I have great optimism about the reputation of Christianity in the future. [Right now, the perceptions raised in the book Unchristian by David Kinnaman of what our emerging culture thinks of Christians and the church such as too hypocritical, judgmental, antihomosexual, only care about people being ‘saved,’ etc. are pretty embarrassing and sadly true*]. But the good news is that while people have negative perceptions of the church and Christians, they are open to and respect what they know of Jesus. This led me to write a book about this, where I conclude that people like Jesus but not the church.
So if over the next thirty years, Christians, and especially church leaders, escape the subculture that we have created, this could really change the climate of how we are viewed by those outside the church. In theory, it really shouldn’t be hard to do. Jesus followers need to simply be friends with those outside the church. It’s not too complicated – going to movies with them, caring for them as any friend would, having them over for dinner, being there for them, not just seeing them as evangelistic targets. So even if they stumble at the gospel, as many, of course, will, at least they won’t stumble at all the negative stereotypes and perceptions that have developed.
But it does mean that we do need to take the words of Jesus seriously when he said not to be separate from the world but to be in the world, protected from evil. I absolutely know we need Christian community, but we have swung the pendulum so far into Christian “community” that we now live in more of an isolated world. Our time is filled with Christian activities and busyness in the church, taking us away from building normal and healthy friendships with those in the world.
So the future could be quite positive if people experience that not all Christians are antihomosexual, judgmental, and sheltered. I envisioned Christians naturally befriending those outside the church, understanding their faith, being deeper thinkers theologically, and truly having answers for those who ask. My prayer and hope for the future is that church leaders will become missional leaders, which in turn will produce missional churches, and then the perceptions will be changed to positive as the Spirit of God uses our lives to be salt and light. So when a similar study is undertaken in thirty years, people will describe Christians as “loving, kind, family centred, caring for the poor, good examples, peaceful,” and the other fruits of the Spirit.
Pastor and Author
Quote from Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project (Baker Books, 2007) pg. 232-233
*Passage in the bracket on the first paragraph is mine
Original title as ‘Jesus’
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.