Page 39 - Broward 1213

Basic HTML Version

Terry Morrow
Good News
Christmas is the season for
receiving presents, waiting for
Santa Claus, singing carols, and
decorating your home. Right? For
a growing number of Americans,
these are “the reasons for the
season.” In a recent book byDavid
Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
entitled
Unchristian
, the authors
share stunning statistics from their
recent research on the perceptions
of non-Chrisitians. They call these
individuals “outsiders” – those
viewing the faith from beyond the
church walls. This group includes
agnostics, atheists, those who
identify with another faith other
thanChristianity (such as Judaism,
Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism,
and others), and other unchurched
adults who are not born again
Christians.
Samaritans in our midst
Outsiders are increasingly less
of a fringe sector of society. They
make up one-quarter of Boomers
and Elders, one-third of those 30 to
41 and two-fifths of those between
the ages of 16 to 29. As you may
notice, each generation contains
more than the last. Houston, we
have a problem.
As we drive through the
streets of South Florida, we see
bumper stickers, magnets and yard
signs that say, “Jesus is the reason
for the season.” For a growing
group of Americans, the bells of
this statement do not jingle.
According to the authors of
Unchristian, many of these
individuals
attended
church
growing up but, for multiple
reasons cited in the survey, they no
longer feel connected to the church
of their youth. While the media
has had an influence, its impact
was surprisingly small when
compared to other factors such as
church
experiences
and
interpersonal experiences with
Christians. It is important to note
that interpersonal and church
experiences were also cited as
playing important roles in bringing
people to Christ.
The authors found the three
most expressed perceptions of
modern-day Christianity include
anti-homosexual (noted by 91
percent of young outsiders),
judgmental (87 percent of
respondents), and hypocritical (85
percent of respondents). While
manymay feel defensive, surprised
or even embarrassed by the
negative perceptions held by
outsiders, there is hope. On the
positive end, three-quarters of
outsiders affirm that Christianity
has “good values and principles.”
The most favorable perception of
Christianity is that it holds the
same basic ideals as other religions.
See the good
As we consider impressions
held by many “outsiders,” we must
consider the good that is being
done in order to sidestep the path
of becoming downgraded and
disconnected by the ills of our
collective walk. There are endless
examples of Christians shining
God’s transforming light into the
homes and streets of South Florida.
Sheridan House Family Ministries
is changing the trajectory of
families by giving themthe tools to
thrive. Hope Women’s Center is
saving lives of the unborn and their
mothers. Your local church is
leading ministries that are leaving
concrete footsteps for the glory of
God. The question is not about
whether there are goodministries,
projects, and organizations doing
important work. The results of the
survey by Kinnaman and Lyons
point, rather, to interpersonal
experiences with Christians as the
main way outsiders form their
perceptions of Christians.
The gospel wewish to see
As we enter this Christmas
season, how might we be the
gospel wewish to see in theworld?
Outsiders are correct; Christianity
holds many of the same good
values and principles as other
religions. These include service,
honesty, love, kindness, sacrifice
and faithfulness. But God has
gifted
Christians
with
the
experience of unearned grace,
unexplainable
hope,
and
insurmountable
power
demonstrated through and rooted
in the Christmas story. We are
distinguished by and hopefully
distinguishable by our fervent love,
surprising grace and generous
sacrifice that flows from God
through his people. How do our
stories, our lives, our daily walk tell
the Christmas story to those
standing outside, or sitting in the
back row, of the church?
God sent his son as amodel to
help
prideful,
self-centered,
wayward human beings (all of us)
live as Christ-followers. With that
inmind, Christiansmight consider
how we can be like Christ beyond
simply calling ourselves Christian,
wearing a cross, or going to church.
Attending church and publicly
professing our faith are important
throughout the year. However, the
difference
between
simply
believing in principles and
transforming people’s hearts and
minds emerges from the greatest
story ever told. Christ’s gift to us
was unearned and unexplainable.
Why is Christian love different
from that of other religions?
Simple. It is fueled by winds of
gratitude, overflowing love and
wellsprings of joy. We can never
match God’s goodness or grace.
But we can reflect it, channel it and
be fueled by it. As we begin to
decorate our homes for Christmas,
tis the season for adorning our
heartswith theChristmasmessage.
The Christmas challenge
This Christmas, will you
accept the challenge? Be the gospel
to someone eachweek thismonth.
Opportunities are endless and you
will only fail if you do nothing. Can
you offer one sincere word of
encouragement or act of kindness
to a friend or co-worker? Is there
anyone that you can express words
of gratitude to or a personal note
with a prayer for blessings? Can
youmake cookies for a neighbor or
co-worker and, and ask if there is
anything you can pray about for
them…and immediately pray?
What if youwere to offer to babysit
for a single mother you know and
show God’s love to her child? Do
you have someone in mind that
you could invite to join you for
church followed by a football game
and burgers at your house?
Maywe be the gospel wewish
to see at Christmas, both to those
inside our churches and to those
standing outside the faith through
simple acts of kindness, grace, and
love.
Dr. Terry Morrow is an assistant
dean and assistant professor at
Nova Southeastern University.
She has a Ph.D. in conflict
resolution and is in the process of
becoming a Certified Christian
Conciliator. She can be reached
at terryannmorrow@gmail.com.
>
goodnewsfl.org
39 December 2013
CHRISTMAS
Be the Gospel You Wish To See