Why Do People Dislike Christians: A Review of Good Faith

Good-FathGrade-schoolers wearing cross necklaces, sleep-deprived college students witnessing to their coeds over a carb loaded lunch, and a flip-flop wearing forty something telling her neighbor that she believes marriage is between a man a women are not usual images that Christians associate with extremism. We picture guys with long beards blown themselves up and crazy white dudes driving cars into monuments.

But most Americans are just as likely to associate the first group of images with ‘extremism’ as they are later ones. According to the Barna Group, most Americans label their neighbors who uphold traditional marriage, believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, and who publicly share their faith to be extreme. (p.11, 42). Now while we may not like the term ‘extremist,’ most Christians would agree that America’s culture has shifted away from its Christian heritage. Sixty-five percent of evangelicals feel misunderstood, and sixty percent believe they are already being persecuted for their faith. What happened and why are Christians viewed as extremist?

Seeking to answer these questions and to chart a way forward through Babylon, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons published the book, Good Faith back in 2016. After combing through ridiculous amounts of data, the authors discovered that most Americans view people like you an me who sit in a church-pew most Sundays to be irrelevant and extreme.

The modern stance towards Christendom in some instances is the result of poor education. People simply do not know what the church does for society. Almost half of Americans believe that a majority of charitable work happens outside the church (p.29).

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However in many cases the perception that Christianity is dangerous can be traced back to a new religion, the religion of self. Americans today find Christianity extreme because the new moral code declares you to be the source of all truth. Eighty-nine percent of Americans believe people should not criticize other’s life choices (p.58).  “And according to that moral code, any competing morality – say, a religion – that seeks to constrain someone’s pursuit of personal fulfilment must itself be constrained” (p.59). Christians are no longer interacting with a secular world. They are interacting with the world of Ireligion.

After showing their readers the current dispositions of our American culture, the authors turn their attention to helping Christians navigate their way through the new culture landscape. They show that Christians can meaningfully engage those who disagree with them by affirming the truth of the Bible. 

While the culture believes the Bible is outdated, the book is actually the very thing are culture needs. And if we are willing to humbly step forward and love our neighbors, the gospel can and will still go forward as we tackle issues ranging from homosexuality to racism. And as the authors tackle these various topics, they bring many insightful stats and personal stories that help everyone better understand the Biblical solutions to today’s problems.

In an encouraging note, the authors also promote the local church and expository preaching. Instead of encouraging people to abandon the church to save the gospel, they are encouraging people to dive back into the church so that the gospel can go forward.

If you have a heart to better understand your neighbors, to reach the lost, and to influence the world for Christ, you will want to grab a copy of Good Faith. To date, Good Faith is the best resource for understanding how the world outside our churches thinks. If you have a couple of hours and heart for seeing the gospel expand in the United States, read Good Faith.

Click here to buy a copy of Good Faith 

Airplane Crashes: Lessons in Church Leadership

airplane“I don’t like this,” were First Officer David Hare’s final words. Six brief seconds the later, the Boeing 737 that he and Captain Blair Rutherford were piloting slammed into the side of a hill killing 12 of the 15 people aboard the aircraft. Prior to the crash, Hare made six statements to Rutherford concerning the planes trajectory. Tragically, Rutherford ignored them all.

Captain Rutherford is not alone. Most airplane crashes result from similar circumstances. Almost all of the planes encounter some kind of small mechanical error while their tired crews navigated through bad weather. These circumstance in and of themselves do not doom the aircraft. Everyday, tired crews land planes safely in less than perfect conditions.  Crashes occur because the Captains flying in the doomed aircraft have a large Power Distance Index.

HL7492-Korean-Air-Lines-Boeing-747-400_PlanespottersNet_296887In 1997, Korean Air Flight 801 infamously slammed into the mountains of Guam. Like Captain Rutherford, the Captain of flight 801 refused to listen to the concerns of both his first officer and his flight engineer. Although the first officer and the flight engineer had quickly realized that the plane was in trouble, they were slow to speak up because the Captain’s authority was rarely challenged. When the crew did finally directly challenge the Captain’s piloting, he ignored them because they were after all subordinate and inferior. By the time the Captain realized that he had misjudged their approach, the time for his 747’s salvation had passed. Less than two minutes later, flight 801 barreled into the jungle hillside killing most everyone on board.

After many crash investigations, researchers have discovered that a crew’s leadership style often determines whether they crash or land peacefully unnoticed by the media. Crews with a strict hierarchy are more prone to crash than crews with first officers and flight engineers who were encouraged to challenge a captain’s authority directly.

In much the same way, Christians can determine the future of their church and the children’s ministry by looking at their leaders. All leaders fly through the storms of life. But, leaders who distance themselves from accountability and from their church members during their flight are destined for disaster. Their mountain could be a whole host of things including sexual immorality, drunkenness, pride, or theological error. But, it is coming. To have a healthy church and children’s ministry, pastors and leaders must invite others to speak into their lives.

In Mark 10:42-44, Jesus says,

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great ones exercises authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever who be first among you must be the slave of all.

Christians cannot lead well if they have created a hierarchical structure that prevents people from challenging their authority. To be the servant of all, Christians leaders must being willing to pour coffee and stack chairs. But servant leadership also means that pastors, elders, and directors must be willing to listen to the concerns of those around them. Think about Paul, Peter and the church at Antioch. The early church leaders constantly listened and responded to the concerns of their people They had a low level Power Distance Index. Like Jesus, the early church fathers were approachable and humble. The church today is not captivated by legalism because Paul spoke up and corrected Peter when he started building additions on the the gospel. Christian leaders must continue to model these qualities. If they do not, they will depart from Christ’s example and will slam into failure. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer correctly noted,

He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either… This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life, and in the end there is nothing left but spiritual chatter and clerical condescension arrayed in pious words”

As the first officers and flight engineers of God, church members also must be willing to speak up and express their concerns when they sense disaster approaching. When members care enough about their pastors to talk to them, the church functions better. As Gabe Lyons said, “Our friendships and personal growth opportunities come when we step into the uncomfortable space of conflict, not when we evade it.”  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6a).

Christian leaders are not meant to function alone exhausted by the cares of ministry. They are called to equip others by teaching and modeling the gospel, inviting others to be a part of their life. As they do so and as church members join them in the cockpit of ministry, our churches will experience unprecedented safety and success.

Are you ready to be part of your church’s flight crew? Are you ready to advocate for small Power Distance Index?