A couple of days ago I read an article in the English newspaper The Telegraph: Practicing Christians who talk to friends and neighbours about their beliefs are three times as likely to put other folks off of God as to attract them.
You can read the article here: Talking about Christianity could just put people off – Church of England signals
What? Really? What? Actually talking about Jesus makes people not believe in Jesus?
And then an old saying came to me from my father-in-law: “A closed mouth gathers no foot.” That’s when the topic of this article became clearer to me.
I’ve seen STAR WARS: The Force Awakens twice now in theatres. And, yeah … It is that good. But I remember waiting in line at midnight in St. John’s Newfoundland with a friend of mine to be one of the first in the world to see STAR WARS Episode 1: A Phantom Menace. And I so wanted to like it. But I couldn’t, because it was schlock: The acting (Shiver), the plot (uggh), the marketing ploys (gack!). It was so phony. Having grown up with the original three movies, I couldn’t believe how awful this (and the subsequent) movie was.
And I think this is what has happened to the Church. We are seen as phony. We are perceived as self-aggrandizing. The more “popular” we’ve gotten, the more crass our marketing has become. We’ve tried to introduce our friend and neighbours—the world--into an experience of worship, and spirituality and (to be honest) entertainment instead of a relationship with Jesus. And one thing that the adults (boomers, gen-xers-yers, and millenials) of today know is marketing. After all, we have grown up with TV and now google-metrics. We can smell the BS from a mile away.
So, is all lost? Do we hunker down and redo our sabremetrics? Do we “simplify” our websites, unplug our praise bands, cover up our tattoos? Sure, you can do that. But really what this article really says to me is that people are sick of talk and want to see some action. Stop talking about Jesus and start acting like him.
And that, I think, scares the bejesus out of many Church leaders because while it’s easy to hire a marketing team, it’s harder to get people to live out their faith. That requires work, commitment and possible failure. But if you know the story of Jesus, you know that it really is all about a little bit of victory amidst a whole whack of failure. A little bit of victory, sure; but wow, it’s a pretty amazing victory.
Because when it comes down to it, church really is boring; many of the people there are strange; the minister has a huge, but undeserved, ego; and all they talk about is money and how to fix up the building. But if you can squint your eyes a bit and sort of block all this out, you might see something that you won’t see “out there (in the “real” world): they really do love each other. They might not get along. They might argue for half a century about the most trivial things, but they love each other.
And people who follow Jesus’ most important commandment—“Love one another”—usually are too busy volunteering at food banks, in women’s groups, at schools, and elsewhere to talk to you about church.