How The Unchurched Views the Church
It has been said of Christians that we are at times our worst enemy, at least when it comes to promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A new study from Lifeway Research confirms that fact. The study reveals that while most unchurched people are willing to hear what people have to say about Christianity, the majority of them see the church as a place full of hypocrites. Why is this so? It is most likely the result of many Christians trying to portray themselves and “perfect” or better than unrepentant sinners.
“A full 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church ‘is full of hypocrites,’” said LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer. “At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said they believe Jesus ‘makes a positive difference in a person’s life’ and 78 percent said they would ‘be willing to listen’ to someone who wanted to share what they believed about Christianity.”
LifeWay Research studied 1,402 adults who were unchurched – those who had not attended a religious service at a church, synagogue or mosque in the previous six months – last spring and summer.
Here are some other interesting facts about unchurched Americans from the study:
- 79 percent think that Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.
- 86 percent believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.
- 44 percent said Christians “get on my nerves.”
- 89 percent have at least one close friend who is a Christian.
- 78 percent are willing to listen to someone who wanted to talk about their Christian beliefs. The number rose to 89 percent among adults 18-29 years of age.
- 78 percent of adults 30 years and older said they would enjoy an honest conversation with a friend about religious and spiritual beliefs, even if they disagreed with the friend.
- Only 28 percent of adults 30 years and older said they think Christians they know talk to them too much about their beliefs.
This study should show us who call ourselves Christians that we are doing a very poor job in promoting our beliefs. True that the Church and the cross will always have some measure of offense to unsaved people. However, Stetzer states “…our study shows that many are tripping over the church before they hear the message of the cross.” What can we do?
First of all we need to stop trying to put on the facade that we are now perfect because we are Christians. We need to clearly convey the message that we are still sinners but have been forgiven and because we are now following Christ, we strive against sin rather than embracing it. In other words, we attempt through the power of God’s Holy Spirit to live holy lives but may still fall short from time to time.
Secondly, we need to stop pretending we are better than unsaved people. While it’s true that we may be in a better spiritual state, God loves all His creation equally and wills that all would come to the knowledge of His saving grace. Just because a person is saved does not now give them license to look down on those that are unsaved.
It believe those two things cause the majority of unchurched people to define Christians as hypocrites – because they are not real and they look down on the “poor wretched sinners.” If we could truly demonstrate with our lives that we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, I believe we could turn this negative opinion about Christians around.