Saying You’re a Christian Doesn’t Make You One

Just because a mouse is in a cookie jar, doesn’t mean he’s a cookie.  

I don’t know where the saying came from.  My dad’s been saying it as long as I can remember and it’s how I approach my life.  Don’t call yourself an athlete if you don’t work out.  Don’t call yourself a cook if you microwave all your meals.   And don’t call yourself a Christian if you’re not going to live it.

I’ve been discouraged lately by the apparent lack of interest in church-based activities by individuals who call themselves “Christian’s”.  It’s made me wonder; is their claim to Christianity simply a means to identify themselves?  Is it a way to help them formulate ideas on how to vote and live a good life as a law abiding citizen?  Their Christianity is more of a political statement than a lifestyle.  They don’t want to call themselves and Atheist or Agnostic, because that would mean they would have to be liberal and have no morals right?

I wish that more people would take an approach to worship and Christianity the way they approach sports.  At the end of a long week at work, people are always willing to hang out, watch the game, take the kids to practice, go to little league tournaments, or spend hours practicing.  When was the last time you heard a little league parent say, “it’s been a long week.  We’re just going to sleep in today and skip practice.”  They never do it.  But every week Christian’s do the same thing about church.

Living a “Christian” life to me is more than not murdering, lying, or cheating on your spouse.  There are a lot of Muslims, Hindu’s, and Atheists who live life the exact same way.  Christian living includes that command of Jesus to love your neighbor and to make disciples.  Christianity includes active participation in Christian community and service to others. 

Last year I volunteered to work the World Vision Sponsorship booth at a Casting Crowns concert.  If you didn’t know, Casting Crowns is one of those Christian mega-bands usually selling out just about every venue they book.  They are all youth pastors from Atlanta and broke onto the Christian music scene with challenging lyrics about how the church fails people.  I was excited to get to help World Vision at the event and hopefully find people who were inspired by the bands example and take on the responsibility of saving a child from poverty.  What I found was at intermission, the merchandise table couldn’t sell t-shirts and CD’s fast enough while concert goers were doing their best to avoid eye contact with us at the World Vision table. 

More recently the fight against Christian apathy has hit closer to home.  My local church has taken on a month long, televised evangelistic series called “Revelation Today”.  The response from the community at large has been tremendous, with over 500 requests for Bible studies prior to the event even beginning.  Yet, as the event draws near, we don’t have the volunteers we need to make it happen.  There are over 3000 members among the local churches sponsoring the event, but we can’t get the 800 volunteers we need to help with parking, childcare, greeting, etc.  And it’s not just my church.  As I’ve talked with others, it seems every church in every denomination has the same problem. 

How did we get to this point?

Who’s fault is it?  Parents?  Pastors?  Youth Leaders?  Church Members? Family?

Is there anything anyone can do?

My wife and I have tried to jump in and help, working on recruiting others to volunteer.  But the response has been lukewarm and very discouraging.  The result is we want to walk away ourselves.   To turn our back as so many others have.  To take the response of “Someone else will do it” or “it’s not my problem”.  I don’t understand it. 

I can’t walk away and call myself a Christian anymore than I could say I care about my kids education yet skip parent/teacher conferences and don’t make them do their homework.  In a year where people are proudly wearing their political badges and engaging others against their will on every political topic, I would hope that Christian’s could find the same passion for living their faith beyond the polls and pews to truly make a difference in the world.

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3 thoughts on “Saying You’re a Christian Doesn’t Make You One

  1. Nice post here. As a fellow Christian and also a Pastor, I have to agree that “nominal Christianity” is a big problem in our culture. It seems strange when those who will name the name of Christ will not bear the fruit of a follower of Christ. Jesus told us that the fruit will show what the identity is (Luke 6:43-45). I am not sure that the total blame falls on one place. Sadly, in the United States, the church can easily become a business being about getting people to follow our programs and events. Another interesting thing is that where those who followed Christ were called “Chrisitans” by others (Acts 11:26). They didn’t call themselves Christians but let their life shine in a way that made others give them that title.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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  2. The idea of a church is indeed a Christ based group. He clearly wanted us to be together in a church setting lifting each other up and loving others in. But what if there’s more to it than lukewarm members? What if the direction of the meetings at hand or the church itself is less Christ centered than originally thought. The conference I work in recently put into place a similar style of meetings with Ron Clouzet on prophecy and Revelation. It’s a large scale meeting with at least 20 churches involved. The stipulations for these meetings were that 75% of your elders had to agree to host them and then the church would pay $1500 per member. In an 800 member church that would’ve been $12,000. We voted and not a single elder elected to host the meetings. It was beyond obvious that they didn’t agree that this type of meeting is the way evangelism is headed. Christ-Centered, relationship based teaching was the way of the now and of the future. It then struck me that it is nearly impossible to attract volunteers to something that their hearts are not in, and I find it difficult to see a broad range of peoples hearts in the type of meetings at hand. I honestly believe that this style of evangelism just isn’t hitting as close to home anymore. We’re in a similar state as 2000 years ago, we’re so ready for Heaven (Messiah) that we’re not willing to realize why he’s coming in the first place. LOVE. Sorry if I rambled.

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  3. I am a Christian, after having left for more than a couple of years, but I do not attend church. I choose instead to have my own personal counsel with God.

    I realise that this (at least it seems) is against your belief that everyone who is a Christian should be attending church, and participating with church activities. But what if church actually makes you not want to be a Christian?

    I chose to leave Christianity as a young child simply because of the church I attended, and others I have visited since then have not changed my mind about how destructive churches can be to someone’s faith.
    There are people who are of course welcoming to new members, but there seem to be many more who wish to keep their congregation very select, and ostracise those that don’t fit in. As a young child I witnessed a new member of our Girls Brigade who was my age, who was bullied and ostracised simply because she was Asian. Our entire Brigade was Caucasian, and here was an opportunity to reach out to other ethnicities in the community and make them feel much more welcome- but instead the majority of the existing congregation chose to do the opposite.

    If I found a church that was more welcoming rather than exclusive, that focussed on the Lord’s teachings rather than how many events can we fit in a year to make ourselves look good, then I would be happy to attend.

    It’s possible that the reason that your church cannot seem to get volunteers for the programs is because your members are not feeling inspired, or may not recognise areas that they have strength in. Maybe for an area like child-care you could approach the youth group (if you have one) and ask if they would like to help out- and then approach some adults that you have recognised to be good with children to help supervise the youth group members as they do this.
    If people don’t feel they have strength in an area then they aren’t going to feel inspired, maybe start with a smaller event and recruit a small group of consistent volunteers. Then go onto have a bigger event and that small group can help recruit some other people, and so on. I think it’s actually promising that so many people were interested in participating in the series you mentioned, so clearly there isn’t an apathy- or they would never have expressed interest in the first place.

    Lastly, it’s very easy to judge others for not doing what you believe they should be, but unless you are walking a day in their shoes you don’t know how they view themselves (they may say internally ‘oh I don’t know enough to help out’ or ‘I’m not good at that’), and you also don’t know how much time they actually have to give to events.
    it’s easy to judge if you are so easily inspired to volunteer, but please don’t judge and compare how much you do versus how much someone else does. Just because they aren’t volunteering in the projects you want them to, does not mean that they don’t serve their community in other ways that are just as meaningful.

    Faith is not a competition or a checklist, and I find that people who view it as such end up missing out on the true beauty that is a life led by Christ.

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