The church has a serious image problem. A while back, a pastor we knew proposed to the local fire chief that his neighborhood church team up with the fire department on a particular community event. The fire chief responded: “No… you see, people trust the fire department.”
What image comes to your mind at the word “church”? You may remember it fondly as the place where people loved you no matter what, and you enjoyed coffee between services. Or it could be where an abusive authority told God was angry at you, and you’d better shape up or God would ship you out.
Ask 50 people for their emotional response to their church, and you’re likely to get 50 responses.
But this is certain: people’s perception of church is not what it used to be.
That’s what many churchgoers don’t seem to grasp right now.
“When outsiders claim that we are unchristian, it is a reflection of this jumbled (and predominately negative) set of perceptions. When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unchristian label. Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it. One quarter of outsiders say their foremost perception of Christianity is that the faith has changed for the worse. It has gotten off-track and is not what Christ intended. Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian.” (David Kinnaman, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters)
I’ll tell you exactly why.
- The church is consumed with behavior instead of life.
- It is consumed with rules instead of Jesus.
- It is asking how to deal with sin instead of how to embrace the people God loves.
Prominent evangelical church leaders today are debating how to deal with people’s ‘sin’ – as they pick and choose – instead of how to love people.
That is the problem of the church. It centers around absurdly arrogant church leaders randomly and hypocritically judging “others.”
“Arrogance is perhaps the most socially acceptable form of sin in the church today. In this culture of abundance, one of the only ways Satan can keep Christians neutralized is to wrap us up in pride. Conceit slips in like drafts of cold air in the winter. We don’t see it, but outsiders can sense it.” David Kinnaman, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters
The solution: stop judging; start loving.
Treat people the way Jesus treated them. Love people the way Jesus loved them.
That’s all it is!
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.