Tag Archives: Church Life and Growth

Changes Are Needed in Evangelism in America–Let Your Light So Shine Before Men

Linus’ buddy the little blonde girl may have had good results as an evangelist by hitting people over the head to get them to change their religious stance.  But in the current climate of religious change in our country; it is doubtful that hitting someone over the headwith your lunch box or even your version of the truth for that matter–will yield much fruit.

Preaching the gospel is getting far more difficult in our county where resistance to Christianity is spreading.  The old tactics of competitive evangelism –“my truth is better than your truth”– are simply not as effective as they once were. 

Many are calling for change in the predominant style of evangelism; a change that couples sharing gospel truths with demonstrations of Christ’s love and relationship in an impacting way.  In a post-modern America that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity–just arguing for our version of the truth is frightfully anemic.

America is no longer a Christian nation.

President Barack Obama recently stated at a press conference in Turkey that “as Americans we no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation.”  This quote was startling to many people but in reality it was just Obama giving voice to the inevitable trend that is showing up everywhere — Christianity is no longer as popular or influential as it once was.

Obama’s comment came as a reinforcement of a published cover article for Newsweek magazine. The article entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” discussed the shift in the religious identifications of the United States and claimed that according to polls done in recent years things look pretty dismal for Christianity. 

The article pointed out that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen over 10 percentage points since 2000, and meanwhile the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all has nearly doubled in the same amount of time.

While such statistics may seem jolting to some, Christianity’s slipping image is in actuality old news.  In 2007, in a book entitled unChristian, Barna group president David Kinnaman, began revealing statistics about the spiraling downward popularity of Christianity. 

His research showed that: a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society.  While today, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Kinnaman also illustrated that Christians seem aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of “the faith.”  Barna polls showing: that 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”  The author, Kinnaman writes,

“Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America.

Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth?

In order to deal with the vanishing common ground between Christians and those outside the faith, Kinnaman and many others such as John Piper, Mark Devers, Francis Chan and Rick Warren to name a few are all calling for changes in our evangelistic methodology.

What these best selling Christian authors are saying is that Christians need to begin to deal realistically with the pessimistic and skeptical views that those outside of Christian circles possess and that we need to take measures to change their view of Christians.

It seems to be a consensus that when we set out to evangelize in American society today, we must take into account the expanding hostile environment that surrounds us and have strategies to counter act the negativity. While it is true that none of us are perfect, our lives should lend credence to and speak well of the gospel we are preaching.  And our interactions with others should be the confirming echo of our witness for Jesus Christ.

 

It is taught throughout Scripture that our lives are meant to be God’s best advertisement in our community and that Christians corporately need to begin living that way.  Jesus Himself taught,

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

And the Apostle Paul reiterated the same emphasis on lifestyle and relational evangelism in the epistles.

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:14-15

 

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing when it is lived out and we as Christians need to take heed to that and begin to demonstrate it in the communities in which we live. Christian evangelism today needs to be a lot more about demonstrations of  Christian love, faith, relationship and the power of God to change lives and a lot less about correctness and aggressively assaulting the other guy’s truth before you have earned the right to speak.

 

We need to learn from the advice of the Apostle Paul who in the first century was also operating in a culture that was antagonistic and suspicious of Christianity.  David Kinnaman has pointed out and I agree that Paul’s exhortation to “live wisely among those who are not Christians’ and to ‘let your conversation be gracious and effective,” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) is perfect counsel to committed Christians in America today. 

 

Let’s put away our “I’ll hit you over the head with the truth” techniques of old and begin sharing the truth clothed in Christlike love, integrity and authenticity the way Jesus did and maybe then they will listen to our truth.

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Vision 2009 – A Vision for a Church God Can Grow

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In 2008 according to pollster George Barna it became evident that Christianity’s image is indeed slipping among the younger generation.  In an article entitled A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity” Barna speaks of the book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, and an accompanying study that revealed startling facts about the under thirty age group. 

 

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations at the same stage of life.  In fact, the investigation uncovered a steep negative downward spiral in young people’s overall attitude toward Christianity. 

 

A decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

 

To add to these findings it has also come to light that society is being far from subtle in their expression of hostility toward Christianity. Barna’s research shows that Christians are acutely aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of their faith: 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”

 

Taking facts like these into consideration it brings a serious tone to the topic of praying for new vision and life for “the Church” in 2009.  We need to be falling on our faces before God and asking for a transformed church that God can grow in the 21st century.  And in my opinion we must pray for breakthroughs in reaching an expanding unchurched generation of young people who are hostile to the Christian faith. 

 

It becomes helpful to think about the characteristics we need to pray to see demonstrated in the Church in order to see it become desirable.  We are not the first Christian generation to face a society that is hostile toward the Christian faith.  But in order to change minds and hearts about “our faith” we must demonstrate a “life of faith” that people will want to try and to be a part of.  Reflect with me on the type of Church that God engineered to reach the world for Christ in the first century.

 

 

A Reflection on the characteristics of a “Church God can grow” from Acts 2:42-47 NKJV.

 

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

 

 

1.         42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

It was a learning Church.

It was a fellowshipping Church

It was a praying Church.

 

 

2.         43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

 

It was a reverent Church full of respect for God and His ways.

It was a Church where God-things happened. 

 

If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God–more of God’s presence and power is bound to be demonstrated. More of God’s presence among us would occur if we had faith and believed that together—we and God could see supernatural things happen.

 

 

3.         44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

It was a sharing Church; these early Christians had an intense feeling of responsibility for each other and were willing to go to great lengths to care for the poor among them.

 

 

4.         46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,

 

It was a worshipping Church; they never forgot to visit God’s house.

 

Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people.

 

 

5.        and breaking bread from house to house,

           they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,

 

It was a happy Church; gladness was there and they were simple in heart they were easily satisfied and not preoccupied with what they did not have.

 

 

6.         47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

 

It was an attractive Church

filled with people others could not help liking.

 

The phrase having favor with all the people is also translated in other versions as “having the goodwill of all the people.”  In reference to the original language this phrase was written in it is important to realize that there are two Greek words for good. Agathos simply describes a thing as good but kalos (the term used here) means that a thing is not only good but looks good; it has a universal attractiveness about it.

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing. There are so many people who are good but their goodness is tainted by a streak of hardness or self-righteousness. The early Church was not only ethically good but also visibly good.

 

As we enter the New Year 2009, let’s pray that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ could once again be in all aspects a church that God can grow.  Pray especially for Crossroads Church of Denver that we could embody the characteristics of the early church identified in Acts 2:42-47.

 

Happy New Year,

Maryellen Stipe

 

Please feel free to add your comments and reflections regarding prayer and new vision for the Church (either the church-at-large or specifically Crossroads Church of Denver) in 2009.

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