Thursday, September 8, 2011

Image courtesy of
What comes to mind when you read the following words:
Religious person

I'm thinking that for most people the images conjured up by these titles is more negative than positive.

Brandon, who writes at the blog outside the walls recently posted this:
I asked a handful of my friends outside of mainstream Christianity to tell me what comes to mind when I say the word “evangelical.” Here is what they came up with:

An evangelical represents religious talking heads, slick televangelists, the religious right, the moral majority, picket signs, the health and wealth gospel, plastic and phoney hypocrites, judgmental, blind and hateful zealots, brainwashed and close-minded non-Christians, showy megaChurches, unreasonable and illogical Conservatives, unpersuadable Patriots, and preacher sex scandals.
I sit here and ask myself, "What do I do about this?"

I was once told by a principal in a church school that I served as pastor, "Perception is reality."

But I struggle with that. Reality is reality. It's real, and as such cannot be altered in the same what that the truth cannot be altered. At least that's how I felt 10 years ago.

But having 10 years of ministry flow under the bridge I'm on has changed my perception and the concept of reality, especially in 21st century America.

So, what do I do now? I'm tempted to try to salvage our titles.

For example, I consider myself an evangelical - "one who belongs to the Gospel" - and not any of the things in Brandon's research. I consider myself to be a religious person in the sense of following a true religion as put forth in the Epistle of James.  I serve others (James calls it visiting orphans and widows in their affliction) and I do my best to keep myself unstained from the world. (see James 1:27)

But here's where my faith walk has led me: the best way to change people's perception of these things is to live a life that gives glory to God and serves my neighbor.

But I've got my work cut out for me. For being an evangelical these days means more and more that you are affiliated with a particular political party. Being a religious person these days means more and more that you are someone who thinks they are somehow better than others. Being a Christian is more and more perceived to be a person who does not talk to non-Christians and shuts themselves off from the world.

How can I convince people that I'm none of these things? Is it important that I do?

I think it is. Because if I cannot convince them that I'm not what they think I am as an evangelical, religious person, a Christian (in their way of thinking of these things), then it will be very hard to share with them the Good News about Jesus.

And sharing the Good News about Jesus is what I've been called to do. It is my purpose in life. It is who I am.

That may strike some people as somewhat weird. After all, I'm married. I have children. Isn't my wife supposed to fulfill me? Isn't being a father supposed to be my purpose in life?

Well, yeah. But let's think about that for  a moment. My wife and I have been married for over twenty years. We met and were married while I was a student at a seminary. Our life together has husband and wife has been inextricably tied to our calling to share the Gospel of Jesus. That calling has also been at the core of who we both are as parents.

So, the bottom line is that I am proud to be an evangelical, religious Christian. I may not be an evangelical, religious Christian to a lot of people's way of thinking, but once they meet me (whether online or in person) I think (I hope and pray, actually) that they will realize that.

And that will change their perception of reality.

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