This is the fifth and final installment of my “Misconceptions About Christians” series for the Orange County Record.
If you missed the previous four, you can find them below.
- Misconceptions about Christians: Part I
- Misconceptions about Christians: Part II
- Misconceptions about Christians: Part III
- Misconceptions about Christians: Part IV
My last four articles have looked at four prominent misconceptions about Christians. So far I have discussed the misconceptions: that being a Christian one must read the Bible literally, that being a Christian means you have to go to “church”, that TV ministers/evangelist are representative of all Christianity and being a Christian means you have to support the Republican Party. While of course this list is not exhaustive, I believe I touched on some of the ‘power players.’
The purpose of this series was to show a different side of Christianity, to show that Christianity does not have to be what is commonly construed in the media. Like I stated in my first article, the ‘Achilles heel’ of Christianity is Christians themselves. Now more than ever people are leaving the faith faster than people are coming into it. Is it because of what Jesus has to say about loving your neighbor or taking care of people in need? No, it’s because they are not seeing the Jesus Christ found in the pages of the New Testament in the lives of his followers.
Because of this, people have left or misunderstood the faith that I hold so dear. By showing that those with the loudest, most in your face view of Christianity do not hold a monopoly on God should be freeing.
That’s right—freeing, a weight lifted off your shoulders.
Imagine the Christian faith where differences with regards to the Bible were accepted and even sought out. Imagine the Christian faith that focused more on relationships than bodies in pews. Imagine the Christian faith that focused more on ‘lives touched’ than ‘souls saved.’ Imagine the Christian faith that accepted people who dress differently than in their ‘Sunday bests’, a Christian faith that did not focus too much time and attention on one group of people. Imagine what the world would look like if people who proclaimed to follow Christ tried to make Heaven here on earth.
This and so much more is right within the grasp of the modern church; it is going to take openness, acceptance and grace, just like what was extended to each and every person in the entire world.
God is bigger than any one denomination, belief system or theology. As we change and grow so does our understanding of faith, Jesus Christ and grace.
While I have enjoyed writing them and I hope you have enjoyed reading them, it all comes to down to one question: So, now what?
Maybe you have seen the bumper sticker that reads “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” People are doing this everyday in a variety of ways. Sure churches are doing mission work all over the world but if the image that is projected of church is one that congregants are a church going Bible literalist who believe you have to vote in the Republican primary and quote Charles Stanley to be one of the elect of God, then why would anyone who believes differently want to be part of that movement?
Change is what has to happen for the church and the message of Christ to relevant. Too often Christians sit in their sanctuaries or committee meetings and complain about how no one is interested in the church. Often the conversation goes to some reason outside of the church that is root cause of this problem. Seldom the answer that is given is the church itself which has to change instead of world changing to church’s needs. This is where the perception that the church as an intuition is inflexible and antiquated comes from.
It doesn’t have to be this way. However the answer or the solution to the problem has yet to be found. There is no quick-fix, there is no magic potion. But something must be done and by at least lifting the notion that there are some misconceptions about Christians, hopefully this will get the conversation stated. For the church to survive it will take all of us coming to together to be the change in the world and to be the church of God loving and accepting one another as flawed human beings.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.