Monday, January 15, 2007

most christians aren't

I always find it curious when people instantly find confidence in other people because they've identified themselves as "Christian." You know what I mean, like when you hear someone say, "I feel really good about my accountant because she's a Christian." Or, "I'm so excited because my son got a Christian teacher at his public school." Heck, I even find myself doing that.

But a recent survey conducted by the Barna Research Group found that only 9% of people who identified themselves as "Christian" actually held a Christian worldview. In other words, only 9% of "Christians" actually think biblically. 91% of "Christians" don't even think like Christ. So are they even Christian? And is having a Christian worldview really even sufficient to be considered a genuine Christian?

In the 1st century A.D. people who followed Jesus were known as people of The Way. In other words, you knew who they were not because of how they labeled themselves, but because of the way they lived their lives. Today it seems like way too many of us can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud the things he taught and the things he cared about without actually following his teachings or caring about those same things. I wonder how many of that 9% who have a Christian worldview actually live out what they say they believe.

It turns out Christian isn't much of an adjective anymore, and maybe not even much of a noun either. Maybe we should look for a new word--or perhaps an old word--to describe those who think and live like Jesus. The word Jesus used was disciple, which means follower, or student. It was a word commonly used in the trades of his day, a trade world characterized by an apprenticeship form of education in which an apprentice (disciple) gained knowledge and competence by emulating the practices of a master. Apprentices were discipled by their masters, and they became like their masters.

Maybe it's time Barna and his group stoped asking who is Christian, and started asking who is living out the revolutionary love of Jesus. Only then will we find out what percentage of our population is truly Christian.


TaylorFamilyAdventure said...

Nice one Rob. I had once heard 20%, but 9% is even more staggering. I personally like using the old term "Way." So when I see something happening I can turn to my friend and say, "No Way!" Then he can correct me by saying, "Way." :)

Kary Oberbrunner said...

Love it Rob. Great thoughts. Your copy of CALLED should be on its way in a week or two. Sweet.

Sharon Genton said...

Your killing me already. I am still chewing on it.

worship-girl said...

fyhI LOVE this. This really resonates with me. THis is exactly what I've been reading in Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis and what I've been coming to find out as I meet people (and I'm specifically referring to some people I've met that are outside CHC for those of you wondering...) that claim to be a Christian, but aren't trying to live the Christian life. As a matter of fact, they are incredibly opposite of trying to be a disciple of Jesus and I've been thinking a lot about this lately. You are RIGHT ON!!

Doah said...

Rob, great post. I guess that is why, in John 13:35 Jesus put an action verb to the "how will men know," that verb being "LOVE" right? He didn't say people would know by some bumper sticker or a fish on your business card, but with love. A high calling for me on a daily basis and always ashamed when I fall short of that standard.

This post reminds me of the section in that book "A New Kind of Christian" wherein the pastor looses it and swings his walking stick around in anger because Neo was stretching his views by appearing to be too accepting of Muslims and Buddhists. Neo said something to the effect of, "I'm just saying maybe it's more important to be good than right." Loving well, that's the point. Thanks for the post.

John said...

Living where we do in China, it's actually quite common to run into people on the street that actually have never heard of the word "Christian". What this often reveals in conversations with Chinese is the little relevance this 'word' plays in the scope of their lives. (Certainly there is relevance for terms, but my emphasis here is 'little relevance'.) Maybe the context I live in highlights the need to connect people with person and story of Jesus through our very lives? Maybe it surfaces the easy habit of throwing around words that are meaningful to us but actually quite shallow and meaningless to those around us? Shoot, if only 9% seem to have somewhat the same understanding of what "Christian" means (and this is probably has a spectrum to it), why use this word?