An elephant in the church

I’ve been casually reading David Kinnaman’s book Unchristian in my spare moments, and have been saddened by the research shown in the latest Barna Polls.  But first the words of Jesus for contrast:  “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

In 2007, when the Barna Research Group polled thousands of unchurched people asking them to choose from a list of positive and negative adjectives describing present day Christianity, the top three choices were:

  • Antihomosexual  (91%)
  • Judgmental  (87%)
  • Hypocritical – saying one thing and doing another.   (85%)”
  • The first “positive” impression, “has good values and principles” showed up at 76%

We obviously have an image problem, and we’ve no one to blame but ourselves.  While it’s true we should expect to be criticized by non-believers, this can’t be what Jesus had in mind.  I wonder if He must be weeping all over again?

Now that we know, (thanks to the good, insightful people at Barna), how do we go about repairing the damage?  Is it time for the church to repent to the world?  Should we invite a few of our unchurched neighbors to preach to us for a Sunday or two?  Maybe our congregations or elders could compose some well-worded apologies to be read on local radio, or published in the news?   Certainly we each need to begin by taking personal responsibility for our own actions and words.  But we can’t do nothing. Dysfunction in individuals, families, or churches, never heals itself by ignoring the problem.  We’ve got a stinking elephant parked at the front of God’s church, and it obviously can’t stay there.

Any ideas?

14 thoughts on “An elephant in the church”

  1. Hey Kingdom-miester…
    A: our judgement(s) are nothing compared to what is coming…
    B: having expirienced it, the world is even MORE judgemental (see the above mentioned book wherein they judge us) and mean in thier judgements than they claim we are.
    C: reference the first bullet point above, the not-so-loyal-opposition is well entrenched in the Journalism schools & major media where they are subtly guidling the media’s coverage. Can we expect anything less but antipathy? We will soon be completely sidelined because:
    D: The church is supposed to be changing the world (see Romans). It seems that the opposite has happened, and the Elders are cheering it on. No wonder the church has lost His power, because we have chosen the “mess of pottage” that is billed as church growth.


  2. Hey Mitch! Thanks for the note. I definitely agree with you concerning the church selling out its prophetic role for the pottage of “church growth.” God’s way is clearly that WE should “seek first the kingdom” and HE would “build his church.” But we’ve gotten it backwards, haven’t we?

    While I agree with you about our hostile media, I don’t think we can use that as an excuse, but rather as a factor to bring into the mix. Obviously the press often goes to great lengths to demean the church. But when unbelievers are hateful towards us they’re not in any way breaking some kind of “code of conduct for unbelievers.”

    We, on the other hand, are called to love people and to point them to the Christ who brought prostitutes, drunkards, and criminal tax collectors right into his circle of fellowship without a word of judgment. If we’re not creating that kind of a welcoming presence among unbelievers, then I question if we’re representing Christ.

    What do you think, Mitch? You’re a clear thinker, and I value your thoughts.


  3. 1. Have love for those Christians within your sphere of influence. Encourage them to do the same. The church is built on relationships, not polls or opinions of nonChristians. The Gospel is more powerfull than mainstream church, or the media, or government.

    2. Don’t compromise doctrine. Luther posted his list on the door and wss excommunicated. He had to form a new church. Most of the mainstream denominations are dead or dying. It is probably time for the true church to follow Christ and leave the dead to bury the dead.


  4. I have deep thoughts on this subject. To represent Christ is to be CRUCIFIED! Were we thinking they were suppose to love us? Did they crucify Christ because He healed people? Because He loved people too much? Because He did. Or is it because His very presence although loving and gracious, shined bright with Truth and Truth is judgement. Why do people feel judged by Christians who don’t even know what they’re doing? I mean I have walked into rooms where people knew I was a Christian and they immediately assumed I was judging them. I had no idea what they were up to? Satan is alive and well and very busy distorting the Truth. They felt convicted by their actions and thought it was my fault!

    My experience of people is that they hold on to what they want to believe. The contrasts of “Antihomosexual” vs “Antihomosexuality” are not picked up on. Why do you think that is? I think they’d crucify Him again if Jesus were here. They called Him a hypocrit too. Remember? He taught in the Synagogue and claimed to BE GOD. They didn’t take too kindly to that. He NEVER touched someone’s life without saying “Go and sin no more.” He loved them. But He let the woman at the well know how much He knew about her sin. Did He say it was ok? Did He appear tolerant? He told her the Truth. She was ready to hear it.

    As long as we define and hate sin they will not feel loved by us, even if we were able to love them perfectly as Jesus did, apart from their sin. They have defined themselves by it. We hate that sin, in their eyes we hate them and we will be crucified for it.

    So what are we supposed to do? Be more “tolerant”? Deny sin for what it is? I just don’t get it? The message of this book escapes me.


  5. Well I have to say I love the way my friends think. You guys make some great points, and since I’m still trying to wrestle through this, I need all the help I can find. It’s not easy to walk out the radical love of Jesus without compromising ANYTHING. I love being in this together and having others who honestly care about finding the way of love.


  6. You have a lot of great things to say about the stats….there is one perspective that I commented on recently, someone with those views, so in defending the faith…I agreed that what he was saying was probably true of some Christians, however, I said..I have found that instead of judging other Christians, I take a look at my own imperfections and focus on Jesus to help me with them. I also mentioned the importance of accepting our Lord and Savior as a way to begin the process..since this person claimed to be a Christian…but was really far from Christ…bringing into the reality who Jesus is and what He did for us…imperfect people..the purpose… and to focus on ourselves and to quit blaming Christians for not being perfect, to quit judging Chirstians and turn inward to seek the truth about ourselves and to examine why we are critisizing Christians..Keep fighting for the faith…the world isn’t!


  7. Jesus with the samaritan woman- he pointed out her sin (adultery) and she said he was a prophet who knew everything she had done. After healing the blind man, Jesus told him to go and sin no more. The first words of Jesus’ ministry was “repent”. Jesus is the light that shines in darkness, and the darkness hates and flees from the light. Yes, we are told to have words of grace to those who are without Christ, but- please tell me- why did Jesus tell the people he spoke to that unless they believed they would die in their sins? I do not think that those people who answered the polls given see themselves as sinners before a holy God, who will judge them for their sins as he has judged his only Son for the sins of those that trust in Christ. Jesus also tells us that we are not above our teacher, that he was persecuted and killed, despised and threatened and we should not be surprised, in fact believers will receive the same treatment.

    Joh 15:18+ “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

    Our words to unbelievers should be full of grace and mercy, the love of the Father who gave his Son for us, that we would live- even while we were unbelievers and haters of God, such were some of us. You are right in this- we are not a humble people as a whole, and our congregations have tares who profess the same as we profess. Hard hearts in the christian community make of no effect the grace of our Lord, just as hard hearts apart from the christian community.


  8. Don, you’re constantly hitting the right buttons.

    Argh! How the heck did we get here? So, they think we’re anti-homosexual, judgemental and hypocritical, eh? The sad thing is… they’re right! Unfortunately, “church” does appear to be all of those things. Heck, even I think the church is those three things!

    Let’s live our lives so the top three words to describe us are self-sacrificing, generous and humble.


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