There are 4 reasons why perceptions matter.
1. What people think about us, influences how they respond to us.
Peoples attitudes and perceptions drive their actions. If their attitudes about Christianity are already negative, we are already at a disadvantage.
2. What people think about us, should help us be more objective.
We need to be more objective and transparent. When we go to church and hang out with Christians, we are seeing the faith through rose colored glasses. Outsiders are trying to tell us that we are not being honest with ourselves.
We are what we are, not what we tell people we are. People will not be swayed to embrace Christianity by our words, our multimedia services or our new coffee shop. They look at our daily actions.
3. What people think of Christians can change.
Attitudes and Perceptions can be changed. As the study in 1996 shows, Christians were seen highly favorable. By addressing the issues of outsiders and living more Christ like, we can again be seen as living examples of our faith.
4. What people think of Christians reflect personal stories and interactions.
This is the hard one to face, personal experiences from outsiders about being treated cruelly by Christians.
We live in the world, not of it. However, currently stating that you are a Christian in the world of outsiders, can attach to you personally unwarranted labels of Hypocritical, Judgmental and so forth simply because of the perceptions of outsiders.
Finally, Jesus was concerned about the reputation of his father in Heaven. Are you?
Your life, words and daily actions are living examples to others of what God is like. And they are watching. Just tonight, I was eating with my family in a restaurant and when the food was served, we all held hands and prayed before eating. A few minutes later, the 20-something waiter came up and commented on how awesome it was to see us praying in public as a family. He said that it rarely happens anymore.
If you are still not convinced that perceptions matter, I wish you could hear some of the stories shared by respondents to the surveys.
One single mother left the church after Christians told her she would never be an effective parent and she needed to find a man.
Another women now feels Christians have no compassion when she asked her fellow Christians what she should tell a gay friend. The Christians responded with something about burning in hell.
Another women frequently asked her womens group about how to handle marital problems. She was told she was being to liberal and needed to be more submissive. The following year, her husband who was the Men's Ministry leader, was charged with domestic violence charges against his wife and she has now left the church and her husband.
My own wife's grand father, tells his daughters that they are going to burn in hell for not going to a Lutheran Church. I told them to ask him where it says that in the Bible?
Are you starting to grasp the problem?
Millions of Generation X and Y adults are disengaging from churches and Christians because they say they do not want to be associated with the perceptions of Christianity. Not only that, but they are vocal about it. Go to your local bookstore and see how many books are on the bestseller list that are atheist attacks on Christianity.
Today, we are losing the spiritual battle with these Generations and it's our own fault.
It's time we woke up.