Annoying Christians

A recent survey has findings that provide a much-needed slap in the face to me and other Christians. I read of the survey, which was conducted by LifeWay, the research department of the Southern Baptist Church in an article in USA Today.

The survey was conducted among U.S. adults who are “unchurched,” a term they define as someone who has not been to a church, synagogue, or mosque in the last six months.

Check this out —

72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.”

Indeed, 44% agree with the statement “Christians get on my nerves.”

You might be surprised to know that one these negative reactions to the church doesn’t bother me so much. I have no problem with people saying the church is full of hypocrites, because one, that’s true (realizing that most people confuse imperfection with hypocrisy) and two, I can’t think of a better place for hypocrites to be than in church.

The statement that slaps me is that which indicates that a whole lot of people find Christians annoying. More than ever I want to be focused on what Jesus said was most important — loving God and loving people.

May God forgive me for the times when I have made church into a organized religion machine rather than as a refuge for the hurting, a healing center for sinners, a safe place for open and honest fellowship, a hub of vibrant worship, and an outpost of loving interaction with the community. May God help me learn from those who find me and my Christian family annoying.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Tiny Church Racks Up Victories

Abilene Christian University had their 90th Annual Bible Lectureship this week. My children, who both attend ACU’s Graduate School of Theology, both called me this week to gush about some of the great messages they heard in both keynote sessions and classes.

My son Keith called right after he left a class taught by a minister from Dallas named Ken Greene. He had been touched by the story of one church doing whatever they could to bring about justice in their community.

The next day The Abilene Reporter-News reported on the class, printing an article entitled, Tiny Church Racks Up Victories.

The work of this congregation in seeking justice for the community (a topic straight out of the Old Testament prophets) is such an inspiration. I don’t see how you can read about what they did without asking “What can I do right where I am?”

I hope you have time to read the article I have linked above.

Missionary Dating

I recently read A Match Made on Earth When Christians date outside the fold by Naomi Schaefer Riley from The Opinion Journal from The Wall Street Journal editorial pages. The thought provoking piece discusses some of the dynamics involved when Christians date non-Christians.

Click the link above to read the article which begins with this memorable Seinfeld reference.

In an episode of “Seinfeld” that lays bare the characters’ secular sensibilities, Elaine is shocked to learn that her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Puddy, is a believing Christian. “So is it a problem that I’m not really religious?” she asks him upon realizing their differing worldviews. “Not for me,” he answers. “I’m not the one going to hell.” Though Elaine herself acknowledges that she doesn’t believe in an afterlife, she becomes increasingly angry with Puddy for not caring more about her eternal damnation. Finally, she explodes: “You should be trying to save me!”

Impact of Christian Professors

A recent article in The Abilene Reporter-News featured interviews with professors from Abilene’s three universities about their spiritual preparations for teaching (all three schools have church ties). All three professors had something worthwhile to say, but I especially appreciated the comments made by the Abilene Christian University professor. You can read the entire article here.

Here is the section from the ACU professor —

Dr. Nancy Shankle, chair of the department of English, Abilene Christian University

I believe the professors at a Christian university must be strong in their faith, so they can mentor and guide younger Christians. So, I work to stay grounded in my faith, and I use the summer to rest and rebuild physically and spiritually in preparation for the semester. But I don’t do anything specific to prepare for class other than pray for my students.
Once the semester starts, I have a class prayer journal and I pray for my students and their individual needs. I pass the prayer journal around the room, and students write their prayer requests in it. It has become a great way to connect to students and their spiritual needs.

Both of my children graduated from Abilene Christian University. Throughout their time there, I was amazed at the stories they told me of the personal interest professors took in their spiritual life. While both my children were Christian Ministry majors, these stories about their professors were not limited to those from the College of Biblical Studies. In fact, they told me stories about their professors in Biology, English, and other disciplines that left me wiping tears from my eyes. They both allowed me to read notes sent to them by their professors throughout their four years in undergrad studies. I was amazed and left wondering how these professors possibly had the time to offer this kind of encouragement to all their students.

What a great idea for a professor to have a prayer journal like that described by Dr. Shankle. How blessed are the students who have professors who care about more than just communicating facts, whatever the discipline. Thank God for professors who take a genuine interest in the spiritual walk of their students.

Building Credibility

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Seems like everywhere you turn you find conflict. Look at some recent reports of incidents from around the world.

Police called to fight over toilet paper. Two hotel maids in South Carolina got into a brawl over a roll of toilet paper. The weapons of choice in this fight were a mop and a plunger. Try not to picture that scene!

Melee breaks out at Crossroads Mall. A fracas involving 30 young people recently broke out at a West Virginia shopping mall. The news account I read called the conflict “a potato-related dispute.”

Tennis father accused in opponent’s drugging. A man in France has been accused of drugging athletes his son and daughter were about to play in tennis matches – on 27 occasions!

The message of Jesus could make such a difference in the world. Embracing the teachings of Jesus and adopting His lifestyle would put an end to so many of the disputes that put people at odds and divide them. Oh, how we need Jesus! Think of how He changes our thinking and actions.

Valuing peace means some things just are not worth fighting over (Romans 14).

Walking away from potential conflict is sometimes the best approach (Proverbs 26:17).

Winning the fight to get your way is often the result of self-centeredness (James 4).

Bullying is the way of the world, but not the way of His kingdom (Matthew 20:25 ff).

Sure, we need to take the message of Jesus to a world in desperate need. But before we start our efforts to coach the world in peacemaking skills, we first might want to build up some credibility by learning to be a peaceful people among ourselves. Outsiders view some of our intramural church skirmishes to be about as important as fighting over toilet paper. They perceive our methods of fighting about as silly as waving around a plunger. They consider our zeal for superiority as misplaced as the infamous tennis father. And they are right.

May God help us model peace to the world, and thereby build up the credibility we need to become a peacemaking people.