It seems as if I am inundated with statistics nearly every day. Statistics on the breakup of the family. Statistics on divorce. Statistics on the number of unchurched people in my community and in my state. Statistics on the decline in baptisms. And then there are the secular news polls that flood the airwaves. Approval ratings, healthcare polls, numbers of unemployed people, foreclosures—statistics are so prevalent that they have become nearly invisible to me. Except for the one I just read—fifty-one percent. That one shocked me. In his book, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University Kevin Roose quoted the one statistic that completely shocked me. On page 9 he wrote, “One recent study showed that 51 percent of Americans don’t know any evangelical Christians, even casually.” Let that number sink in for a minute. That means that over half of America does not have an effective Gospel presence in their lives. Sure, they probably have access to TV preachers and radio ministries, but access to media ministries is far different that actual contact with an actual Christian.
So, what does that mean? First, it means that I am really out of touch. I assume that every place is like my place. The place where I live has churches on every corner, sometimes two or three. Many are dead or dying, but the fact is, they are there. Very seldom do I meet a person in my area who will openly deny Christ. Some will acknowledge that they aren’t saved. Many claim to be saved based on an experience as a child, but show absolutely no evidence in the way they live their lives. But the idea that someone has had absolutely no contact with an evangelical Christian in my area is totally foreign. Living and ministering in an area like this has blinded me to the complete ineptitude of our greater witness.
So, the next question is what has been our greater witness? How do people who don’t know us view us and what has shaped their views? Apparently, by at least the 51% who don’t know any of us personally, we are viewed primarily as a right-wing political movement. We are seen as gun-toting, gay-hating, misogynistic tea-partiers. Amongst those who don’t know us, we are immediately recognized for those things we are against. It is no wonder that evangelical Christians are viewed with such vitriol and distrust.
I realize that the Bible consistently declares that followers of Christ will be reviled and rejected by the world. But it also clearly states the reason why. We are to be rejected by the world because we have clearly communicated the Gospel to them and they reject us for the same reason they reject the Gospel. We are not to be rejected because of our outspoken political stances. Should individual Christians vote to stop abortions? Yes. Should we vote to stem the tide of the homosexual agenda? Of course. But is that what we should be known for?
Evangelical Christians should be known as people of the Book. We should be known for the way that we try to love people to Christ. We should be known for the way we loudly and boldly proclaim the Gospel with the quality of our marriages, our parenting, our community involvement, our compassion, our friendships, and yes, even our verbal witness. After all, Jesus did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our voting bloc. He did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our firm stance on conservative social issues. He did not say that they will know we are His disciples by our ability to run through a Gospel tract with dozens of complete strangers. No, Jesus said that they will know we are Christians by our love. And how can we love people if we don’t even know them? Fifty-one percent of the population desperately needs to get to know us.