Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No Wonder Evangelical Christians Are Irrelevant to The Present Culture

This past Sunday a question was asked, how do you share the message of Jesus Christ with others?  The answers were the standard replies.  “They will know we are Christians by the way we live.”  “My life with Christ is personal.”  “I don’t feel we can be direct with individuals we are not acquainted with.”   These are all “correct” answers but they fail to answer the real question.  Are we really sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?   Are we really trying to convince the world that Christianity is right?  There are so many reasons we are not getting the message of the Gospel to the non-believers.  We are apologetic, indifferent, irrational, ignorant, cowards and know-it-alls, no wonder the message of the Gospel has been rejected, and ridiculed as irrelevant to the present culture.

If I were standing outside the boundaries of the evangelical church, I would ask why do you try to convince me that you are right and then apologize if you have offended me.  We are commanded to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  The problem is we are afraid that we might offend someone for what we believe so we have no strong presence in our culture.  We should NEVER apologize for the TRUTH. 

Among those who are faithful in their witness for Jesus Christ there is a larger group who are actually indifferent to the message of Jesus Christ.  Too many Christians don't seem to care that Christianity is routinely ridiculed as outdated, irrational, and narrow-minded. These same indifferent Christians may complain in a Sunday school class or a Bible study that they are “offended" but they do little to counteract the charges by offering a defense of the Christian message. We should have the same attitude the Apostle Paul had who was "greatly distressed" when he saw the idolatry of Athens. Did he apologize for the TRUTH? No! Was he indifferent to the message of Jesus Christ? No!  He engaged them with the TRUTH without being ashamed of the Gospel.

I spent twenty-eight years teaching in public education.  Often I would have students who would take the name of the Lord in vain.  Since it was a public school and religion was considered taboo and most Christians were afraid to complain about the name of Jesus and God being used in vain, I became proactive.  When a student would use the name of Jesus Christ in a disrespectful manner, I would inform him, I am a Christian and that I was offended.  I would then ask him, why he was  disrespecting my God and not the name of Buddha, Allah, or Zeus?  The result, students stopped using the name of Jesus in vain.  In fact, some apologized for their language.  Others agreed that they should not discriminate against my God and Savior. There is no need to be indifferent or apologize for the message of the Gospel.  We might be surprised at the number of non-Christians that actually agree with us on many of the points of our message.

Other evangelical Christians deny the possibilities of reason and feel their faith means belief in the absence of evidence and argument.  This is where the “traditions of men” come into play.  “We have always taught this or believed this way.”  Why?  “Because this is what the church teaches.”  The more irrational our beliefs, the better--the more "spiritual" they are. No wonder we come across as fanatics and uneducated.  The actions of some Christians give creditability to such accusations. We need to become more knowledgeable about our belief in Jesus Christ.  We need to stop admiring ignorance and stop accepting the opinions of those who are ignorant of the accurate message of the Gospel.

Ignorance is often mistaken among Christians for humility.  We should not be proud of our ignorance when we are called to defend the message of the Gospel.  One lesson I have learned over the years as an educator, is the tremendous intellectual resources available to defend "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3) As Christians we are deficient in our ability to defend the message of the Gospel.   Ministers are more concerned about the touchy-feely message than addressing the evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, the atonement and the plan of salvation.  Is it because they are cowards?

Too many evangelicals are more concerned about being "nice" and "tolerant" than being biblical or faithful to the exclusive Gospel found in their Bibles. Where are the evangelicals willing to present and defend their faith in challenging situations, whether at school, at work, or in other public setting? The temptation is to privatize faith, to insulate and isolate it from public life entirely. Yes, we are Christians, but we have difficulty engaging anyone with what we believe and why we believe it. This is nothing less than cowardice and a betrayal of what we say we believe.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ is personal but our message is to “whosoever will”.  Our commission requires us to be able to engage people in an intellectual discussion.  Even then, we will experience rejection, we will be insulted and misunderstood but we are to engage the non-believer. We must never forget that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and that he has commissioned us to declare and defend his Gospel. 

The opposite of the coward is the arrogant know-it-all who is only interested in looking superior.  Among evangelicals this often is the minister who is more interested in looking authoritative, being dogmatic, and uncompromising than defending the truth in a godly manner. The besetting sin of these know-it-all Christians is intellectual pride--- the Truth we defend is a gift of grace, not our intellectual achievement. The time of harsh self-righteous and judgmental defense is no longer going to win the non-believer. We must "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). Truth without love is arrogance; love without Truth is sentimentality.

So, how are you sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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