We are going to look at the 6 biggest themes that draw the most skepticism and
objections from outsiders.
2. Too Focused on Getting Converts
5. Too Political
6. Too Judgmental
We will also look at how we can change these perceptions and how to build bridges to reach these generations while not compromising our own faith and values.
I will also look at a concept I call the "Followers of the Way" or simply Followers. This is a reference to the early followers of Jesus and we will look at biblical examples of early church followers as opposed to modern day Christians and how we can return to an early form of Christianity.
This is not an effort to be more popular or to accommodate for outsiders but as a way to engage these generations and improve the image of Christianity.
Please understand that you may not agree with the research on the views of outsiders or my recommendations but you should also not ignore it. We have to deal with outsiders as they are, if we do not, it simply reinforces their criticisms and makes these perceptions more powerful because they go unanswered.
One of the common mistakes of these findings is blaming them on spiritual denial by outsiders. This is inaccurate however because most perceptions come from experiences with Christians or Churches. Remember, a majority of these people grew up Christian, went to church camps and participated spiritually weekly if not daily.
I personally work with a Christian home-schooled, evangelical girl now turned atheist lesbian and the son of a Baptist pastor who is now also an atheist. Both can quote scripture inside and out and both know their church history and will use it against Christians when confronted.
Remember, theology is not the problem. Outsiders claim the 2 main reasons for skepticism comes from personal experiences in a church and relationships with Christians.
What these findings tell me is that our words, actions and lifestyles play a key role in shaping the perceptions of outsiders. Which is a double edged sword because how we openly live our faith in front of others is often the deciding factor in shaping outsiders perceptions.
50 Million respondents to a Barna Survey claimed to have had a negative sometimes emotionally painful experience with a so-called Christian.
1 in 2 atheists in Generations X and Y claim this as a major reason for their rejection of Christianity.
Clearly, we are the problem.
Let me be very clear here in stating that re-shaping or softening the Bible is not in any way part of my strategy. But, re-shaping the way Christians interact with outsiders is very much part of my strategy.
Outsiders like to talk, debate and argue and Christians must accept this. Outsiders also state that Christians try to use these debates as openings to throw as many arguments at the outsider as possible to persuade them to follow Christianity. Outsiders stated they felt as if Christians were simply arguing to be right and not really listening to an outsiders genuine concerns. They also stated that Christians come off as arrogant or thinking they are morally superior than outsiders.
What also may shock you is the fact that many ACTIVE young Christians who participate in a church also raise the same criticisms as outsiders.
Generation X and Y Active Christians say that the modern church is:
Too Involved in Politics
Out of Touch with Reality
Insensitive to outsiders
But there is hope. These same young Christians are the very people working hard to repair these perceptions and change the church to bring it back to a favorable place with their peers. This, of course, is met with resistance by many "tradition" Christians, many young leaders and authors for change are often labeled as not biblically accurate or using biblical themes in incorrect context.
Jesus spent his entire ministry working with and preaching to sinners, not believers. I believe, That young Christians today need to try to emulate this example.
A few weeks ago, a young lesbian couple sat in front of me at Church. They were dressed very nicely, held hands and were obviously very tense about being in a church especially after all the recent emotions surrounding the political measures on gay marriage. During the time of greeting, I walked up to them, shook their hands and welcomed them saying that it was great to have them there.
Do I agree with their lifestyle? No.
But I am not the judge, I am trying to be the bridge builder.
We must accept outsiders as they are. After all, we are all fallen sinners. Our goal as Christians is to build bridges with the outsiders of the world and show them that there is an answer. The answer is a personal relationship with Jesus. However, each person must make this decision of their own free will. We cannot persuade, scare or pressure people into accepting Christ, they must make this decision on their own. We must set the example and show the outsiders why our relationship with Christ is life-changing and worthy to pursue.
We must openly live the faith we profess.