The Calling

So I was reading a book called unChristian, which you may have heard of–it’s about a research study enacted by a Christian group to elucidate the opinion that outsiders have of Christianity.  The book itself is kind of a snooze–while the message is good, it’s much more oriented towards people who don’t seem to realize that Christianity today has an image problem.  I don’t count myself among that group.

It has gotten me thinking in another direction though.  One of the things that I read about was a pastor who gave a series of talks–I can’t remember the exact name, but the basic gist of it was that he, as a Christian, was going to “confession”, and confessing his sins to the non-Christian community.  It was five talks, with titles like “We’re Sorry for Our Treatment of Homosexuals” and “We’re Sorry For The Crusades” and so on.  I found this very refreshing, and a good way of fighting the hypocritical image the Church seems to have these days.

I had been having other thoughts recently–specifically, I’ve been thinking that while I call myself a Christian, I don’t typically find myself DOING Christian things on a daily basis.  I just sort of live my life as I would if I weren’t a Christian–taking care of myself and my family, doing my job, having some fun where I can, and all around just trying to be a nice guy.  When the opportunity to talk about Christianity presents itself, I jump on it–but more and more I’m realizing that myself, and even Christians I would consider far more advanced in the service of the Lord than I, have a tendency to want to get together and TALK about God for a while and then go home and act like their obligations as Christians are fulfilled.  My brother’s abortive attempt to attend the Urbana conference was a large factor in this realization.

My weekly Wednesday night Church group has just gotten into the Alpha program.  This will be the fourth time I attend Alpha, and I while I have a great deal of respect for the content of the program, I don’t feel like it takes an approach to evangelism that speaks at all to my generation.  I see a lot of faces at those meetings that have attended Alpha a lot more times than I have, and I fear that it’s become a repetitive exercise–we  want to feel as though we’re helping make disciples of other people by attending these small group meetings with them, but by now they’re 80% full of other long-committed Christians just like us.

At the same time, I was thinking of approaching my Wednesday group now that our advent bible study is over and saying “Okay guys, I think it’s time for us to really pack up and DO something; let’s go do some volunteer work or some such”, but the Wednesday group isn’t really prepared to do that–they’re committed to Alpha for the next several weeks.

This leaves me with the following:

  • The feeling that as a Christian, it’s time for me (and my fellow Christians) to talk less and take more action
  • The feeling that if evangelism is to have an effect on members of our generation, it must do so first not by telling the story of Jesus Christ, but by correcting the image of Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, and hate-filled
  • The feeling that I have a gift (from God) for working with online communities

I feel like I am hearing a call from God here.  I feel like I’m being called to:

  • Inspire Christians to take direct, loving action to help and support their fellow man, without judgement or demands
  • Represent Christianity to non-Christians in a way that defies their negative expectations of Christianity

…and here’s the scary one:

  • Lead a community of Christians to do the same things.

I’m scared of this but I’m really starting to think I’m being asked to do it.  I’m talking to you guys about it because now that I’m starting to have an idea of the WHAT, I need to figure out the HOW.

All I’ve got right now is that I feel like the place to get started is Facebook.

Published by Malgayne

Community Manager at Google. Formerly at Sourcebits, Spark Plug Games, Zynga, and I like chiptunes and hefeweizen.

4 thoughts on “The Calling

  1. Interesting. I’m curious as to how you think that people have this negative impression of Christianity writ large — not to mention I’m wondering how broad the brushstroke is that you’re using to define “Christianity.” Do you mean evangelical Protestantism? I wonder, because, for example, not all churches have stances on homosexuality and things of that nature…

    Sorry to pepper you with questions!

  2. To be honest I think that most people who would not describe themselves as “Christian”, or have any particular interest in spiritual or theological issues, don’t bother to differentiate.

