone come to the conclusion that the general public would fair much better.
Let me try posing two more questions for you to consider;
Does it seem at all logical that in light of the ‘institutional church’ and its leadership, both clergy and laity, periodically and very publicly shooting itself in the foot over and over again, that people are no longer compelled to assume Christian morality represents anything of worth?
Why would anyone automatically give “the church” and its local members the benefit of the doubt regarding the assumptions of “good intentions” when so many professional clergy….from every flavor of Christian expression…. intentionally betray the Gospel through their own self-serving pride and hypocrisy?
It’s painfully apparent that what the Bible describes as “Christian” understanding and renewal of life doesn’t, for the most part, represent what the institutional church has come to be recognized as being from a large percentage of the public. It is also abundantly clear – and it has always been so – that far too many individuals who claim the “title” of Christianity have little authenticity to what the Bible describes as a true Christian demeanor. They are “Christians” in name only!
The foundation of the Christian identity is not because of a life-changing transformation. Far too often self-identified Christians are members of a local church ‘cause their mama-n-nem have been members for years. Others even join our faith expression of Biblical Christianity because of networking opportunities or social status goals.
Beloved, I even witnessed folks, and not just a few, who will join a local fellowship of Christians because of their desire to get elected to political office.
Why are any of us prompted to claim we are Christians?
The fact of the matter is that in the last couple of generations the very concept of “church” has disintegrated into the slippery slope of irrelevancy – and we have no one to blame but ourselves.
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY FRIEND, B.O.B.
The Body of Believers, what I like to refer to as BOB, carries much of the responsibility in the failure to validate to the outside world and to others within the faith community whether Christianity, as described in the Bible, is true and actually practiced or nothing more than a long-term cultural anomaly based on superstition and indigenous folklore.
I know the previous statement may seem like a jarring blow emotionally but it lies at the heart of the difficulty in which the Christian church finds itself. No longer can the “institutional church” depend on blind loyalty from a traditional base of population and no longer can there be the assumed assurance of multi-generational family participation within a local church setting.
Let me be clear here! I am NOT saying there aren’t thousands of churches and their members doing a fine job at representing The Gospel. They certainly are. What I am saying is there far more who are failing in that biblically mandated goal.
Preachers who are supposedly call by God to proclaim loving empowerment, preach instead separatism and hate.
Churches called by God to be the practical and obvious “hands and feet” of Christ himself are closed off, shut out and emotionally segregated from the communities they reside within.
- Gone are the days when Sunday school was about actual study of Scriptural and theological points of reference instead of doughnuts, coffee, crayons and babysitting.
- Gone are the days when clergy are assumed to be the most thoughtful, caring, ethical, moral and theologically astute individual in their respectiuve comunities.
How can we refocus and revitalize what is supposed to be Biblically authentic Christianity? Start with the three following points of reference:
1. The “institutional church” doesn’t represent authentic Christianity … BOB does! Without BOB, there is no church. Without BOB being honest, passionate, dedicated, witnessing, self-sacrificing and profoundly loving, true Christianity cannot and will not be experienced. The reality is the Bible is replete with the message that God “hates” religion.
2. Lazy and apathetic “Christians” do not exist, and we need to stop pretending they do! Anyone who has been transformed by the light of a loving and powerful God doesn’t live their life under the banner of perpetual laziness and a do-nothing attitude.
3. Lastly, The Bible shares with us that we are to be the feet and hands of Jesus. In that regard, it is essential to grasp that BOB isn’t here to serve and support an institution, but rather the institutional church’s sole purpose is to serve BOB, so that, BOB can be felt and actualized in real and tangible ways as Christ is extended outward and also experienced inwardly.
The Bible clearly leads the BOB’s of this world to understand it isn’t about what you “do,” but rather “who you are” in Christ. It isn’t about how “good you behave” but rather the journey-of-renewal that has been prompted by God’s grace and the call of Jesus to humanity’s rebirth and reanimation through a personal, powerful, passionate and profoundly faithful connection to that same calling God.
Beloved, if we are to believe one of the central messages of biblical script, then we are called to understanding and proclaim that God doesn’t care one bit about the size of your local church’s physical structure; that is irrelevant.
God doesn’t care about how many flat screen TVs are in the lobby or the color of the plush carpet currently in the sanctuary, that is irrelevant.
We can also be confident that God certainly could care less how many “prominent folk” fill the pews, that is irrelevant.
Because if BOB isn’t living and breathing the message of a loving, inclusive, affirming, evangelical and validating environment, then spiritual and practical transformation will be greatly diminished. Without this broad spectrum of a intimately loving and transforming Christian understanding being PRACTICALLY EXPERIENCED it becomes nonsensical to believe any real and sustainable expression of authentic Christianity will exist.
In effect, others who should have an enthusiastic view of the blessings of being Christian, instead, find the prospect of being Christian useless. Again, believers….or THE BODY OF CHRIST….is expected by God Almighty to tangibly represent Christ in this world. If we fail in that Divine Mission…we fail God! We are either reflecting the whole picture of God through Jesus, or not. We either love and receive people as a blessing, or not. We either commit to developing a welcoming and empowering environment, or not!
If the universal Body-of-Believers – both the smart and not so smart, spiritually mature as well as spiritually searching, all age demographics, and every ethnic and racial distinction – claiming the Lordship of Christ doesn’t start acting like it and take back the Gospel of Christ from the heretical and stifling structures of “organized” religion, we will continue to see a cultural fading into irrelevancy of the public’s perception of Christianity.
Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” In that regard, I boldly proclaim that all of us BOBs can, with God’s help of course, reverse this horrifying trend. However, before we begin this contemporary crusade, we should take a hard look inward and test whether or not everything we are doing in the name of God is authentic, honest and true.
Are there actually enough B.O.B’s in contemporary Christianity who will intentionally and urgently strive to build up the faithful expression of a gracious and empowering God, or not?