Jon Ortberg tells about a woman in Atlanta, the friend of a friend. All her life, she had been a Christian, grew up in church, but at some point she felt like too much of her life revolved around what she did at church. She was feeling isolated from people outside the church. She was feeling a little too religious. So she decided to get a degree in counseling. She started a psychology degree at a secular university.
In one of her classes, the students were given the assignment: “Go and hang out with people whom you fear the most.” Now, if you were given that assignment, who would come to your mind, what group would you choose? For her, the answer was people who are gay. That was the group that made her feel anxious, the most uncomfortable and she realized, “I can’t bless people if I’m afraid of them, so I need to go and spend time with folks who are gay.” Probably a good thing for many Christians to do — not fear gays, but build some relationships with people you fear.
I’m not really sure who I would choose — maybe mimes, I have to be honest they kind of unnerve me. Sorry if you are a mime, maybe we could have lunch. :) Anyway here is the part that struck my heart like a hammer. In that psychology class, the Number One answer to the question, “What group of people do you fear most?” was Christians. Forty percent of the students in that class, when asked, Who are you most afraid to hang around with? said, “People who are Christians.”
Do you hear that? If our mission is to show people the heart of God, and if embarking upon our mission will brand our hearts with love, we must be off mission.
What is our brand? When someone finds out that you are a Christian — what are the first thoughts that filter through their minds? In the book unChristian, David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons suggest that if you are talking to someone in our community — about 50% between the age of 16 and 30 — most likely they will think of words like hypocrite, judgmental, too political, and anti-homosexual.
When I share that information with college students at Calvary, they respond with a “yep, that’s right.” When I share that information with people over the age of 40, we tend to get a bit defensive. Here’s what I think, whether we like it or not, that’s our brand. It seems like we have three options,
- 1. Ignore it and keep up with business as usual. The problem with business as usual is that it’s just usual.
- 2. We can proclaim that the brand is wrong — that’s really not who we are — and then go on a public relations marketing campaign, maybe send out a mailer. The problem with that is that it’s just business as usual and you know what the problem with business as usual is…
- 3. We can get humble about the state of our hearts and make a serious decision to love God, love our neighbors, and love each other with radical servanthood.
I think we should try number 3. Change the product. Then we may not need a mailer.