When most people hear the word "church," the general image which flashes through the mind is a building with pretty glass windows and a steeple. It was never intended to be that way, however. The church was originally meant to be people, with one common belief (the Gospel), spread out through the world, living to be servants of others. What happened to the original design of the church? How much change can a Christian bring about from the pew on Sunday morning? I’m not saying the congregational churches are bad things. Rather, I believe they are a necessary environment for a growing Christian. However, we have started to limit the church’s work to 9AM through 12 PM on Sundays. After that, the pastor, and church staff are responsible for being the church, until 9 AM the next Sunday. My thought is that we bust through the pretty stained glass and start living our lives as the church, every day of the week, morning noon and night. We should not "hide" in a pretty building. The world is on to our fake lives, and does not, for one second, believe our lives are as pretty as we pretend. Rather than encouraging people to consider our faith, our masquerade frustrates them to a point where they don’t care what we have to say, Christianity is simply unappealing, because of all the lies. I think it’s time to stop trying to pretty and perfect, and show the world what’s real.
I once heard a person say, "I don’t think my responsibility as a Christian is to get people to believe what I think, but to get people to think about what they believe." It’s one of the smartest things I have heard in a long time. Rather than walking down the street handing out tracts (which I’m not knocking, they are an effective source of evangelism for some), I’ve learned that sitting down for a cup of coffee, asking people about what they believe, and why they believe it creates an easier avenue for faith sharing. Another benefit to this is that we see the person we are sharing with, as a person who has beliefs and reasons, and not just another notch we can carve into our Bibles because they prayed the "sinner’s prayer." It’s rather belittling, and frustrating for a person to be "preached to" about a topic when the "preacher" is unwilling to hear the person’s views. It goes back to the old saying, "nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." Rather than talk, talk, talk, maybe it’s time to be quiet and start to listen, who knows how much more you will learn.
I recently read an article in a parenting magazine about multiple faith families. Mothers who were Christians, and fathers who were atheists, as well as Jewish mothers and Christian fathers. It concerns me that people, who are living for a faith someone died for, are allowing post-modern values to taint what they believe. This idea is not about arguing whether one faith is more correct than the other, but about lessons the kids are learning from this "tolerance" in the home. Recent articles are saying that parents who choose to sacrifice what they believe, and raise their children according to their spouse’s beliefs are regretting it later in their child’s life. Their children grow up with a different set of beliefs and worldviews. There’s no common ground for giving advice, or helping their kids because the child does not understand where the parent is coming from. One mother mentioned her regret in not being more vocal about her faith. Because the husband was more vocal about what he believed, her daughters naturally followed the beliefs of the father, simply because they learned and understood his beliefs…through his verbal communications. Because of the shared beliefs with the father, the mother was respected significantly less. My concern isn’t in raising kids to be tolerant, I think there needs to be a degree of tolerance, or we become the crazy man on the corner with the bull horn, proclaiming the end of the world as people walk past and ignore us. I do believe, however, that we need to teach tolerance while teaching kids to stand up for what they believe. If we are teaching kids to be tolerant and fold about the things that really matter, there’s no foundation for when they have to step out into the world. There’s no real reason for them to choose to make wise decisions. To say no to drugs, tell their friends they won’t shop lift. If parents aren’t willing to stand up for the thing that they get their deepest beliefs from (i.e. their faith), why should their child have reason to stand up for sobriety, or a clean juvenile record? If parents don’t stand up for what they believe, will kids be less likely to hear and respect their point of view and opinions?