Christianity has a big problem in the US. On the rare occasion we lead someone to Christ we seem to usually seem to end up with a convert that really has little signs of a daily radical walk with Jesus Christ, but they are thankful for the fire insurance they think they now have for the afterlife. This struggle seems to in part come from two big issues in the US: (1) We don’t teach radical commitment to Christ, and (2) We don’t reach non-Christians well. So what do we do about these crisis points?
Why we have such a problem with radical Christianity. It seems one reason we don’t have a larger percentage of passionate Christians is we don’t really ever start new Christians out with a calling to be passionate. I have observed many churches use some sort of easy fix Christian prayer. It goes something like, “I am a sinner, and Jesus, I want to be a Christian.” That sounds good, but as it is currently presented, it seems to be more like a five year old being asked to say the magic word — “Please.” Christianity has not taught what giving our lives to Christ means. We have made it all about Christ forgiving our sins, which is only half of the message. The other half of the message is “Converting” to God’s plan for our lives.
Converting is easy in that Christ accepts our honest heart effort instantly. True, radical commitment also means we are making a lifetime commitment to learn to live God’s way. It is not something we should present to a non-Christian lightly but with authenticity. The church has a strong tendency to understate the reality that deciding to commit to Christ literally it means “dying to self". It means we are choosing to let God replace our self-serving life with His will. Do any of us completely do this the day we become Christians? No, that is why we have grace, but understanding at least at some level the radical commitment "conversion" means should be a given.
Commitment is something that should be taught at the pre-Christian level because what people believe they are committing to naturally produces the result of expectation. Do couples getting married normally understand what a lifetime of radical commitment to one another means? No, but we definitely communicate to the best of our ability what it means and set the standards at a high level. Many couples choose to rise to the standard set forth. If we said, “All you have to do is say, ‘I do’ and you are good,” what would be the natural outcome? Would we have more affairs, less commitment, etc. Of course! Why does the church feel the need to undersell what commitment to Christ means?
The church in the U.S. starts out with a half-truth about what following Christ means and then believes we somehow will accomplish two things down the road. (1) We will “disciple” the person and sort of correct our lowered “bait and switch” description of Christianity. (2) We believe the person who signed up for one thing will naturally somehow want to jump into another camp.
To make the conversion process even more confusing, many churches don’t even have a real plan to walk with a new Christian. They consider discipleship to be a fast four-meeting plan of church membership, or something to that level, effective. For some reason, the last of the four sessions almost always involves tithing, which we failed to mention when we talked about commitment. Further, we tell the new convert they should get into a “small group,” even though that is not their culture and history, and then tell them the small group can solve their problems and teach them everything else. Is it a surprise we have produced Christians who simply have no idea what radically giving their lives to Christ involves? Why do I bring up the discipleship point on top of the conversion issue? Well, they kind of go hand-in-hand. We fail to present commitment to Christ to the pre-Christian and then fail to teach it to a new Christian and then we wonder why our convert factory produces such low standards in our fruit.
In closing today, realize this is part of a multi-day series and I will offer answers — not just criticism. Still, maybe the question for today is, “What did we sign up for?” Are we interested in radical faith? What is it and does it look like our commitment to Christ?