Christianity is Harder Than We Pretend it is

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We make a lot of pitches with Christianity.

“It’s a free gift.”

“The peace and satisfaction your heart desires.”

These are the expectations we set. And expectations help preface either disappointment or fulfillment.

Unfortunately, for many Christians, the reality of faith is a shocking letdown compared to the false premises that were guaranteed them by pastors, churches and other believers.

 

As people obsess over church attendance, burnout rates and demographic changes within Christianity, we become infatuated with solving today’s problems—determined to find the perfect fix.

Thus, we analyze church traditions, styles, techniques and theologies and wonder why the popularity of Christianity rises and falls and fluctuates. And while we scour the current state of Christianity and desperately try to improve, fix, troubleshoot and ultimately enhance it, we neglect to look at the very start of the problem: Pre-Christianity.

As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as better than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.

Before people give their lives over to Christ, before they commit to regularly attending a church, before becoming a full-fledged member of a denomination, before being baptized, before taking communion and before diving head-first into the Jesus movement—what are they really searching for? What are they expecting to get out of Christianity? More importantly, what are we selling?

Too often, when people are expecting—and want—to meet God, churches instead present an illusion, a tempting escape from reality.

Surprisingly, many people don’t reject Christianity because they’ve given up on God. Instead, they’ve given up on the people and things that represent God. They don’t hate Jesus, they just become tired of not finding Him within Christian culture.

As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as easier than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.

But while following Christ is beautiful and worthwhile, disappointment, pain, suffering, betrayal and hurt are also a part of life, and Christians aren’t immune or excluded from these horrors. Contrary to a life of ease, comfort and luxury, following Jesus demands sacrifice, honesty, vulnerability, conflict and a lifetime dedicated to loving others. This is really hard—a commitment not meant to be taken lightly.

Though not ideal, gossip, lies and disappointment happen within any group of Christians. Christians sin. They make mistakes. They can sometimes be ignorant, clueless, clumsy, mean, hateful and even downright horrible.

Unfortunately, many believers are afraid to admit this. We Christians have become experts at putting up a facade of happiness and bliss, pretending that nothing bad ever happens.

We assume that if people find out things aren’t all right—that our lives are actually chaotic, messy and out of control, that our relationships are broken, our feelings hurt and that we’re filled with worry and pain—they’ll get scared away. So we hide these things with the mistaken belief that we’re glorifying God—protecting Him from bad press.

But in doing so, we dishonor God and set ourselves up for failure.

Christians need to start communicating reality and start owning up to our mistakes, doubts, failures, insecurities and pain. It’s healthy to apologize, admit our wrongdoings, and even allow ourselves to question, doubt and change our opinions and beliefs.

Christians need to start communicating reality and start owning up to our mistakes, doubts, failures, insecurities and pain.

We need to leave room for being angry, mad, scared, depressed and anxious within churches, and must stop promoting the expectation that Christians always have to have it all together. We don’t. Believers need to quit presenting themselves—and Christianity—as perfect and should start being genuine.

Yet many churches market Christianity as an easy and painless solution to all life’s problems. Instead of introducing Christianity as a path to having a relationship with God requiring time, energy, work and intense dedication, it becomes a product that promises much without hardly any sacrifice.

Having this mindset causes our expectations to become superficial. Baptisms, prayers of faith, and declarations of solidarity to God become nothing more than posturizing—little, if anything, actually changes within our everyday lives.

In fact, we actually expect things to get favorably better for us. We assume God will shine down divine blessings: salary increases, better parking spaces, health improvements, increased social popularity and championships for our favorite sports teams. We want our faith to work for us—not the other way around.

This piece is currently being published on Relevantmagazine.com

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How to Talk about the Gospel When ‘Evangelism’ Is No Longer Socially Acceptable

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Within a post-Christian society where words such as ‘converts’ and ‘evangelism’ and ‘proselytize’ are increasingly associated with religious zealots, abusive cults, and violent terrorism, it’s becoming more difficult to communicate faith-based ideas without being offensive or perceived as a close-minded bigot.

Historically, evangelism has been weaponized to hurt, shame, guilt, and induce fear. Its longtime associations with obnoxious street preachers, sleazy televangelists, and corrupt organizations make it even less appealing to the public—and Christians themselves.

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Have Churches Become Too Shallow?

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Christians ultimately attend church to meet with God. But sometimes we turn our churches into distractions, and spiritual leaders mistakenly prioritize things beyond God, becoming obsessed with marketing, consumerism, and entertainment — creating false idols.

The diluting of church happens in both subtle and obvious ways:

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Christianity Is about Loving, Not Judging

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It’s convenient, tempting, and easy for Christians to obsess over the smallest details of our—and others—faith while completely missing the reality of God’s love. Too often, we become distracted by our differences instead of focusing on what really matters.

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The Christian Alter Ego

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It happens when we enter the front doors of a church, meet in small groups, get involved in Bible studies, participate in worship services, attend Christian-sponsored events, and fellowship with other believers—we transform into our Christian Personality.

The posture improves, voice changes, and behavior becomes conspicuously religious. We fix our hair,  put on nicer clothes, stop cussing, temporarily stash away the cigarettes, and pretend to get along with our family.

Although the appearance changes—deep inside we’re still exactly the same. This is the biggest danger of the Christian alter-ego: pretending to be someone we’re not.

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Let’s Stop Pretending That Ministry is All Fun and Games

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In a society obsessed with consumerism, comfort, and entertainment, it’s not surprising that the Great Commission, God’s command to love our neighbors, and Christ’s instructions to minister to others and care for the poor have been co-opted by secular ideals.

Instead of following Jesus’s example of selflessly sacrificing everything for the sake of others, Christians have become addicted to getting instead of giving.

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10 Ways Christians Misuse Their Faith

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Knowing, experiencing and reflecting the love of God is one of the most beautiful things one can experience. There are plenty of groups of Christians demonstrating that to the world today.

But unfortunately, this thing we call “Christianity” can also be perverted, exploited and abused. We’ve probably all used our identity as a Christian with the wrong motivations at some point—it’s a good thing God’s love doesn’t depend on how good we are at following Him. But it’s important to be able to identify and own up to the times we are misusing Christianity in order to get back to the truth of the Gospel.

Here are a few ways people misuse Christianity:

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My Brief Interactions with Maya Angelou

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Whenever Maya Angelou visited the Twin Cities she stayed at the same hotel I worked at, and since I was the bellman, I was charged with pushing her around in her wheelchair.

So there I was, carefully steering her about and making sure I didn’t run into anything. Much of the experience consisted of just waiting for her to get ready, taking her to her room, meetings, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and basically wherever else she wanted to go.

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