Recently I have seen a number of articles talking about what non-Christians think of the church, Christians, or Christianity in general. When I saw another one come into my email this morning I began to wonder if it even matters. Should we be concerned with what people outside the church think of us? Well, my answer is no…and yes.
What does that mean? Well, my first inclination was to say no. After all should I be focused on what they think or should I be focused on being like Christ? Will knowing what they think help me to reach them? Will knowing what they think help me to change my behavior? Let’s start by taking a look at these two questions, then we will look at what I believe Jesus life has to say about it.
Will knowing what they think help me reach them?
It’s fairly common knowledge that people outside the church consider us to be hypocrites. Does this knowledge help me to reach the lost? If I set out to prove this wrong and going to convince people or and I just going to come across and argumentative and hypocritical? In this case I don’t think this knowledge will help me to reach people in any way. I marketing it is helpful to know your intended audience. Knowing what they think of your company can help you to create a campaign designed at changing this perception. This knowledge might even help you to change a few products to better reach that audience. But, at the end of the day if the negative perceptions that people had about your company are true and go unchanged than you may experience a brief increase from your knowledge and effort, but it is to likely to last. If these things are true, then the only way to experience long lasting increases is to change your company. This plays out in the church in the form of new music, new/different buildings, new programs or ministries, but just like with the business example, if we are to really experience long lasting gains we have to change more than simply our “products”. Which brings us to our next question.
Will knowing what non-Christians think about us help us to change?
I don’t believe that simply knowing what they think will help us to reach them. I also don’t believe that this knowledge will help to change us as I mentioned above, this knowledge can help us change certain things that we do, but it will not change us. As Christians we believe that true change comes through the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, it is to going to be enough for us to know what they think. This knowledge can’t change us. What this knowledge can do is point out that we are in need of a change. From here we can seek the help of the Holy Spirit in making this change. This can allow us to change and, maybe, this change will help us reach people.
So, what does Jesus life tell us about this topic? Should we be concerned with what non-Christians think of us?
Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and Man.” Stinks referred to Jesus starting from his adolescence. From there it is only natural that he would grow in stature. Speaking from my own experience as an adolescent I think that growing I wisdom from there is a natural result. The part of this verse that I find most interesting is that He also grew “in favor with God and man”. I believe that nothing that is in the Bible is there by accident. With this in mind we can assume that it is important that we grow in favor not only with God, but also with man. Growing in favor with God seems natural as Christians. However, we often ignore the importance of growing in favor with man. In fact some go so far as to avoid this. Still others are so concerned with it that non-Christians think that they compromise what the Bible teaches for the sake of gaining their favor. I think this verse shows us that gaining the favor of non-Christians is important but, like Jesus we should be unwilling to compromise ourselves for the sake of gaining this favor.
Throughout the Gospels we read where Jesus was repeatedly attacked by the Pharisees. In fact it was eventually them that called for Jesus’ execution. Despite this Jesus was unwavering in his dealings with them. It is clear that He was concerned more with spreading the Gospel than He was with what the Pharisees thought about his.
So, where does this leave us?
Well, I believe that we should be concerned with the thoughts of those people outside the church. However, I don’t think that knowing their specific thoughts is all that important. It think thatMatt Norman
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