by Dr. David Foster (www.davidfoster.tv)
Depending on what surveys you read or people you listen to, it becomes hard to assess the impact of Christianity in America.
If you judge our effectiveness by conferences held and churches planted, by sheer activity and money spent, then Christianity is doing very well in America. But here is the problem with measuring our effectiveness that way. We tend to be a small, closed-in industry. We talk to each other and listen to each other and want to be like one another. We judge effectiveness on how well we’re imitating the latest trend, rather than backing up and realizing that following Christ and being the church in the real world is not about forming a Christian ghetto; a Christian market where we write Christian books, Christian songs, and create Christian schools so Christian kids can be saved from the big, bad world.
Our real effectiveness is how we live in the glare of the public spotlight. And it’s not really that difficult to understand that if we go to church and say we believe a certain set of things and then behave in a way that is totally opposite, it stands to reason that it would be difficult to be taken seriously.
One of the reasons Christianity struggles is not because of its truth claims, its historical credibility, or its inability to stand up under the glare of scholarship. It’s simply that those of us who call ourselves Christians haven’t found a way to bring into alignment our beliefs and our behaviors. We understand that the creed must be followed with the deed, but the connection between the two breaks down so easily.
So one way for Christianity to have a greater influence on our country is to realize that our faith is best practiced in public, not in private. Oftentimes people say that your religious preferences are very personal. And they are. But as a Christian, my personal faith is not private. It was Jesus who said we’re a city on a hill, and we are salt and light, that we would be influencers in mainstream culture. Which means that the demise of the Christian booksellers market, music industry, or any other particularly Christian thing labeled with a Christian label shouldn’t be met with too much sorrow. Whatever moves us into the mainstream is the main thing. It’s as simple as loving one another, living at peace, being peacemakers, and bringing people together rather than causing a divide.
American Christianity will be more influential when those of us who believe it with all our hearts practice it with all our lives.