preacherman

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Christian or UN-CHRISTIAN?

When the world hears the word Christian, what comes to mind? Is it positive or negative? Should we as Christains be concerned about what the world thinks of us and Christianity?

In the groundbreaking research in the book Un-Christian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, the issue is discussed.

The research shows that Christians are known for what they are against. They are perceived as being hypocritical, judgemental, antihomosexual, and too political. It reveals that those who were surveyed believed that Christianity is no longer the Christianity that Jesus intended.

So, again, should we be concerned about how the world thinks of us as Christians? Should the negative image change us? Should we be shocked by this research? Doesn't Jesus tell us as disciples not to be surprised if the world hates us? Yet we do need to strive to engage culture as people are and yet not be influenced. We are called to be the light in darkness. We are to offer, "hope to the hopeless", "be in the world but not of it", and "become all things to all men that we may win some."

So what is your perception of Christianity? Is it positive or negative? What can be done to make a difference?

What do you think?
Share your thoughts.

30 Comments:

Blogger Benjie said...

Kinney, I think that we ought to pay attention to what the Barna group is presenting. I think that for the most part we've earned the reputation that we have. As a response, it is time to begin seeking ways to look, act, and (yes) smell more like Jesus.

Our sub-culture status has become overly important to us. I also think that our reputation is based on the fact that we are relying more on our religiosity than the Savior.

I recommend this book, if for no other reason than to make more Christians think about what it means to bear the name of Christ.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

It would be a good study to see which things Jesus spoke against and which things he spoke for! He did some of both.

As a side thought, if I say I am for something, then that means I am against the opposite thing (and vice versa). So, is this problem being discussed merely perception rather than reality?

2:21 AM  
Blogger Terry said...

Kinney,
You have brought up a very important topic again. When I do not care about my reputation, I become a mere jerk. When I care too much about my reputation, I become a people-pleasing coward. Churches can do the same. Both ends of the spectrum interfere with God's purposes in my life. He wants us to be known for godliness, but not to be enslaved to our reputations. The Pharisees were like that. They were so concerned about their appearances that they were hesitant to do the right thing (like care about tax collectors and "sinners") because of how doing the right thing would have sullied their reputations. Thanks for provoking a much needed discussion, brother.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

First I don't think we should be too concerned about how the world sees us. We cannot control people's thinking. we should be concerned with living out the mission of GOD.

I think by and large Christians are looked at in the negative sense. This is entirely justified. We are more vocal about what we are against. We have also failed to live out the kingdom of GOD. We are more concenred with who gets into office than showing love to those next door.

So lets live out the kingdom, hang out with "sinners", love those around us, pray, hope, care and spread the good news.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous RogueMInister said...

I posted a while back that I dont mind being hated for the sake of Christ but I am often embarrased to be a Christian because I am associated with those who bellyache about their own rights more than they seem to strive to fight for the rights of the oppressed and outcast.

I heard a story about a kid and his grandpa sitting in the park near a church one sunday. The child asked his g-pa, what are those people about. The grandfather said, "well they are against drinking, they are against homosexuals, they are against dancing, they are against abortion, they are against..."

"Finally they boy chimes in, well what are they "for" g-pa"?

"I dont know, boy, I dont know."

What a blessing it would be if people knew what, or more importantly, who, we were for. When read the gospels there is no mistaking the fact that Jesus was known because of who and what He was for.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

If we are unpopular, we need to be sure it is for the right reasons. We must be against some things, and the nonchristian world will be opposed to us on many of those issues. Those differences will probably define us in the minds of our opponents. There is not much we can do about that.

Peter offers some counsel on this subject:

1Pe 2:12 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.

1Pe 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1Pe 3:16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Adam Gonnerman said...

We engage in evangelism, not marketing. However, a lot of the politicized yelling and screaming of recent decades has hurt the image of Christians, especially Protestants identified as "evangelical" in the United States. It would be a whole lot healthier for us to start being FOR some things and - especially - demonstrate what the Lordship of Jesus means NOW rather than just keep trying to legislate everyone else's personal lives.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I have a positive image because of a lot of good example, I have also seen some of the bad stuff. Christians are held to a high standard, and too many name wearing Christians have hurt the cause of Christ.

11:54 AM  
Blogger jel said...

hi preacherman,

hope all is well with ya!

have a good and safe weekend!

5:15 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Good question and we had an excellent chapel this week from a local pastor on this very issue.

I agree with the idea that we need to engage the culture in an understanding way, but on God's terms. Yes, in the language of the people and understanding them. But never at the expense of truth as revealed in Scripture and in Jesus Christ.

Truth and love must be joined together, in Jesus (2 John), never separated. There really is a problem in that we tend to go either to one side or the other, when we need both to be all things to all people, while not being of the world. Only in Jesus can we learn to walk in this way.

As to the list here, I think it can be a case of being too conformed to the world in that we end up thinking and fighting like the world does. But it can also be a case of failing to seek to be all things to all people, of course without sinning. That is tough, but we ought to be known for how much we love all people, not for whom we're against! A major mistake, and tragic, on our part.

