Christianity has an image problem. People today view the church and the people in it as hyper political (75% of those polled), out of touch (72%), pushy in their beliefs (70%), and arrogant (64%). The most common perceptions are that we as Christians are homophobic (91%), hypocritical (85%) and judgmental (87%).
The reasons people today abandon the church is just as sobering: no value in attending (74%), no time (48%), not interested (42%), they always ask for money (40%) and boring services (36%).
So, how do we reach a culture for Christ when we have such an image problem? I think part of the answer is building relationships with unbelievers. (By the way, they don’t like being described as unbelievers but you know what I mean.)
A friend of mine told me this week of how he and his wife have been building a relationship with another couple who are unbelievers. I think there are some lessons to learn from their experience. He and his wife ate breakfast at the same McDonalds about 300 times a year. Eventually, every employee knew them on a first name basis and started sharing their life with them. Often times, my friends would say “we will pray about that for you.” They didn’t preach, just showed genuine concern.
A solid friendship was established with the manager of the McDonalds – even to the point where she invited my friends to the annual Christmas Party! She was about to have her third child with her third boyfriend when she discovered the baby had Down syndrome. Amazingly enough, she confided in my friends asking them what she should do?
My friends encouraged her and her boyfriend to have the baby – this became the tipping point for her to put her faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Lukey was born and my friends were asked to be godparents. They attended the eventual wedding of the couple and the first three birthday parties of little Lukey. My friends led this McDonalds manager to Christ and are now longing for the husband to trust in Christ as well.
Their story reminded me that in order to correct our image problem we need to listen to the unchurched, genuinely love on them, engage in conversation with them, accept them for who they are and explore with them what an authentic relationship with Christ is all about. One on one might just be the way we change our image.