Engaging Culture

It’s Time to Change the Perception of Christians

I was talking to Jonathan Bock last week and he had a great question:  How can Christians change their perception in the culture? For 2,000 years Christians have stuck out – mostly for the unusual things they did.  For instance, during the Roman empire when sons were more desired, wealthy Roman families would put unwanted baby girls on the city wall to die of exposure.

It was the Christians that took in those unwanted children, and the idea of orphanages was born.  When barbarians were sacking the empire and burning their way across Europe, it was Christian monks who hoarded and protected books and learning.  They eventually created the university system.   Some of the greatest scientists and artists throughout history were believers.

Throughout the years, Christians have done the things the rest of society wouldn’t do – care for lepers, the mentally handicapped, orphans – anyone the world despised.  They built colleges and hospitals.

But today, with some exceptions, it’s getting harder to tell Christians apart from the rest of the culture – based on the things we do.  Today, there are secular organizations that work in most areas of need, and especially during the last 50 years, believers have retreated into a “Christian bubble” and nearly stopped engaging the culture altogether.

So what’s the answer to Jon’s question? What should we be doing today?  And don’t just give me vague issues like “eliminate poverty.”  Give me specifics, and give me the things that would not only do good, but change the way the rest of the world looks at Christians…

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20 Comments

  1. I wish we could tell stories with texture. Like ‘Slumdog Millionare.’ Are there storytellers like this in the Chrsitian community? Why aren’t they connecting with the people who make film and TV? If it is fear, how can we help them overcome it?

  2. I think we have to live with distinctive "humble holiness." Demonstrate remarkable integrity with a loving smile rather than looking down our noses. Then, serve people's needs expecting no pay off in return – sometimes doing things without so much as the motive of collecting any contact information. And we have to avoid the extremes of selfish traditionalism and shallow coolness. These are just some quick things that jump to my mind. 

  3. Great article and discussion, am looking forward to the comments on this one.

     

    I personally think we Christians have become too 'political correct', we as Christians do not reform to society, we change society. We stand up for things like Jesus, anti abortion, beliefs on homosexuality and the list goes on and on.

     

    We cannot be afraid of what people think. The people who took in the orphans did not worry about what people saidand neither did the monks, scientists etc that are listed above. We've become too soft and week…

     

    In regards to poverity, you have to change the mindset, beliefs and ideology before poverty will be defeated. One perfect example is that in areas of India, rats are a religous icon and they eat, destroy and keep the tribes in poverity because they cannot touch or destroy the rats that ruin the crops.

  4. I think it begins with our actions matching our claims. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” – St. Francis of Assisi We have to show others through our actions. They MUST match. If we claim to follow Christ then we must do our best to be His example to others. I also think we need to stop being so politically correct and start getting back to truth. The lines of absolute truth are getting further and further distorted. Christians are all over the map on what they accept and don't accept as true in the Bible, there has to be more consistency. Pastors need to preach from the authority of the Word and not be so compelled, in some settings, to preach on what people WANT to hear versus what people NEED to hear. Bring back addressing issues that people are really struggling with (yes, SIN) and stop the constant prosperity preaching "Accept Jesus and here's what he'll do for you…" We know Jesus will do amazing things for us but there is also a massive element of discipline and obedience on our end that seems to get left out of the conversation a lot. Obedience and discipline have been an overall missing theme in our culture for years (hence the current financial crisis, Greed, etc.) Having said all that… I do think we are entering a new era. I see tons of pastors and churches moving back to a Simple Church model. I see many church leaders preaching on truth and topics that help people change. I see the Holy Spirit moving in people's lives and moving them from head knowledge to heart change. 

  5. As an emerging artist in the content creation arena, I feel strongly that Christians should be creating excellent content that contributes to the current cultural conversation; but that's probably because it's my calling.  

    I think Christians need to excel in their respective fields.  Content creators should excel.  Scientists should excel.  Educators should excel. Businessmen and women should excel.  Janitors should excel.  Farmers should excel.  We should take the talents that God has given us and sow them as seed in the fertile soil of obedience.  What God has given us to do, we must do and do as well as we can as unto the Lord.  We must be obedient.  If we are obedient to our individual callings, a collective change is possible.  The unique and unusual historical occurances such as university systems and orphanage origins happened because individuals were obedient. If we come up with ideas for "all of Christendom" to employ, we may risk forcing or coercing many who have alternate callings off their course.  The only general change I would suggest is to love more, have more grace and mercy, learn to hear His voice, and be obedient.

