Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bridging the Gap

In my February 28th article, "It's the End of the World...Again", I discussed why modern eschatology (speculation over "end times") pushes non-believers away from pursuing Christianity and how the church scarcely even realizes that she is her own worst enemy in recruitment.

It is my intention today to highlight ways to bring Christianity into the forefront of your life and make it attractive to those who otherwise would reject it as boring and ineffective.  Remember, we can sit back at home and complain non-stop about how things aren't going our way, how the nation is becoming too secular, and how people walk all over Christianity, but nothing will improve until we work to reform the individuals around us and in our communities.  After all, our nation is made up of those people.

"Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."- James 1:23-24

Liberalism and secularism are enemies of Christianity.  For the purpose of an example, let's use a generic American city that would have been considered conservative in 1942.  Liberal movements from the sixties began to influence the city, and by the time the large-scale government safety net swept over the area, liberalism and government dependance were at an all-time high.  We can see this in many large American cities, where practitioners of political correctness have silenced many Christian outlets by branding them as "bigots" for simply promoting and encouraging traditional values and general morality.  As angry as it makes us to hear those things, we have no choice but to reach "across the aisle" and begin reconciling lost relationships.  "Tending our own gardens" won't accomplish anything.  Today's cultural divide is vast and cannot be bridged unless we promote three critical concepts: the appeal of Christianity, acceptance of those who call us "bigots", and a positive worldview.

We've all heard people say, "Christianity just didn't work for me", as if it were something to be fished out of a medicine cabinet and tested for effect.  Any true Christian understands that accepting Christ doesn't mean that you're going to be instantly rich or permanently free of worldly troubles, but I've seen many people grow cold toward the faith in the face of death, disease, and financial disarray.  It is of utmost importance that we highlight the inherent value of Christianity while remaining honest and affirming the imperfection of not only modern adherents to the faith, but also the shortcomings of nearly every single figure of Christianity.

The Bible teaches us lessons in parenting, choosing leaders, financial wisdom, discipline, courage, faith, vision, hope, love, sacrifice, perseverance, and many other critical aspects of our Earthly lives that appeal to secularists and Christians alike.  The Scriptures are a message of abundant life, not one of oppression. In them, we find room to dream, confidence that we were created by the Master's own touch, and courage to stand back up from our failures.  These are the lessons of hope that must be imparted on a society that searches constantly for fulfillment in everything but God.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."- John 3:17

Second, we must practice acceptance of those whom we tend to condemn.  This does not mean that we must condone actions and lifestyles forbidden by the faith, but we are to accept our fellow man in the same way that Christ accepts us.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us."- Romans 5:8

I am as guilty as anyone for judging and despising those who defy Christianity with their lifestyles and demonize its adherents with their tongues.  I believe I picked up those bad habits in conservative southern "hellfire and brimstone" churches where the congregation tends to be so zealous for righteousness that they can't stop hatred of sin from growing to a hatred of sinners; however, it is true- secular America is turned away from Christianity in the most part not by what we believe, but by hypocrisy within the church.

Take this example from a text message conversation I had with a secular friend this week:


Me: "One of the groups I am most upset with is my own Christian church.  All this basking in negativity and not moving forward with positive outreach has killed a lot of otherwise positive influence."

Him: "That's what bothers me about most churches.  They are against gays and abortions and preach that.  But no one seems to care about acceptance or helping others."

Me: "Exactly my point.  The outward projection is unwelcoming.  I would help a gay man at my door as much as I would help a Tea Party man.  The focus is best put on putting emphasis on your ideas and why (they are good) instead of targeting people.  The case for traditional values can be made in that sense without giving the impression of outright hatred."

Him: "I know.  I think this is one of the major reasons why young people are turning away from the church."


My friend probably has a different idea of the word "acceptance", but the point is clear: these types of individuals, people in need, find churches unwelcoming because the people come across as hateful.  What's the solution?  The solution is in outreach.

" by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."- James 2:17

Outreach doesn't necessarily confine itself to handing out soccer balls in Nicaragua.  Outreach can be anything that you invest your time and energy in for positive purposes.  My wife and I have friends over for poker nights and talk about life and faith and many other things over beers, football, and casino chips.  We've hosted Thanksgiving dinner for our single friends.  We have friends that cook meals for couples that have recently had a child and are exhausted from all of the related events.  Find a way to come across as welcoming to people who aren't as acceptable within your circle of friends and you may see a positive difference in the way your faith is viewed.

Finally, Christians must do a better job of exhibiting positive attitudes in regard to world events and the status of our nation.  No one likes to emulate failure, so why would anyone want to practice a faith that doesn't even offer hope to its own adherents?  I believe Christians are not merely along for the ride, but that we are to write the meaningful pages of history.  If you believe that failure is the only option for America, then you lack vision and need to refer to the writings of Paul:

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever..."- Ephesians 3:20-21

or Luke:

"...'What is impossible with man is possible with God'."- Luke 18:27

As we approach elections, we are reminded again that our people are looking for solutions.  They want a better economy, a better future, honest leaders, and vary in their desires for social change (or lack thereof).  All of these needs stem from perceived problems, so what has been the solution of many in the church over the past few decades?  The Rapture!  Of course, how convenient- we can just ride out the problems instead of using the providence of God to advance his kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven, as we have been commanded!

When people realize that Christians can provide real-life solutions based on Scripture that have measurable results on all of society for the good, much of the world will turn to the faith and apply its tenets to everyday life.  The resulting social change will better the America (and the world) that our children and their children will inherit long after we are gone.  The only thing is, these things won't happen by themselves.  It takes a change in attitude for all of us.

"'...let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'"- Matthew 5:16

1 comment: