the weblog of Alan Knox

What needs to change?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2007 in books | 6 comments

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?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-20-2007

    hi alin,
    I am actually putting off writing a paper at this point by surfing blogs so it may negate some of my argument. Little difference in the saved and unsaved? huh. Possibly we are not presenting Christ properly. But we need to be aware that we are still human. Christianity can be frustrating when we look at christians and not Christ. But that is only superficial. I think the missing link in all this is the lack of discipleship and mentoring in church. I have found my experience to be rare that I came to Christ thru a teacher/friend Steve who then discipled me for two years. When i moved away to seminary, I could not really find a replacement mentor. No church I went to really had a system of getting these personal, intentional relationships started. The only system I wanted was, hey disciple me! I was/am clueless. Also, previously, I see that my group gatherings of the church did little to promote sanctification through the gathering via prayer and confession and repentance. Few times have I known the fellowship of a group where we would come together to confess sin and encourage one another and learn from more mature and older believers. I would say the way church is standardized and what is emphasized needs to be changed. A fried of mine used to say we got a reformation of theology but now we need of reformation of ecclesiology. Most churches still have a catholic system. Should that be done away with?

  2. 2-20-2007

    Alan –

    I don’t know. That’s my answer … I don’t know. I think that, is it Ed? .. he said it well: “I would say the way church is standardized and what is emphasized needs to be changed. A fried of mine used to say we got a reformation of theology but now we need of reformation of ecclesiology. Most churches still have a catholic system. Should that be done away with?

    In our small group right now we are studying the first 7 chapters of Romans and we’re on the last half of chapter 2. Sunday night we talked about how Paul is telling them that For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written. basically because they were hypocrites. They were “…confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth…“. Yet he goes on to ask them if they are doing the very things that they are preaching and teaching. They were acting like the Pharisees whom Jesus was speaking of in Matthew 23 when He said, “…therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

    Maybe I’m wrong, I dunno, but this is what I see over and over … this is what I come in contact with more often than not. This is what I try NOT to be. I want people to want what I have, WHO I have. They don’t see Christ in me when I am being a hypocrite.

    I don’t expect a duck to bark, know what I mean? We place heavy burdens on people when we expect things from them that are not there, and in that we are not loving them. Remember that Paul said our words are a clanging cymbal, a noisy going, if we don’t have love. And why in the world do we expect a sinner to act like a saint? That just bugs me! We all should be acting according to our natures … why expect anything differently? But in that we who know the Lord are saints and should be acting like who we are. But most of us don’t know that, most of us don’t know who we are in Christ, so we still act like sinners. It’s awfully confusing for people, I think, both inside the Church and outside the church.

    I’m rambling … again, thinking out loud … getting of that inevitable soapbox now … 🙂


  3. 2-20-2007

    Ed and Heather,

    You have both given me much to think about. Sometimes it seems that we (and I mean “me” here) separate living as a believer from being the church. Believers function one way, while the church functions a different way. In other words, I think we may have put too much emphasis on the church as an organization… or as Ed said, the church is still operating within the catholic system. We are not an organization. We are a family or brothers and sisters. Why do we not act like a family?


  4. 2-20-2007

    Alan –

    I just wanted to clarify that when I say “saints” I mean that in the way the term is used by Paul (i.e. in Christ), not in the way that the entire rest of the world (or so it seems) thinks when they think “saint”. And by “sinner” I mean it in the way it is used in God’s Word – someone who doesn’t know Christ. Again, I’m not defining it as the world defines it.



  5. 2-20-2007

    I think we misrepresent the gospel. I think there is too much emphasis on a select few to be “role models”. We encourage them to live in the flesh and deny them the opportunity to truly work out their own salvation by expecting them to behave a certain way (not to mention how harsh we can get when these same peole don’t meet our expectations, or God’s for that matter). So, then when the world takes a look at us, they see a religion that works for a select few — not a gospel that is needed for all mankind.

  6. 2-20-2007


    You said: “So, then when the world takes a look at us, they see a religion that works for a select few — not a gospel that is needed for all mankind.” I think this may be one of the best summaries that I have read. The world does look at Christianity as a religion, because that is the way that we present it to them. It seems that we have spoken the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” to the world. Meanwhile, neither we (believers) nor the world can live out the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”. However, because of the gospel, we can live in the power of the Spirit. Why have we not been able to communicate that to the world?