Does Christianity have an image problem?

July 26, 2007 at 1:21 pm 1 comment

I read an email from my friend Todd Pierce this morning where he said this about his mission and ours: …our Father has given us the honor to share this message, through word and deed, to hundreds of thousands of people.  This should be the heart of anyone who has tasted and seen that the Lord is good.  You just want to share it with as many people as you can get to. 

So my queston is, why is it that so many of us just don’t do it?

There are, of course multiple reasons, but I want to focus on this one; we are embarrassed by the name Christian or Christianity.  For so many people the word conjures up images of televangelists, stuffy churches, boring sermons, the Crusades, witch trials, political infighting, tawdry public behavior, excommunication and other not so attractive visions of the Christian faith.  Being a Christian is just not something we want to talk about.

This morning I read a lengthy review of a book with the title; Unchristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity. (David Kinnaman. To be published by Baker in October) The book begins with the comment that Christianity has an image problem and goes on to talk about the problems secular 20 and 30 somethings have with the faith many of my readers have embraced.  The list of complaints will not surprise we who call ourselves Christians: uptight, anti-homosexual, proselytistic, sheltered, politicized, judgmental, etc.

Obviously I have not read the whole book, but I found myself as I read the review, being defensive for the church.  If you have read much of this blog you might find that strange, as I have been quite critical of the church over the past few months. Christians do need to take this authors criticisms seriously, as we do the criticisms that come from all kinds of groups and people.  We do need to work on our image.  It is true that if Christians would act like their Leader we would be a whole not more attractive.

But the truth is the Christian church is a community of the graced (new word).  We are members of the brother/sisterhood of sinners, some, of the most embarrassing kind.  Jesus not only chose to die for sinners, He chose to allow His name to be associated with people who continue to sin, to fall short of His glory in multiple and regular ways.  For whatever reason He is “ok” with His followers making a mess of his brand/image, He is “ok” with imperfection.  That is the whole point of grace, is it not?

Being a Christian is to admit that I am sometimes an uptight, anti-a lot of groups and things, I don’t see myself as part of the whole Body of Christ and so think my way is right, I do shelter myself from the outside world, I am judgmental and unkind.  I am sometimes all the things the secular person things I am and while that is not right, it is why I so desperately need grace.

When we invite people to join us in following Jesus, take the name Christ-one, and associate with His church, we are inviting them into a horribly flawed, sinful church that for whatever reason, known only to Him, He loves.  To be a Christian is to associate yourself, not just with Jesus, or with the perfect church of your imagination, but also with a sadly dysfunctional church which is graciously and mercifully embraced, if not by us or by the secular world, at least by the One whose “image/brand” was not to polished when He walked this earth.

Todd’s call to us to share with as many people as we can, because we have seen how good it is, must be done within the reality that the church is flawed, we are failures, we are broken, we don’t always get it right, we are imperfect but we are a mercifully graced people who know what it is to be set free from having to present a culturally clean image and instead offer an image covered by the wonderful grace of Jesus.

Yes, I think the church has an image problem. But the image problem we have is not one of failing to measure up to the standard set by our Leader, it is in not humbly living out the major tenet of our faith-grace.


Entry filed under: Belief, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Institutional church, Jesus, The Father, Thoughts.

Lee Akin progress report. Six pastors and a counselor.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. amanda  |  July 26, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    you just summed up a lot of how i think many of my generation feel. we love Jesus and do want to share Him but it is so hard to do so in a non threatening, non-misunderstood way. for example how do you tell a homosexual friend of yours that you love them and therefore you want them to know the Father loves them when the minute you mention Jesus their back goes up and they blank you out because they think you are judging them or worse yet mislead by your “religion”. this is only one of many examples that i am sure we have all experienced. i love my Father and can only hope that when i speak His name other people see that He is the perfect one and not me. that He first and foremost loves them and wants the best for them and all of us

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