Thursday, August 20, 2009

What does the world think of us? Check out these headlines

I did a search today on on "church" to see what articles would come up with this in the title. Here are some of the article titles that I found and the categories that I have placed them in:

- Mormon Anti-Gay Machine Cranking Up Against IL Civil Unions
- Why Do American Christians Approve of Torture?
- New Proposed Arkansas Law: Take Your Gun to Church
- Soldiers in Afganistan Gives Bibles, Told to "Hunt People for Jesus"
- Disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard Facing New Sex Allegations
- Pastor Had Sex With Daughters to Teach Them How To Be Good Wives
- Two Catholic Priests Stole $8 Million From Church

- Hate on Display: The Westboro Baptist Church Protests the White House
- UK Flooding is God's Judgment on Society
- My Christian Daughter Says I'm Going to Hell

- 16 Victims of the Church of Scientology
- Catholic Church Excommunicated 9 Year Old Rape Victim
- Mormon New Zealand Man Beat Daughter Over Church Refusal
- Thousands Raped and Abused in Catholic Schools in Ireland

Out of Touch/Ignorant
- Why the Catholic Church Can't Ignore Science
- Reason is the Greatest Enemy Faith Has
- Faith Healing Parents Charged in Infant's Death

Not Helpful Spiritually
- Spirituality, not Religion, Makes Kids Happy
- Church Signs That Won't Make You Go To Church
- The Eight Most Bizarre Patron Saints
- 7 Year Old Steals Car to Skip Church, Car Chase Video

With all of this negative publicity, it is easy to see why the world is not big on "church." The implications of this are huge.

First, we must not assume that someone wants to "go to church." Non-Christians are likely to fear that they will be judged, hated, abused, bored, or subjeted to politics at church. This means that impersonal appeals and church marketing will continue to decrease in effectiveness in getting people through the church building doors.

Second, we must create safe, non-threatening and appealing entry points into church life. One of the workers that I know at a Starbucks here in McKinney named Brittany attends a house church in Princeton. Small groups and worship gatherings in homes, coffee shops, book stores, parks, and other non-churchy type of settings are places where we need to invite people to visit.

Third, we must do things which give the church a good name. Jesus told his disciples to do good deeds before people so that they may praise the Father in heaven (Mt. 6:14-16). This means we must do things which impact people and the community and are recognized even by non-Christians as being good. This includes feeding people, clothing people, providing school supplies to needy children, helping the abused and lonely.

As an example, you can read this story of how a family praised God because of how the Clothes Closet Ministry and the High Pointe Church of Christ helped the family after they had lost everything in a fire. I also met one of the school representatives who was up at our building today, coordinating with us on school supplies that the church provides. She talked about how this church helps them so much.

Basically, to change the way the world things of us we must act and be more and more like Jesus Christ. Not focused on ourselves. Not spending on ourselves. Not judging, but loving. Serving. Helping. Would not this type of church impact the world and our communities?

What do you think that we can do to change the world's opinion of us?


Pam said...

Sounds much like the opinion that the world had of Jesus and His disciples.

It is human nature to become defensive when you learn that your behavior or lifestyle is unacceptable...and accusations of being hateful or judgmental often follow in an effort to shift the focus. This has been so from the very the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Then read I John 3 where it is stated in verse 12 that “And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous”....verse 13 says “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.”

We cannot change the world’s opinion of us because it is not always based simply on our behavior....we can only teach them about Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins and give them the opportunity to choose to follow Him....and this is most effective when we, ourselves, are living by His example. Doing good deeds alone does not lead people to Christ...teaching them the Good News is what leads them to salvation—the good deeds are often what predisposes them to listen to the teaching.

Jesus and the apostles all were killed because of what they taught. We can never allow our teaching to become an “I’m OK, you’re OK gospel” in order to attract people or make them 'like' us...but everything we do and say MUST be done in love....even though the truth may not always be received in love.

James Nored said...

Hello Pam. Thank you for your thoughts. It is true that there will be people who attack us even when we are living like God calls us to live. Jesus told his disciples that they would face persecution, and indeed they did. And sometimes our very lifestyle can be an affront to people, without us saying even a word.

Here are some additional thoughts on this. First, Jesus seemed to be very well liked by the non-religious people. He took them where they were, spoke to their hearts, and showed them love and kindness when others did not. He was called a glutton and a drunkard because he associated with "sinners." On the other hand, Jesus was despised and rejected by the "church-going" folks because of all of these things. Today, few "sinners" want to hang out with us, as they did Jesus, and no one is accusing us of spending time with "sinners."

Second, God has always used people outside of his chosen people to critique and chastise his chosen people. Ninevah repented and showed a better heart than Jonah, God's prophet. Elisha healed the Shunnamite woman's son--not anyone in Israel. God used Cyrus and called him his anointed one--a Persian. Jesus upheld the Samaritans as heroes repeatedly, despite their corrupt religion and messed up faith. God was and is at work outside of Israel (OT) and the church (NT). We should listen to the criticisms of outsiders, for God often uses them to chastise us.

Third, many of the outside accustions are correct. Holding up signs that say, "God hates fags" is hateful and does not present an accurate view of God. Endulging ourselves and concentrating on peripheral issues while the world is dying and broken from things such as world hunger, AIDS, addiction, and not knowing God shows a lack of caring and misplaced priorities.

I certainly do not believe in a "I'm okay, you're okay" gospel. I believe in a gospel of radical life transformation--despite the fact that so few Christians seem to be radically transformed. The problem is that the only message that seems to get out to the world are messages of harsh judgment. We are not at all helped in this by the media, which likes to concentrate on the most outrageous and most negative aspects of religious expression in order to pump up ratings. However, this judgmental attitude is often unfortunately the attitude of Christians. Trust me, I have never sought to tell anyone that they do not have to leave sin behind in order to follow Jesus. Leading, however, with "You're going to hell" is not being "wise as serpents" and this is a judgment for God to make, not us. On a practical matter, we must earn the right to speak into people's lives, which we do by loving people in such a way that they have no doubt that when we speak to them, even if they disagree, they know that we are doing so out of love.