I believe the Church in our country is in for a pretty shocking wake up call in the next 10 years. And if we don’t ask ourselves why all this is happening, and do something about it, I believe we risk heading down a road of irrelevancy.
Fun Fact: If you are interested in seeing more statistics about trends in American religion right now, check out the work of the Barna Group and the Pew Research Center.
THE CREDIBILITY GAP
Because I believe that by talking openly about these issues, we can start to understand not just how to be more relevant, but what the next chapter of Grace Church might look like as we respond to the needs of a hurting world.
This series is not about pointing the finger. This series is about openly acknowledging that there is a credibility gap between us and those who need the love of Jesus. And it’s an acknowledgment that we have got to do better.
If we want to see the lives of those we care about transformed by the love of Christ, then we’ve got to be honest about what’s standing in their way. Even if it makes us uncomfortable.
Five perceptions of Christians today:
• Christians are hypocritical. They say they believe certain things but don’t live them.
• Christians are idolatrous. Now, they don’t use that word, but what they say is that Christians have misplaced allegiances. They give their lives not to Jesus but to idols like power, and wealth, fame, and cultural ideologies.
• Christians have harmful theology. Whether it’s escapist beliefs about the end times, or theologies which neglect large swaths of Scripture, or beliefs of a cruel, ruthless, judgmental God, they say what we believe is actually dangerous. 1 in 5 non-Christians today believe the Church is not just irrelevant, it’s actively damaging to society.
• Christians are judgmental. They condemn people, they exclude people, and they hold people they don’t agree with at arm’s length.
• Christians are dogmatic. They believe things without evidence, they don’t think rationally, and they’re unwilling to consider any other perspectives.
How to close the credibility gap:
• Redemptive Faith
DO WHAT IT SAYS
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.
James is talking about hypocrisy here. Believing one thing and doing something else. He says in verse 21 that God has planted his word in our hearts. But that we can’t just listen to that word. We have to actually do what it says.
James 1:26-2:4, 8-9
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?…
…Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law…
…What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Does that sound like a list of Bible rules to you? It doesn’t to me. It sounds like a way of living.
If we claim to follow Jesus, it can’t be just a label. It has to be a way of life. If Christ is planted in our hearts, our lives should reflect that!
None of us want our faith to be, as James says, “dead and useless.” So what do we do to bring it to life again?
Questions for prayer and self-reflection:
1. How have I acted out of selfishness or favoritism or a lack of compassion recently? And how can I make it right?
2. How have I ignored the needs of the suffering? And how can I act differently right now?
3. Since Christ is within me, what is one act of self-giving love I can take right now to show that faith is alive?