January 27-28, 2011
If you have ever wondered why non-Christians reject the gospel and turn down your invitation to attend your church, then I have a book for you. Barna Research has produced a book entitled, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity. This book helps us understand why non-Christians seem so cold to the claims of Christianity.
The researchers found that a minority of young people who believe that labels like “respect, love, hope, and trust” describe Christianity. But the rest have lost respect for Christianity. David Kennaman, President of the Barna Research Group and one of the authors of the book, says we need to resolve this perception problem if we are to connect with the youngest generation.
He lists six common perceptions that non-Christians have about Christians and Christianity.
1. Hypocritical – outsiders to Christianity believe that Christians say one thing and do another. They found that 84 percent knew a Christian, but only 15 percent believed that the Christian they knew acted consistently with his or her beliefs.
Hypocrisy is not just a 21st century phenomenon. Lately I have preached on the subject of hypocrisy and have been reminded how Jesus spoke so strongly against hypocrisy in the 1st century. But this survey shows that Christians must be authentic and acting consistently with Christian beliefs.
2. Focused on converts – outsiders often feel more like targets. Christians want to get them saved, but they don’t listen to them and these outsiders don’t feel truly loved.
3. Anti-homosexual – the younger generation is less likely to see homosexuality as sin so they equate Christians with being anti-homosexual. There is a real need for us to show biblical compassion as we also address this issue with our biblical convictions.
4. Sheltered – outsiders feel that Christians often offer simplistic answers to the complex and troubling aspects of modern life. They perceive us an old-fashioned, boring, and generally out of touch with reality.
5. Political – often outsiders perceive Christianity as merely an extension of right-wing politics. They feel Christians are too political or are motivated by political interests. That doesn't mean Christians shouldn't be salt and light, but they should be aware that this is a connection that non-Christians often make.
6. Judgmental – nearly 90 percent of outsiders say the term "judgmental" accurately describes Christians today. Only 20 percent of outsiders view the church as a place where people are accepted and loved unconditionally. Christians sadly are known more for their criticism than for their love. And we may be so fixated with sin that we cannot really love broken people.
As we look at the six perceptions, we should admit that some of these criticisms would surface no matter how well Christians try to be loving and gracious. After all, many of these same people would probably call Jesus judgmental. So some of these perceptions will be with us no matter what we say or do.
But I think it is important for us to be real and authentic rather than hypocritical. And we should be relevant rather than sheltered. So there is some work for us to do if we are to effectively reach the next generation. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.
About the Author
Kerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope and Making the Most of Your Money in Tough Times. His new series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. He is the host of "Point of View" (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on "Prime Time America" (Moody Broadcasting Network) and "Fire Away" (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075