22 Mar (#5) CHRISTIANS ARE A PROBLEM
“everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33
A while back my oldest son was playing Little League baseball. He threw a hard pitch and felt something pop in his arm. He had a shot of instant terror that something had gone very wrong. I ran out on the field, concerned for my son. With the players and parents crowded around, my rst instinct as a Christian dad was to pray for my son. But trust me, you could watch 20 seasons of Little League and never see a dad rush the mound and pray for his kid. I hesitated. If my son wants to go public with his faith, that’s different than me putting his faith out there.
I am a preacher. I am already out and public with my faith. The game was on a Sunday, so I showed up after I preached. But out on the mound I was doing a raging internal monologue. I was running scenarios in my mind. With all those other families there, I was second-guessing myself. Do I do what I would normally do as a parent—hug my son, tell him I love him, pray over him? Or is that not appropriate—because nobody here agrees with that? By loving my son will I make him feel like a Christian freak in front of his friends?
In those moments, you wonder whether the person you are privately should go public. There are lots of occasions just like this that you and I face every day. For example, maybe you’re at work or school or hanging out in the neighborhood, and someone says, “Man, I got diagnosed with cancer,” or “My spouse and I are splitting,” or “My kid is o the deep end,” and your first instinct is “Can I pray for you?” But then you wonder, “Should I say that?” Maybe a solid spiritual thought comes to mind that you know would encourage someone, but then you question, “Should I share that?” Plenty of Christians are in that place right now. We are not the dominant culture. Fewer and fewer people are interested in your views and many at-out reject them. Your beliefs are considered intolerant, pushy, and offensive. And so, as Christians, we second-guess our instincts on how we should interact with the culture we’re called to love.
The problems we heard from the Unchurched Nones and Dechurched Dones were consistent in tone and content across all eight focus groups, men and women, from around the country. And remember, these were free-flowing conversations among total strangers. They hadn’t met until they introduced themselves at the start of their group. They had never met the professional facilitator who convened their gathering. They knew they were being recorded in audio and video. They knew their conversations were part of a research project, although they did not know which project in particular. The facilitator asked open-ended questions, not leading questions that would drive the conversation in any particular direction.
In the end, every focus group invariably spent substantial time discussing the seven top issues uncovered in the phone surveys, even though the participants were not prompted in that direction. What we learned in the face-to-face focus groups confirmed the findings of the phone surveys: People take issue in very specific ways with what Christians believe and how we act out our faith. They have a major problem with Christianity. The question is how will you and I respond to them?
A woman in Boston said that the Christians she encountered “don’t have any education. They’ve gone to high school. They haven’t done any college, so conversion for me is very negative. It means uneducated. It means somebody who is not a deep thinker… just a sheep.”
A man in Phoenix noted that Christians were “uninformed, uneducated… and not thinking for themselves. They’re just following organized religion instead of thinking for themselves.”
A woman in Austin stated that she thinks Christians are “very brainwashed by [Christianity] and hypnotized by it, and they don’t necessarily mean to be hateful or intolerant…. They’re not as smart as me. I think a lot of it is just how they were raised, and it is a cult thing.”
Understandably, Christians reading this will likely feel emotional and defensive. But I encourage you not to throw a pity party. We both know that Christians often talk about outsiders in ways that are no more tolerant, loving, or kind than what you’ve just read from the Unchurched and Dechurched. But that doesn’t make their statements any less difficult to digest. We wonder what to do. Or what to say. Or what not to do or say. If you’ve ever found yourself confronted with such opinions, you might find it awkward to stick around, strike up a conversation, and attempt to explain your faith. Instead, Christians today tend to duck and cover.
LEAVING JESUS AT CHURCH
Frankly, we are at a cultural impasse with guns drawn. You can sense it in your social networks, the workplace, classrooms, and even your extended family. And amidst this tension, a lot of Christians have resigned themselves to simply stay quiet. Maybe that’s where you are today. Like so many other believers you’ve said to yourself: I think we’re losing. Jesus and Christianity aren’t very popular. So it’s probably best if I just keep my faith quiet. I’m not going to engage the people around me because their objections are pretty strong. I don’t know how to respond to them. I don’t want to put my faith on social media because I don’t want to pay the social and vocational cost. My religion is just going to be a very private, personal thing for me or my family.
In the eyes of popular culture, Christians have become bigots who stand against equality and stand for little else. We are hypocrites who fail to practice what we preach. We are exclusivists who threaten anyone who does not accept our truth. As we assess our position, we have to admit we’ve lost many battles of the culture wars. The reign of Christendom has officially run its course. If culture is a game of musical chairs, then the music stopped playing, and for what seems like the first time in the history of Western culture, we lost our seat.
In this confusing new context, our new default is silence. And many Christians are even second-guessing whether or not we are in fact correct in our biblical stance on foundational theological issues. Our culture is deeply divided into two warring entrenched teams—the Left and the Right—and they despise one another. As a result, seemingly every issue that arises explodes into an online prison riot complete with mattresses on re and the guards who try to calm things down without getting shanked.
And a growing group of Christians is thinking, People hate us. We’re lobbing grenades at each other. Can’t we make some concessions so nobody gets blown up? Can’t we negotiate this? Can’t we edit the Bible a bit and hope that God is okay with us waving the white ag on a few issues like gender, sex, and marriage?
And there the discussion ends. Communication is cut off. Because our default is to talk about each other but never to each other.
Again, that’s why I am undertaking the Christians Might Be Crazy Project. I want to have a genuine conversation about people’s problems with Christianity so that you and I can have similar conversations with others—and learn how to love our neighbors even when they don’t love us back.
And, yes, I’m talking about people who might think you’re crazy.
In the Christians Might Be Crazy book and project, I draw on the experience and expertise of top Christian thinkers and leaders who have carefully considered the objections raised by the Unchurched and the Dechurched. Once I reviewed every bit of data from the phone surveys and every word transcribed from the focus groups,
I undertook the third part of my research, tapping some of the brightest minds on the planet to get their insights about the issues. I conducted one- on-one interviews (largely over the phone but some in person) with many of these experts, which were then transcribed. A few chose to instead send emails, which were equally enlightening. Much of their insight encouraged and convicted me about how I live out my own faith and engage others for Christ, and I’m excited to share their wisdom with you to help you explain, in a loving and compelling way, why biblical Christianity is both true and good.
Those interviewed for this project include John Frame, Norman Geisler, John Piper, James Robison, Eric Metaxas, Wayne Grudem, Al Mohler, Greg Koukl, Ravi Zacharias, Darrell Bock, and John Townsend.
This series of 30 daily devotions are adapted from the first chapters of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s new book “Christians Might Be Crazy” available exclusively at markdriscoll.org for a tax-deductible gift to Mark Driscoll Ministries. For your gift of any amount, we will email you a digital copy of the book (available worldwide) and also send you a paperback copy of the book (U.S. residents only). Pastor Mark also has a corresponding six-part sermon series that you can find for free at markdriscoll.org or on the free Mark Driscoll Ministries app. Thank you in advance for your partnership which helps people learn that It’s All About Jesus! For our monthly partners who give a recurring gift each month, this premium content will be automatically sent.