Summary: This message looks at eight characteristics we often find in holiness culture and then contrasts them with the characteristics of an authentic holy life.
Holiness: A Culture or a Lifestyle?
Christianity has an image problem in America today. Many, who are outside the church, are convinced that lifestyle does not line up with beliefs for the average churchgoer. As a result, Christians have acquired a hypocritical image.
The perception of those who are outside the church is that there is very little difference between believers and the world. Most of us have heard someone say, “the church is full of hypocrites” or “I’m just as good as they are even though I don’t go to church every Sunday so why should I bother?”
These are the perceptions of the world. And while some might be tempted to blow them off, there are at least Four Reasons Why We Should Try To Understand People’s Reactions to Christianity and the Church:
1. What people think reflects their personal stories.
People outside the church have a story.
There are thousands and thousands of what we might call de-churched people in America. The de-churched are those who have been active, regular attenders in a Bible teaching church someplace, at some point, but are now disconnected. Their disconnect might have lasted anywhere from a few months to several years.
They are different than the unchurched, who have never been on the inside. The de-churched have been in the church, or in the faith (which is not necessarily the same thing), but have chosen to walk away.
I am convinced that there are literally hundreds of people who fit that description within a 30 minute radius of this sanctuary. I have no doubt that many of you know people who fit this description. I believe we need to try to understand what happened. We need to hear their stories.
I am not talking about the person who chose to go to another church. This is not about the person who left over music preferences or the color of the carpet. I am talking about sincere people who have checked out because they felt the standards were too high and they could never measure up, or because they saw some kind of inconsistency in the church that caused them to question the validity of the message that they heard, or any one of a hundred other reasons.
What people think is a reflection of their story.
Another reason we need to understand people’s reaction to Christianity…
2. What people think will influence how they respond.
People will choose to accept or reject Christianity, attend or avoid churches, because of their perceptions about the church collectively and Christians individually. Their perceptions are often based on specific experiences they have had in the church. But sometimes they have never been in the church. Even so, they still have perceptions.
If your friend perceives the church as judgmental, boring, insincere, arrogant, or irrelevant, why would they want anything to do with it? You don’t have to agree with their perceptions, but you need to understand them.
I am concerned that far too many churches and many individual Christians are sending the entirely wrong message. Our message is basically, “come to Christ on our terms or go to hell.” We would never say that, but that’s the message we are sending. What’s interesting is the fact that we work hard to understand international cultures where missionaries are sent, but we do a miserable job of dissecting and understanding the culture right where we live.
Whether we will admit it or not, the message we send is that we are rather apathetic when it comes to those who are currently beyond the four walls of the church. There’s a problem when we decide that we are more comfortable with OUR preferences and OUR traditions than we are in finding new and creative ways to reach our world for Christ.
It is so troubling to me when companies Nike, American Eagle, and Aeropostale are more interested and involved in reaching and understanding our kids than we are. These companies want to understand this generation because they intend to reach them. Every church and every parent needs to understand what is taking place.
Don’t you think parents should care more about their own kids than MTV does? MTV knows what your kids are listening to. They know what makes them tick. Do you?
This message needs to be heard in the church. We need to find out what the world thinks, how they think, and why they think the things that they do.
3. People don’t change their perceptions just because we disagree with them.
We need to take an honest look in the mirror. Who are we? And the big question will be, can we be transparent and honest about who we are and who we have been? Our answer to these questions will have a huge impact on who we become.