If modern culture were a prize fight, organized Christianity wouldnt quite be knocked out yet, but it would certainly be on the ropes, waybehind on points coming to the bell.
Its no secret that people are leaving the Church in record numbers, and although they may not all be rejecting Jesus, they aresurely saying no to the faith that bears His namefor many reasons.
I spend a great deal of mytime listeningto many of these folks, and they educate me. Based on what Ive learned from nearly two decades in church ministry, here are some ways weChristians areobscuring Jesusandhurting people, and severely damagingour testimony in the world inthe process:
1. Vilifying Non-Christians
In the face of attrition and growing public ambivalence, too many Christians lazily lean back on attack language and war rhetoric, especially with those deemed outsiders (i.e. non-Christians or Christians who dont fit within a narrow framework of appearance, conduct and belief system).
This continued manufacturing of an encroaching enemy is designed to rally the shrinking bases, but its also something young people are seeing from a mile awayand rejecting outright. They want and deserve a Christianitythat is primarily known for benevolence, not for violence.
2. Marrying Jesus and Politics
This generation seeksa faith thatis not drawn along starkpolitical lines. They rightly want a Jesus that cant fit comfortably within any presidential platform or voting block.
If our religion is going truly to be as big as we say God is, it has to transcend our man-made political systems and we need to speak aboutour faith in light of this. If we ever hope to reflect Christ accurately to the world, we have to allow His distinct message to existindependently fromour partisan affiliations.
3. Worshiping Christian Celebrity.
People live on Twitter, and they understandcelebrity worship. They engage in blind hero-worship aseffortlessly as breathing, and yet they want the Church to be different. They expect something in faith communities that doesnt always mirror the culture.
But for all our talk about Making Jesus Famous and lifting up the name of the Lord, Christians often shower superstarpastors, celebrityworship leaders and lauded Christian writers with all sorts of misplaced adulation and excessive notorietythat areall little more than sanctified idolatry. We need to redirect our hearts above the platform and pulpit.
4. Defending Our Misdeeds
The Ashley Madison hacking and the Duggar family scandals revealedthat not only are those Christians who crusade most vocally on morality issues often the most broken, but that we individually and collectively are pretty lousy about accepting responsibility when we failespecially when we do so sexually.
In response to revealed indiscretions, weinvariably see disgraced followers of Jesus blamingeverything from pornography to the media to immodest dress to the Devil himself, instead of simply admitting that were all jacked-up messes, and we fall regularly too.
The sentencethat could change so much but the one that we so often refuse to say to the world: Its my fault, and Im sorry.
5. Defiantly Refusing to Grow
Though the past 20 years has allowed an unfathomable amount of discovery, large portions of Christianity haveofteneither pushed back or turned a blind eye to it all. Weve learnedso much about how the universe works andhow our brains function, yet the Church too often seems unable or unwilling to incorporate such things into their theology and insteadsimplyignores it.
If our faith doesnt embrace Science and adequately course-correct based on what we now know to be true about the world, it will become obsolete to the world.
6. MisusingThe Bible
When it comes to the amount of damage so-called Christians have done in the world, the Bible is sadly the deadliest weapon of choice. We use it to justify wars and to perpetuate injustice and bloody those we disagree with.
Weve ripped it from context, appropriated it for our own political agendas, selectively enforced it and brutally bashed people over the head with itand this generation has grown weary of itall. They will not tolerate a Christianity that uses the Bible like a hammer, unless it is to build something useful.
As I said, many people arent really rejecting Jesus. Even many of the most nonreligious folks finds Himadmirable, wise and worthy of great respect. They often respond quite well to His teachings and life example, however, they dont find many touch points between those things and the Church that bears His name.
If we continue to move our religion away from the humility and compassion and diversity we see in the Gospels, people are going to keep saying No.
You dont have to agree with these perceptions, but they are the onesheld bya growingmultitude who have grown weary of a faith tradition that seems to have lost the plot. I stillbelieve when someone purely encounters Jesus that he or she is changed forever, yet more and more, that is not whothey are encounteringwhen theywalk through church doors.
May we look inthe mirror and abandon any arrogance and pride and fear that keeps us from allowing ourselves to beindividually andcorporatelyrenovated, until the clearestimage of Jesus isrevealed in us.
A version of this article originally appeared on johnpavlovitz.com. Used with permission.