    To be specific, I think that people have this negative impression of Christianity writ large because I just got finished reading the results of a large scale research project which indicates that this is true. But that aside, I should think you would know as well as I do the nervousness and paranoia involved in making a public declaration of your faith in a group of your peers. I remember Eric publicly announcing his Christianity (in a religion class no less) at Chaminade, and very nearly crying in the process, because of the fear that people would start treating him as though he were intolerant, hypocritical and judgmental.

  3. Well, I think they don’t bother to differentiate because to most people now, “Christian” is synonymous with evangelical Protestant. It’s fascinating to see even the Publisher’s Weekly review of UnChristian, which says “it will likely influence the church in years to come.” Which church, exactly?

    There’s also, and maybe this is just with me, in describing oneself as “Christian” vs. “a Christian.” I think the former is more vague, the latter carries with it more of the connotations of the above. But you say that you find yourself not “doing specific Christian things” on a daily basis — what does this mean? Following the Beatitudes? (Not being sarcastic!) To be sure, not that I’m saying we don’t need to take action for good in society, but I wonder if there’s a difference between doing good and somehow doing Christian duty of doing good. Or something.

    Interesting. I’ve always had a different opinion on coming out as religious / spiritual (which I think holds the same connotations — I think if you admit to being religious, period, there is a stigma attached) because for a long period of time, I encountered people who were perfectly happy telling me that I wasn’t Christian (how presumptuous!) Granted, I’m from a faith that’s outside the mainstream vision of what Christianity is, and that’s probably why I’m asking so many questions — I consider myself Christian, but not necessarily fitting into what society believes a Christian to be, if that makes any sense. So, really, how does this apply (does it apply?) to all Christians? Christian Scientists have a particularly different set of negative connotations (babies dying, etc) that is entirely unrelated to negative connotations of evangelical Protestantism — CS, for example, doesn’t have a public stance on homosexuality.

    What’s interesting on that note is how people take that — Claire sees that as a negative thing (if you’re not for it you’re against it) whereas I see it as a very positive one (not taking a stand is taking a stand) but at any rate, I’ve rambled too long… So there you go.

  4. QUOTE:
    “The feeling that if evangelism is to have an effect on members of our generation, it must do so first not by telling the story of Jesus Christ, but by correcting the image of Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, and hate-filled”

    I encourage you to look at the life of Jesus Christ. Read through the book of John and see how he is. He touches the untouchable, goes to the abandoned, and speaks with the outcast. Everyone from religious leader to prostitutes came to listen to him and his presence at weddings was something to be desired (remember the miracle of turning water to wine?).

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” and “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world may have life.” These verses in John 3:16-17 show how God views us: with love. He loves us, and because he loves us so much, he sent Jesus Christ to die in the place we deserve.

    Now, there will always be those averse to the story of such amazing freedom and undeserved forgiveness, but everyone can — somewhere in their spirit — appreciate such a gift. Be it something on a small scale from a friend or relative, that kind of love is accepted. But in evangelizing, we are not making them feel good, we are telling them the “good news” and passing along the gift we have received for free.

    There is nothing harmful in that. In fact, what Jesus has done is so amazing that it is worth telling everyone! He told us to, and beyond that, it is a story worth telling. Paul told us to return to the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good really come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see for yourself.”

    Ours is not a call or burden to wield a religion like a blade or scepter. The power is Christ’s and we are in him, under him. It is true, the “church” oft uses the scripture or interpretation of a doctrine to abandon its God-given responsibility. In James chapter 1 we see, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being spotted by the world.”

    Not only is it a simple message we carry; there is hope in it. All the hope we could ever want. All the faith we could ever imagine. But most importantly, the entire message of God’s grace for us: all the love we will ever need.

    I like your blog. Keep Christ as the center and of the utmost importance, and his love will carry through you to the point that when some speak of you, “Can anything really good come out of —?” All you have to do is point to Christ and say, “Come and see for yourself.”

    May you stay strong in the grace given you in Christ Jesus.

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