Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Measuring Success - Stand Up FOR Something Good

Metric #5: Publicizing What We Are Against vs. Promoting What We Are FOR
Recent surveys indicate that the number one description that non-Christians use to describe the church is "anti-gay." "Judgmental" and "hypocritical" were high on the list, as well. Is this alarming, concerning, even disgusting, to anyone else? Why in the world would followers of Jesus want to be primarily known as anti-anything?!? That is the best we can do? To come across to people like we are against them when our Guide is for all people?!

Not long ago, I asked some high school students from a Christian organization to come speak to a group of middle school students. Each high school teenager was asked to simply give a short “testimony” of what their life is like with Christ in it. One by one, they stood at the front of the room and commented on the challenges of high school life as a Christian because they don’t party, drink, do drugs, have sex, etc. Not meaning to embarrass them, I followed up with this question: I respect all the things you don’t do as a Christian, but can any of you tell these younger students what you feel like Jesus has told you to do? In other words, what is something you stand for or try to promote as a result of following Jesus? An awkward silence  followed as they quickly glanced at one another. Please don’t take my observation as a slam on these students. On the contrary, I believe they were just “following orders” and doing what “any good Christian” would.
Too many times, churches will get labeled (often rightly so) because of what they are against rather than what they are for. Many people perceive Christianity only as a religion with a bunch of rules and "don'ts." Unfortunately, the Christian church in America gets a reputation for being restrictive and oppressive. Often, churchgoers seem oblivious to how this attitude comes across to the rest of the world, or worse, they take pride in it.
I believe the Bible emphasizes the things that followers of Christ DO and ARE and HAVE, as well. The Christian faith is more accurately identified with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is more correctly associated with experiencing freedom because of the truth and the Spirit, and finding wholeness and peace in all avenues of life, and the renewal of the mind. These are all positive, life-giving aspects that Jesus makes possible to all people. These should be the main points of our message to the world. Furthermore, the Christian faith is best evidenced by action - serving, helping, caring - that promotes social justice and righteousness.
Isn’t our foundational belief that the Kingdom of God brings an entirely new reality to the life of a Christ-follower? As the Bible teaches, the veil has been removed by Christ so that we can now reflect God's glory. Through Jesus, we enter into existence that sees life differently. The last can now be first. The weak can now be strong. The poor can now be rich. The least can now be the greatest. Everything that devalues a person is turned on its head. The new life that Jesus makes possible is radical and unmistakable!
Simple churches, and individual Christians, may need to take time to reflect on the legacy they want to leave. Rather than wasting time causing divisiveness by only concentrating on what we stand against, there must be devotion to what we stand FOR. After all, let's remember that the gospel is the good news, not bad news!
I challenge anyone to make a list of the things that you are for. I may even accept my own challenge and share my list in my next post.

What would changing the scorecard in regard to this measure look like in your life?
Can you imagine the implications of training up young people to be DO-ers of the Word rather than focusing on a long list of DON’Ts?

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