I am reading, among other things, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), edited by Robert Webber. This book presents the views of five different people within the Emerging church movement.
John Burke’s chapter is called “The Emerging Church and Incarnational Theology”. In this chapter, Burke discusses the church’s purpose in the world. Consider this excerpt:
Something is really wrong! There’s a reason American villagers first check out the way of Buddha before the way of Christ. Something about our theology has led us to a misrepresentation of Jesus. George Barna has been reporting trends of the church in America for some time now. Barna says, “Of more than 70 moral behaviors we study, when we compare Christians to non-Christians we rarely find substantial differences.” And if you ask non-Christians for one word that comes to mind when they hear the word “Christian,” the most common answer is “judgmental.”
So, on the one hand, our global village hears Christians proclaim that Jesus is the only way and the right way, and all other ways are wrong. And yet following Jesus makes no difference whatsoever in the way these so-called Christians live and treat people, except that it makes them more judgment and hypocritical.
This slap in the face must be addressed by reconsidering how the church has viewed herself in North America, because obviously, something’s not as God intended. We’ve profaned the name of Jesus, so that his name gets associated with the opposite of the good news he came to proclaim. How do we re-present Jesus accurately to our global village? What needs to change?
Burke presents some very interesting statistics and asks challenging questions. If Burke (and Barna) is correct, then non-Christians see little difference in the morality of Christians versus non-Christians. Instead, non-Christians see Christians as “judgmental”.
So, I ask the same questions that Burke asks: Have we misrepresented Jesus to those around us? If so, how do we re-present (present again) Jesus more accurately? What needs to change?