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12 February 2008

Clarifying "Christian"

I need to make a note of clarification regarding yesterday's post. I received an e-mail from a friend yesterday, who very graciously didn't want to come across as hostile by posting comments here, that contained this sentence: "I guess the next thing we should stop calling ourselves is 'American' because that denotes a negative vibe for most people these days as well."

Touché! Point well-taken.

I wasn't suggesting that because the world around us may look at "Christians" negatively, we should simply stop using that moniker. As I've noted in the past, the attitudes and motivations we know about ourselves are the attitudes and motivations that we're most likely to assign to others, whether or not that is intentional or even fair.

And so I offer you my vantage point: I have, indeed, been guilty in the past of calling myself a Christian but failing miserably to meet the lifestyle qualifications necessary for that title. (I'm not suggesting here that works will get anyone to heaven. I'm taking a "by their fruits ye shall know them" perspective.) And I see my old lifestyle repeated all around, in plentiful fashion. I'm not casting stones through my stained-glass window (though I am intentionally mixing my metaphors) -- I just don't have to dig too deeply to see it. So I guess it's personal for me.

Many may be familiar with the typical sorts of nationwide surveys that indicate that a rather large percentage of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. While polls are certainly not always accurate, that figure is put at 83% in an ABC News poll. A Barna Poll gives some surprising background about those who consider themselves to be "born-again Christians" (scroll down to the "Beliefs" section). Even if we cut the percentages in half, just for good measure, these are startling statistics.

All I want to do by using the term "Christ-follower" instead of "Christian" is to offer as much personal clarification as I can in the fewest words possible. I'll wholeheartedly agree that it is time to reclaim the label "Christian" from its place of misuse.


Preston N said...

First, let me commend you for your post from yesterday. One of the aspects of this blog is I really appreciate is the courage you display to say things others in the church have neither the conviction or the courage to say. With the constant moral slide I see in our world and how ineffective the "modern day church" has become, I think its about time more "Christ-Followers" such as yourself shake the bushes and kick up the dust and start speaking about the 600lbs gorillas we seem to have in the room!

As genuine "Christ Followers" our "works" (motivated by love of God), should be profoundly different than that of the pagan world before us (yes I said pagan). If a wide majority of the world sees "Christians" as living no differently than they are, then I would suggest then our churches have nothing more than "reformed pagans" in them. If this statement offends you then I am not sorry - because if the world see's no difference in so called Christians - then its not the world who has the problem - its the church. If it is indeed the church that has the problem - then what is causing this malady? What must be done to fix it? Granted a name change is not going to solve this crisis.

I would suggest we use the example of our Savior. When Jesus started his ministry it wasn't the sinners who persecuted him or tried to stop Him - but it was the church. He spent much of his time refuting and attempting to set people free from the dogma of religion and more about establishing genuine relationship with God. In my opinion not much has changed in 2,000 years. Just stand up in a pulpit these days and tell people they are responsible for their own sins or that people need to repent - and by the time the pastor gets back home he has a flurry of emails and phone calls of complaints from his congregants. (btw - repent and holiness are probably the most feared and hated words in church these days). My point here is this - if we expect the world to repent and turn from their sins and love God with "all thy heart, mind and soul" - then it needs to start with the church - let us lead by example.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to clarify something about the word "christian." This was a label given to those that were believers that followed the Christ in the Early Church. It was not a name that the beleivers choose it was the world that gave them that name. I am not sure that I like the name "christian" myself because it has been adopted by the religious world. Meaning anyone that claims to "know" God, not necessarly that have surrendered and given their life over to Him. We as believers must live in a world that classifies us as "christians" even though you can not "sometimes" tell a christian from the world.

Anonymous said...

The word “Christian” has been watered down very much through the modern English didactic of America. But so have other words in the Christian vernacular such as “believe,” “hope” and “grace” but we still use them with a limitedness on their definition. The term Christian is first used in Antioch to describe the individuals and the group of people that resembles Christ in their demeanor.
To say Christ–follower rather then Christian is to say “I’m vote republican” rather then “I’m republican.” Why is one republican? Because they vote republican twice every two years at the most? Because they campaign for republicans during elections? Because they say so? Are Christians Christians because they have received Christ as their savior? Are they Christians because they go to church? Are they Christians because they say so? By the original Greek definition we are defined as Christians as “being adherent of Christ, whose daily life and behavior facing adversity is like Christ.”
Are we always saved after we received Christ? Yes. Do we always do what we are instructed to do? No. If our pursued is as David said at the end of his life, that he perused God all his life, then that is the true definition of a Christian. One who lives it in life not just marks it on a survey.

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