Short answer: us.
I tend to look at facebook as a huge social experiment, which essentially it is. Nothing can bring us together faster, or divide us faster. We have become distinct and polarized groups, whereas before you would get to know people and have real discussions and build real relationships with them before learning their stance on any given social issue, now all you have to do is a 2 minute search on their facebook wall to see where they stand on anything. Then, based on that we set people into groups and camps. Christians have been set into the “hypocritical, brainwashed, oppressive, clueless” categories, to name a few. We are told that we “shove our religion down people’s throats”, and apparently that’s a turn off haha. I’m not saying we don’t sometimes deserve these accusations, because we do. But in today’s day and age, how can we minister to a hurting world when “Christianity” is so quickly becoming a bad word?
If I may suggest a few things…
1. Never underestimate your testimony!
People need to hear the stories of how we failed, but God came through. People need to hear how we struggle, but how God’s promise to protect us from temptation is real and true. People need to hear how our lives changed when we were washed clean. How much we didn’t deserve it and how much everything has changed since then. I know not everyone is comfortable sharing on a platform as large and far-reaching and impersonal as a blog, but let’s talk to the people we know, the people we have relationships with, the people that God has placed in our lives to love (read: everyone. Christian or not).
I get frustrated everyday by things I see on facebook targeting Christians and the mean and untrue things people will believe about you just because you proclaim your faith makes me physically sick in my stomach. But it should! I’m not going to avoid it, because I need to learn to deal with it. And, more importantly, I need to remember that I was the one saying and propagating these things just 8 short years ago. Because I didn’t know.
2. Never count someone “out”.
If you knew me a decade ago, you would never think that I would be someone who would so openly and fully be a “Jesus freak”. I’m proud of that. Only God could make these changes in me and while I’m ashamed to a certain extent of how sceptical I used to be of Christians, I am proud to say that God has changed my heart and that redemption through Jesus Christ is for everyone. Jesus came that ALL may be saved, not just the ones we think are worthy.
If Eric hadn’t taken a chance on me and invested so much of his life and faith into me, I would not be a Christian today. He answered all of my questions, meant to shake his faith, with patience and love. And my college degree and righteous indignation could not stand up to the truth he was telling me.
If you are a Christian, think about it, you likely didn’t start going to church because you liked their sign or they had a cool sanctuary, you started going because someone took you, invited you, invested in you. Not that church is the only place you can meet Jesus, but if you’re a Christian and you’re not going, you’re missing out on so many amazing opportunities to grow.
An essential part of this though is that we can’t see people as projects. Sincerity is huge here, all people are valid and amazing with stories and pasts and opinions and struggles and strengths. It’s how God made us. Let’s not be the ones standing on the soapboxes, let’s be the ones serving and loving.
3. Stop making the pastors do our job!!
It’s pastor appreciation month, and I gotta say, I really appreciate the pastors at our church. I don’t think people always realize just how much burden these pastors carry. They do so, so much and worry constantly about the health and growth of the church, and are to blame when things aren’t going right. The Bible tells us that people called to ministry will carry a heavier burden, but that’s not to say that the congregation doesn’t have a responsibility in this. We do, and we are more and more expecting the pastors to do what we are supposed to be doing.
We blame our pastors for when the church stops growing. They really should update the building or have the worship team play more upbeat songs, or more hymns, they should do more community outreach events, or whatever. That will get people in here. Also, don’t expect me to volunteer.
No. Just no.
Christ called us all to be witnesses for Him once we accept His gift of grace. How we can keep quiet about it, I’m not sure, and I did it for a long time. We have experienced a life-altering gift of grace and we sit in church and shake our heads that the pastors aren’t doing more for the Kingdom. Let us never forget that we are the body of Christ, we are the church, we are imperfect and flawed and a disgrace to the cause sometimes, but it’s us who need to be focused on the outside world and how to reach it.
We know what we have is real, can we start acting like it, please? The pastors have enough on their plates, maybe we could ease their burden in that way and start doing our own job? Just a thought.
God asks for 10% of our income in the form of tithes. Why? He sure doesn’t need it. Maybe it’s to be a reminder to us that sacrifice is crucial because it is an extremely effective way to witness the hand of God providing. When we give 10% of our money, or more if that’s what you choose to do, you are showing God that you know that it’s not yours to begin with, and that you are a responsible steward of His blessings.
We need to give more than He needs us to give. What if we looked beyond money. What about our time? Our energy? Our resources? Our worship?
We expect churches to have service times that fit our schedule, to offer programs that will enrich our kids so we don’t have to, to not make us feel convicted so that we don’t have to give up our secret sin. Because we don’t see the value of sacrifice.
If we can just stop ourselves in our tracks, ask God for clarity through prayer and through His word, He will show us that we could always give more. And then we can bear good fruit. That’s what it’s about right?
**If I sound like just another Christian hypocrite, I assure you I am trying very hard to wiggle this plank out of my eye as I write this.
5. Get it right.
Please, please, please read your Bibles diligently and prayerfully. Please. So many of our issues come from not knowing what we are talking about. Yes, becoming a Christian does not require any Biblical knowledge, it just involves a moment of surrender, a true “yes” to God from the depths of our hearts.
But that’s just the beginning. We need to be able to react to persecution in a Christ-like way, but how do we know what that is unless we know what He says? He told us that those who love Him will follow His commands, do we know what those are?
It’s a process and a journey, one that requires diligence and discipline. And it is awesome and fulfilling, satisfying beyond what we could have imagined.
6. Serve people in a physical, intentional way!
Jesus did not just leave food at the doorsteps of the hungry, He sat and ate with them, shared Himself with them, and met their physical need in the process. Jesus is to be our ultimate role model for how to minister to people, so let’s read up on how He did it. He never accepted sin, but didn’t think twice about helping sinful people, like ourselves – without condemnation but with truth rooted in love. He was the epitome of selflessness, and it wasn’t until I began reading the gospel of John over and over again that I began to see the bigger picture of His life. It all started to make so much more sense.
A few weeks ago at our church, our choir sang this really beautiful and powerful song in which a part of it proclaims, “I want to be like Jesus! I want to be more like Him!” Yes!! Powerful words. But until we put them into action, that’s all they are.
Ok, sorry this is getting a little long, but we need to realize that while the world paints Christianity as an outdated belief system that brainwashes people into a life of closed-mindedness and self-righteousness, we know better. We know that it’s a chosen life that is way, way more difficult to maintain than having no belief system at all. It’s supposed to inspire selflessness and humility in followers. We must constantly be aware of our words and actions, as they reflect not only us, but our God and Christianity as a whole.
Trust me, I’m as bad as anyone else here! I’m not claiming to be any better, just trying to give suggestions for how to turn the tide. People need to see Jesus in us, they don’t need to see how great we think we are. Jesus told us that we are going to be recognized by the world as His disciples by how we love. By how we love. And I don’t buy into the love equals acceptance of sin bit, no way.
If we are professing Christians who are just as negative and selfish as anyone else, what are we really showing the world? If our first reaction to sin is condemnation, then we are missing the whole point. I just have a feeling that lukewarm Christianity won’t hold up for much longer, as everything gets more and more polarized. But maybe that’s good because we all know what Jesus said about lukewarm Christians, don’t we?
“What this world needs is not another sign-waving super-saint that’s better than you
Another ear-pleasing candy man afraid of the truth
Another prophet in an Armani suit…
What this world needs is for us to stop hiding behind our relevance
Blending in so well that people can’t see the difference
When it’s the difference that sets the world free”
Casting Crowns – “What This World Needs”