I try not to post entire stories that I write in this space, but Gabe Lyons, author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … and Why it Matters, spoke the last couple days at the BGCT’s Youth Conclave for Youth Ministers. The story may provide some helpful information for this disucssion.
ARLINGTON – Logos and brand names elicit emotions and slogans. Whether it’s Nike’s swoosh or McDonalds’ arches, brands make quick impressions.
Christianity is no different, argues Gabe Lyons, author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … and Why it Matters. Except that the brand is turning off the unbelieving world.
During the Baptist General Convention of Texas-sponsored Youth Ministry Conclave Oct. 13-15, Lyons noted that the faith isn’t known for Christ’s love, but for stances against society at large.
An extensive survey of non-Christians ages 16-29 revealed 87 percent of them view Christians as judgmental, Lyons said. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed view Christians as hypocritical. Seventy-eight percent of younger non-Christians view believers as sheltered.
“Present-day Christianity is no longer as Jesus intended,” Lyons said.
The author noted that non-Christians’ opinions aren’t simply based on stereotypes. The majority of people surveyed indicated they have at least five Christian friends and have spent at least six months attending church at some point in their lives.
Christians must better reflect the caring, compassionate, restoring God they claim to follow if they’re going impact the world around them, Lyons said. Christ had a “unique ability” to meet people where they were. He could see the best in people and restore what was broken inside them. Lyons encouraged Christians to take a similar tact.
To do so, they must embrace the “entire gospel,” Lyons continued. They must see that God created each person in His image. They are created good, but then they become separated from God. God can redeem people, but it’s important to remember He also restores them.
Such a shift requires a shift in how Christians evaluate ministry. Quantitative data such as Bible study enrollment, professions of faith and baptisms is replaced by quantitative analysis where leaders ask if a ministry is allowing God to change lives. This type of thinking empowers people to share their stories of how God is working in them and through them.
“We have to get back to being like Christ,” Lyons said. “We have to get back to the basics.”
Lyons praised efforts like Texas Hope 2010, a BGCT initiative to attack the hunger issue in the state and share the gospel with every non-Christian in Texas. Large projects like that help Christians live out their faith in a way that non-Christians can understand.
“There’s something flawed when there are 3 million children in Texas who do not have enough to eat,” Lyons said. “As Christians, we should be about fixing that.”
When people live by the faith principles they claim to hold, other people respond to them, Lyons said. Faith becomes more than lip service, but something that continually shapes and impacts a person’s actions.
“When they see our actions demonstrate our beliefs … we have instant credibility.”