Going to a typical Christian bookstore is a bit of mixed experience for me. On the one hand, I get excited seeing new books and resources available for spiritual growth and ministry. On the other hand, I find myself frustrated at the goofy, the silly, the cliche, and the flat out weird which trivializes the Gospel.
However, the fact is that we live in a day in which we have incredible resources. Bibles in every shape and size and translation –often available with a swipe of the finger on our iPads. Books today are published at an incredible rate and we have access to more commentaries and Biblical scholarship than any previous generation.
By all accounts we should be the most Biblically literate, educated and effective Christians in history. And yet the Church in the west (US, Canada, Europe etc.) is in steep decline. Consider these statistics:
- Nearly 50% of Americans have no church home
- Each year 4000 churches close their doors, compared to just over 1000 new church starts
- 2.7 Million church members fall into inactivity
- The U.S. ranks 3rd behind China and India in terms of those who are not-professing Christians
- Half of all Churches in the U.S. have not added a new member in the last 2 years
So despite being perhaps the best, most thoroughly equipped people in history, we are not very effective. Why?
I believe there is a complex answer to that question, but I also think it can be distilled to a simple observation.
We don’t live it.
We talk it. We wear it. We put little fish stickers on our car. But our lives remain largely no different from those of our unbelieving neighbors. We foster our righteous indignation at a sinful world and we love to argue and chastise. The world knows well the things we are against. We have distilled the gospel and the Christian life to a series of positions that we hold and largely lost the attractiveness of the person we follow.
It seems to me that Christians were originally called “Christian” (literally, “Little Christs”) because of the lives they led. It was their lifestyle and dedication to their faith and the love they had for one another that attracted others to them.
The late Brennan Manning put it very well, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
May we answer the call to live the Gospel story better. It is a compelling and beautiful story and it is eminently attractive when followers of Jesus live it out. May we renew our commitment (and I include myself here) to living this story.