When Christians love their religion more than their God

Apr 9, 2015 by

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Instead of promoting Christ, Christians often promote . . .

their theology
their culture
their values
their creeds
their traditions
their spiritual practices
their specific type of baptism
their required form of communion
their style of sermon
their church
their denomination
their definition of salvation
their philosophy of evangelism
their form of ministry
their brand of worship
their interpretation of Revelation
their interpretation of the Bible
their favorite leadership model
their social customs
their laws, rules and regulations
their political beliefs
their moral values

Imagine if Christians introduced people to their God instead of their religion.

Unfortunately, we often evangelize our own specific type of Christianity to other Christians rather than sharing the Gospel with unbelievers — preferring to convert, criticize and attack our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because we feel their version of Christianity isn’t as good as ours.

In a pluralistic society obsessed with consumerism, marketing, entertainment and comfort, it’s tempting for Christians to endorse unique attributes of their specific church, community, traditions and faith instead of actually introducing people to God.

When this happens, the Gospel of Christ gets manipulated from something profound into a superficial sales pitch that’s commoditized to fulfill an array of selfish desires.

A particular brand of Christianity is propagated above all others — being worshipped and valued even more than God. We lose focus on the centrality of Jesus and obsess over the infinite differences within Christendom.

Instead of being unified in Christ, we’re divided by our distinctions — our beliefs become a form of idolatry.

Rifts are created, fractures occur and theological wars are waged. Opinions are stated, agendas are pushed, accusations spewed and allegations of heresy declared. Churches are disbanded, communities are broken, and relationships are lost — many abandon their faith altogether.

As a follower of Christ, do you ever feel like you’re still trying to be converted by other Christians? As if your faith isn’t quite good enough — being constantly critiqued, debated and judged by other believers?

Christian evangelism has become inward focused, obsessed with internal factions where various sects of Christianity jostle for power, recognition and control.

Instead of focusing on the unreached world with the transformative message of Jesus, churches, theologians, pastors and parishioners spend their energy and resources trying to convince other Christians — or shame them — in the hope that they’ll reform to their better, more holy, righteous and perfect “faith.”

Upon learning that a friend, coworker, or acquaintance is a Christian, we tend to immediately ask ourselves: Exactly what kind of Christian are they?

It’s not sufficient that they profess Jesus is Divine and rose from the dead, or that the Bible is inspired, or that they believe in the Trinity. That’s a start, but it’s not good enough. We want to know if they’re exactly the right type of Christian — our preferred type of Christian.

So over time we try to gather the necessary information and intelligence we think will reveal everything we need to know about their faith: What church do they attend? What music do they listen to? What books do they read? What political party do they support? What social causes do they support?

Inevitably, 99 percent of humanity fails to fit into our ideal picture of what a true Christian looks like. But instead of following Jesus’ commands to gracefully love our neighbors — even our enemies — and refrain from judging others, we do the exact opposite.

Is this the type of life-giving, hopeful, joyous and loving faith we want to share with the world? Is this the message of the Gospel: I’m right and you’re wrong?

Instead of comparing versions of the Bible — tell us what God has been speaking to you.

Instead of complaining about worship styles — tell us about a time you experienced God’s presence.

Instead of criticizing a particular theologian — tell us how God is moving in your life.

Instead of questioning a denomination — tell us what you love about God.

Instead of condemning someone’s beliefs about eternity — tell us how God has changed you.

Instead of arguing over the proper way to facilitate the sacrament of communion — tell us about the ups and downs of your relationship with God.

Instead of preaching about a right or wrong method of baptism — tell us your faith testimony.

Instead of talking about religion, introduce us to God.

Christianity is extremely complex. Thousands of years of varying traditions, practices, events, experiences and interpretations have shaped, informed and influenced an infinite number of cultures, communities and individuals in an incredibly unique way.

This doesn’t mean that Christians should accept everything as being morally admissible. It doesn’t mean that all beliefs and practices have equal merit. It doesn’t mean we live in a world devoid of absolute truth. It doesn’t mean we ignore false teaching and sin. On the contrary, followers of Christ must adhere to truth and orthodoxy.

But we shouldn’t be naïve enough to believe that only our particular church, pastor and favorite theologian is the sole holder of truth, wisdom and God’s favor.

The most important truth within all of Christianity is God. God exists. God’s real. God’s alive today. So why do we as Christians seem to talk about almost everything related to God without actually talking about our relationship with God?

Amid a world with unlimited spiritual choices, Jesus is distinctly unique! By introducing Jesus, instead of spewing the ugliness of yet another empty religion, we will reveal the wonderful glory of God.

Stephen Mattson graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern — St. Paul (Minn.). Follow him on Twitter @mikta and on his personal blog stephenjmattson.com.


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