Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Cart Before the Horse

I am reading "unChristian" right now and it is a phenomenal book.  The premise is that many of the things we "Christians" do right now is actually rather un-Christian.  The writers have spent years researching and compiling their findings into this book to show how outsiders view the church and why we need to change.  We are viewed as sheltered, hypocritical, antihomosexual, and several other things.  They have many small sections in the book that have been written by many other pastors and Christian leaders and a theme seems to be popping up regularly, and I am encountering it in sermons on podcasts as well, and it is this:  We have put the cart before the horse too long in evangelism and it's time we turned it around.  

What they mean is that for a long time we have been asking people to make a decision as their first act, and then get to know Jesus.  We have emphasized the importance of the decision - with good reason, as we see the decision as being the point where they ask Jesus into their hearts, hence receiving salvation - and this is what most Christians are passionate about, saving people from an eternity in Hell.  But, if we take a look at where Christianity has led in the last 50 years, with that as the emphasis, has it been the right emphasis?  Many people make decisions and then fall by the wayside - they turn back to their old lifestyles, they stop going to church, they aren't brought into a small group or a church family where they can be discipled and loved.  Of course this is not the case in every situation, but there seems to be an overall lack of enthusiasm about Christ and it's coming from Christians.  Maybe it's because they decided to become one before they really knew Jesus.  

The premise of the writers I am referring to above would say that nonbelievers shouldn't make a snap decision, but that we as churches should invite them to come and be with us, and learn who God is and see what He's done in our lives first.  Then, they will be drawn to Him through us - they will learn who Jesus is and what He's done and they will see lives that have been changed and hear stories of restoration and grace and that's what they will be drawn to.  

Some would say, well that message is what we call the Gospel, and if it is preached one time, then they've heard it and can respond - what more is there to be done?  I don't have a comprehensive answer for that, and I'm not trying to say the old methods were wrong.  But there is a new generation out there, and they are a skeptical and cautious group that sees right through our masks.  If we call ourselves Christians, they are going to wait and evaluate that claim before deciding anything about us.  If we push them for a snap decision, it will push them away in many cases.  

We also need to get a lot more serious about discipleship.  If we have a bunch of people running around claiming to be Christians who, when questioned, can't explain what exactly they believe in or why, then we are presenting ourselves as blind and ignorant followers of something unknown to even ourselves.  C.S. Lewis said, "If you can't turn your faith into the vernacular, then either you don't understand it or you don't believe it."  

There are a lot of labels Christianity has on itself right now, many of them not good.  What are you doing to change that?

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