  6. I believe we have to go back to being people-focused instead of focused so much on our success or the progress of our ministries. So many ministries, or individuals trying to reach out, are thriving by doing so many things. The traffic, attendance, or even finances could be going along smoothly. But deep down the true relationship is not there. There's a shallow feeling with relationships these days, and the internet doesn't help. When discussions like these take place it sure does. Thanks Phil!

  7. I think gilliebean is onto something – talking about Christians excelling in their respective callings.

    God gave Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah keen minds pertaining to knowledge and skill in literature and philosophy. Daniel and his friends then applied this ability to their learning, and were found many times wiser than their contemporaries. As they went forward (in a society where they were held captive), they combined their intellect and learning with good, old-fashion hard work. And this combination made them stand out in their work AND put them in a place where they were able to positively impact the lives of the society in which they lived.

    We can learn a lot from their example – trusting/relying on God + intellect + learning + skill + excellence in work + helping others = IMPACTING THE CULTURE.

    Allen Paul Weaver III

    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

    http://www.APW3.com

  8. So combined with Gilliebean & Gabe Taviano, the good equation to have in any form of organisation that involves working with and for people, it would be:

    good relationship skills (within & outside of Church) + excellence in work (regardless of the field) = ?

    By the way I like your equation Aweaver3.

  9. I agree with gilliebean, gabe and aweaver 3.  I have been thinking about this very issue.  My questioning has been following this particular line of thought: If I have been created by God as a unique, one-of-a-kind creation, with certain aptitudes, interest and skills, a place or position to serve in now while God transforms me into the image of Jesus, then what happens when I cross over from death into eternity?  

     

    I believe that the one who God created (me) will not change, I will be the same person, with a resurrected body, but the same person.  That means that all of the unique qualities that God built into my spiritual DNA would only be enhanced.  So, those unique qualities, gifts, will be used by him in his kingdom.  He will take all that he created me to be and transformed into his image, then place me in whatever role he wants me in.  To me that means he is using, transforming all that I am today, especially those areas that cause me to have a sense of "abundant life" when I exercise them.  It is those areas of interest, passion and aptitude that I have, which he will use in eternity.  With that in mind, I need to find those areas that cause rivers of living water to run out of me, and walk in that river of life.  

     

    I honor God when I understand and live my life, expressing his love, through the ways that he has uniquely gifted me.  I have spent many years trying to live a Christian Stereotype existence, rather than being the unique and authentic person that he has created me to be.  My gift to the body of Christ and society is to be that unique, authentic person.  Not a poor imitation of someone else.  I will rule and reign with Jesus as the unique person he created me to be before the foundation of the world.  

  10. I agree with gilliebean and Nathaniel in that God has created us each with unique temperaments, gifts, and talents. All too often we feel ill equipped for the tasks God asks of us forgetting that he equips us for these challenges. We allow His still, small voice of His Holy Spirit to be muffled by the shouts of society telling us we’re not good enough. Good enough for whose standards? If we believe, digest, absorb, and live Psalm 139 confidently, we can conquer fear that distorts our thinking. After all, it is God Who works through our obedience Who accomplishes His mission with our cooperation ("All things are possible through Christ Who strengthens us." Ph. 4:13).

    Gabe, you’re right. In this web-based society we live in, we exclude generations of people who have no access to this mode of communication and long for personal compassion. Sometimes it’s just our quiet presence that soothes. How are we to reach the aged and lost if we are hiding behind walls of indifference & fear? We need to get out of God’s way and allow His grace to flow through us. As Mother Teresa said, "we are pencils in His hand, & do no great things; only small things with great love." Perhaps this is what He was trying to show us in sending His Son, Jesus, as an infant Who could only be loved into being; that we need to crawl, walk, and run one step at a time…one loving act of random kindness at a time (ARK).

    http://www.LiveWellLoveMuchLaughOften.org

  11. I think we can be proud of the Christians who have pioneered very positive good in our society.
    We’ve sown the seeds and Western culture has reaped the reward.

    The best thing we can do now is be counter cultural and humble before God in our personal lives. Because the culture needs a Christlike witness. People are looking out for a Christlike people who are totally different from society. Christians, as we’re being attacked in this secular society, need to respond with grace and humility as well as honesty and firmness. Its a hard balance to achieve.

    Here’s a nice site that encourages us to rejoice over our Christian past:

    http://christiangoodinsociety.blogspot.com/

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