Sunday, May 19, 2013

Complaint! - Folks Inside the Church Just as Messed Up as Those Who Don't Go to Church

Church Should Provide Example to the World of How Christ Changes Lives - Or Is Church a Hospital for Sinners, so Expect Many to Still Be Messed Up.

Do you sometimes feel as though you have something all figured out, just to have something happen
to confuse your assumptions?  I would love to get your input on this subject as it is kind of a bone of contention on several levels. 

According to polling firm, The Barna Group, only evangelical, born again Christians showed a distinction from the general population in behaviors that would show evidence of their faith. 

Christian evangelicals are a small proportion of the national population, representing just 7% of the adult mass. However, they are the group whose faith is most clearly evident in their behavioral choices. The survey divided the population into five faith segments (evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, notional Christians, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and atheists/agnostics). Evangelicals emerged as the group most likely to do each of the following:
  • discuss spiritual matters with other people
  • volunteer at a church or non-profit organization
  • discuss political matters with other people
  • discuss moral issues and conditions with others
  • stop watching a television program because of its values or viewpoints
  • go out of their way to encourage or compliment someone
Evangelicals were also distinguished by being the segment least likely to engage in the following endeavors:
  • contact a political official
  • view pornographic media
  • read their horoscope
  • use tobacco products
There is a strong connection between the faith views and practices of evangelicals and their lifestyle. Evangelicals also emerged as the group most likely to attend church; pray to God; and read the Bible. By definition, they believe in the accuracy of the Bible, contend that they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others, claim that their religious faith is very important in their life, reject the idea that Jesus Christ sinned, describe God as the Creator who still rules the universe today, and believe that Satan is real. That body of beliefs - and the worldview it represents - has produced a distinct way of living in an increasingly postmodern culture - a lifestyle that is increasingly at odds with the accepted norms. 
So if the vast majority of "Christians" can't pass the test of having actions that testify to their being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, how can the church persuade others that a decision for Christ is going to be beneficial to them?

Eugene Peterson, author of "The Message," a modern version of the Bible, takes a slightly different point of view when do his introduction to the book of James:

When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business except, perhaps, business - and dishonest business at that.  Insiders see it differently.  Just as the hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church. 

So Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior.  They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. 

So, can we have this cake and eat it, too.  Can we have people calling themselves Christ followers who behave just like those who are atheists, members of other religions, or even anti-christ, and claim to be of value, actually creating significant change in the lives of our members. 

Earlier today I was listening to a radio pastor who I can't now recall, who said that the Bible represents the greatest tool for change of any concept in history.  So could it be that:
  • The high divorce rate has to do with one half of the couple changing and the other doesn't like the new Christian version?
  • Those who are still into porn are doing it less, more troubled by it, or working with wise counselors to overcome it?
  • Those who don't discuss spiritual matters with the other people are ... I can't think of anything here.  
So, it's your turn.  Help me out here.  

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Cheryl Haggard said...

My feeling is that if we try to hold all the people in a church to being the "perfect Christian," not only is that a lot of pressure, but leads to more disappointment when people inevitably fall. Also, I believe it leads to a lot more hidden sin, because of the pressure to be perfect. We can't be perfect...we aren't the church should be a place that acknowledges this and helps us when we fall. I do however think that the church should be full of people that try harder - at least make a goal of living to God's standards. Cheryl

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