America! The nation founded on the premise of religious freedom, is experiencing a disdain against the church because for generations the church has placed people in religious bondage. Living in Arkansas we can be skewed in our view because according to pew forum research, seventy five percent of Arkansans view religion as an important part of their lives. On top of that stat, ninety percent of American's say that they believe in some form of a universal being (or God). So why then is the church in America repulsive to so many people?
According to pew forum research released this year, only four percent of my generation, the millennial generation, are professing Christians. This means that the church is shrinking, magnificently. In 2009 the church only grew by fourteen percent, twelve percent of that growth was simply transfer from other churches. Which means in reality, church growth in America was only two percent. The amount of people who left the church last year either from denying its principles or death, was more than two percent. Once again though, why is the state of the American church is such disdain?
The American church only has itself to blame. A majority of American churches have failed to remain culturally relevant. Which is hard when the church preaches to be in the world but not of the world. It is not about being in the culture, it is about showing the basis of Christianity to the culture. Research done by the Barna Group shows that people aren't looking for a set of rules and rituals to live by, which is what the American church has produced. People are looking for something real and challenging. Which is what true Christian faith produces.
In being a place that is set in ritual, that is known for standing against things, the church sounds nothing like what Christianity is. The word Christian means "little Christ". The church seems more like a group of hypocrites who are focused on themselves instead of focusing on Christ. This is completely opposite of the way that Christ lived his life on earth. One of the main reasons why people don't want to be involved in church is because the church focuses on itself and not on Christ and others.
The church was originally known for begin compassionate towards the down trodden. They were about helping the widowed and orphaned. The church during the Roman Empire was known for taking in mentally and physically defective children that were discarded by the Roman families as undesirable. The church in the Medieval Times was known as the main group that stayed and took care of people during the Black Death putting themselves at risk of dieing. The Salvation Army was also founded upon Christian principles and servicing those in need. In more recent times, Christian organizations have been the first to respond to natural disasters. This is what the church is supposed to be about, worshiping Christ and helping those in need. Showing love to people.
If the church is to be about worshiping Christ and helping others, why do so many people avoid referring to themselves as Christians? Because of the hypocrisy and failure behind the term Christian that has resulted from the churches focus on pleasing and serving itself. The name Christian has such disdain that in the last decade there has been a move away from the word "Christian". Some pastors have taken to calling their congregation "Disciples of Christ" or "Followers of Christ". This response has begun to peak interest, as well as soften the challenges that come with Christianity in America.
What will it take to change the connotations behind Christianity? To be able to change these connotations the church and Christians have to be known what they stand for, not what they stand against. Christians need to be known for being advocates for social justice, caring for the environment because it's God's earth, having personal integrity, building harmony among races, willing to give their lives for the cause of peace. Christians like that will change not only America, but the world as well.