7:03 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Everyone has such great comments and thoughts on this issue. Could it be that a persons upbringing, race, political opinion or "culture" influence what they see of us as Christians?

7:48 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

i do not know what anyone thinks about when they hear the word christian. i would think that everyone has a picture in their mind or a feeling that is unique to them. then there are those who have never heard the word christian before.

each person should be considering each day about using the name of Christ to describe their belief and actions of their life... and while considering this, to remember that they actually believe that God knows all that they think and do.

what is in each of our hearts will be revealed. the world is made up of a lot of people with many different views. each of us is to do our part in th body and love is the key toward God and toward others. none of us does this perfectly as a person or as a group. none of us. so what is to be done? each of us has to live unto God. for we belong to God.

by the way. i am being called to relationship with my God and to make room for that in my life...also to make room for relationship with other people that God leads me to. it is a moment by moment living in surprised awareness and newness.

also, i do not listen to reasearch.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Royce Ogle said...

My first observation is, the world doesn't know what a Christian is.

Secondly, it's quite ok for the world to hate me provided I have lived a blameless life before them marked by unconditional love, endless forgiveness, and a quiet perserverance. Have I perfectly done all of this? No. However, it is my daily goal.

His peace,
Royce Ogle

11:33 PM  
Blogger Mork said...

It's a pity we can't get rid of the term Christian all together - the word picture it creates is a little scary for me.
I don't care if the world hates me - BUT let them hate me for doing what Christ has called me to do, not hate me for what others have supposedly done in the Name of Jesus.

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

As various others have said in so many words: Jesus lived the perfect life, yet he was crucified. We can only do our best to follow him, but our efforts will never be perfect.

Jesus was perfectly loving and forgiving. But, Jesus got angry when he needed to, he spoke the truth plainly, he offended some because of it, he let those go who would not follow him (he didn't chase after them).

The "but I say" subjects of Jesus
dealt with murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, turning the other cheek, loving one's enemies.

But what are we concerned with? Turning the other cheek and loving our enemies. We prefer not to speak in the same terms and in the same way as Jesus on those other hard subjects.

And what about eternal punishment? Jesus spoke of that as truth. He didn't just mention it once, either. But how many preachers today would dare speak just as Jesus did on that subject?

We have created a "buttercup" Jesus because the real Jesus offends us and the world.

8:46 AM  
Blogger preacherman said...

Kathy,
Great response.
I appreciate your comments.
Do we need to remember the passage, "If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my father in Heaven." ?

We should I believe wear the name of Christ with pride. We strive to live as godly as possible. Doing what we can to reach the lost.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Kansas Bob said...

"The research shows that Christians are known for what they are against."

This is troubling because the research should show that we are known for our love.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Arlene Kasselman said...

I think we can pacify ourselves by saying, "the world can hate me that is what God called us to" and completely miss the boat!!!

It is ironic to me that most of the great relief work to the "lease of these" is not being done in the name of Christ. It is ironic that sometimes the most pro-violence people on the planet are Christian. Often, the most judgemental, harsh spirited and uncompassionate ones are too.
So, I think the picture of Christian that the world may see, witnesses something other than Jesus.

The voices that sometimes speak for us in the media are ludicrous and we are painted with the same brush. The books that sometimes sell like wildfires are equally ludicrous and that reflects on all of us. And the daily lives of those bearing the name of the cross sometimes look just like the lives around them.


So then, I think each one of us bears the responsibility to hold up the values of Jesus and live our lives in a way that shows we are being shaped more and more into His image. All I know is that I can have an impact on the people I cross paths with, but I can not change the overall perception in the world.

If we lived with compassion, mercy, justice, love, anticipation, sacrifice, community and unity as our goals maybe we would look more like HIm.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

The whole idea of Christians being known for what they are against is striking, and it makes plenty of sense, especially if you're talking about the North Americcan Protestant Evangelical flavor of Christianity.

Wouldn't it be nice if the trend was changed, and Christians became known for how they loved, with deeds, rather than mere words?

7:53 AM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I think everyone has made excellent points. I believe we can do something now to change the way the world views us. We can love, offer hope, forgiveness, and a discipled life modeled after Christ. You and I can do make a difference!

10:38 PM  
Blogger Dale Sadler said...

What matters is what you are hated for. If we are hated because we are legitimate hypocrites, then some deep, personal changes should be made. We may be called hypocrites regardless of our stance on things, but to live one way and talk another is not Christ like. On the other hand, if I am hated for saying what needs to be said then I believe the Lord is pleased with me so long as my presentation and intentions are Godly.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Thinkin Kristian said...

I know this is an old blog but I just have to comment on how profound this is. Grace is such a unpraticed part of Christianity, even in my own life as I was writing about my need for it with other christians. Many times its easy for me to have grace for sinners but what about for other christians? Check out my note on Sarcasm and Sin. http://thinkinkristian.blogspot.com/2008/07/sarcasm-and-sin.html

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