"If you've been calling yourself a Christian, you should stop."
This thought-provoking sentence appears in the book The Big Idea, coauthored by Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson, and Eric Bramlett. Let me share some more choice nuggets from this book:
The last thing the mission of Jesus Christ needs is more Christians . . . Eighty-five percent of the people in the United States call themselves Christians. But how are those 85 percent doing when it comes to accomplishing Jesus' mission? Research tells us that North American Christians . . .
- Are no more likely to give assistance to a homeless person on the street than non-Christians.
- Are no more likely than non-Christians to correct the mistake when a cashier gives them too much change.
- Will choose elective abortion as often as a non-Christian.
- Divorce at the same rate as those who consider themselves non-Christians.
In fact, when the Barna Research Group did a survey involving 152 separate items comparing the general population with those who called themselves Christians, they found virtually no difference between the two groups . . . If the contemporary concept of a Christian is of someone who is no different from the rest of the world, is Christian really the word you want to use to describe your willingness to sacrifice everything you have to see God's dream fulfilled? No way.
The Ferguson brothers are not trying to be heretical, but they are calling attention to the fact that Christians are often hard to identify in today's society—or if they do stand out, they stand out for less-than-admirable reasons. For example, novelist Anne Rice recently announced on her Facebook page that she had decided to "quit being a Christian" because she no longer wanted to belong to a "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group." Neither invisibility nor infamy reflects what Jesus would want to see from his bride, I imagine.
In contrast to many of today's Christians, Jesus was both alluring and yet as rebellious against the prevailing culture as he could be. He challenged just about every cultural norm of his time, by fraternizing with those who were thought to be "unclean," refusing to bow to pressures of legalism from the ruling religious leaders, and championing and supporting women and children throughout his ministry. And yet, unlike the way Christians are perceived today, Jesus drew such a following not just because he performed amazing miracles but because he lived in a manner utterly unlike anything people had ever seen. His words are as radical and challenging today as when he first uttered them. Take, for example, the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Here are the words and phrases describing those who will be called "blessed" in Jesus' value system: