A headline in the online edition of Christianity Today last week caught my attention as it declared “Americans Warm Up to Every Religious Group Except Evangelicals”.
Without getting mired into the details of the Pew Research Study upon which the article was based, (If you’re interested, <click here> ) I will just note that it was based upon a recent survey of 4200 Americans as to how favorably they viewed various religious groups: Jews, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Atheists, and Muslims.
The main point emphasized by the article was that every religious group received a notably more favorable rating than it had received in 2014 with one glaring exception – evangelical Christians, who remained steady at 61% favorability.
On the surface, that might not sound so discouraging unless you drill a little deeper into the results. Removing the responses of evangelical Christians, who rated themselves very highly, drops the favorability rating of evangelicals down to just 32% among non-evangelicals. Additionally, the research revealed that respondents from the Millennial generation viewed evangelicals equally favorably as they viewed Muslims and atheists. Take a moment to let that sink in!
Several suggestions were offered concerning the meaning of these results. Personally, I believe there is increasing confusion over the very term “evangelical Christian”. Among the American population in general today, it often carries more of a political meaning than a religious one.
But what concerned me perhaps more than anything in the article was a statement at the end by sociologist Brad Wright, who was quoted as saying,
“Ultimately, evangelical Christians might do well not to spend too much time worrying about what others think of us. Christians in general, and evangelical Christians in particular (depending on how you ask the question), are well-regarded in this country. If nothing else, there’s little we can do to change other people’s opinions anyway.”
I can’t help but think that such attitudes might be contributing to those disappointing results revealed above – especially among Millennials. Does it matter what others think of us? Is there anything we can do to change others’ opinion of us? On both counts, I believe the answer is a resounding “Yes!”.
In the span of four chapters in 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul makes three statements that we ought to keep in mind in our daily interactions with those who cross our path:
- “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV)
- “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV)
- “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV)
Taken together, these passages paint a beautiful picture of lifestyle evangelism – the kind of life that prompts questions about the source of our hope. (1 Peter 3:15)
Does it matter what others think of us? … Absolutely! As his ambassadors, what others think of us reflects upon the Christ we represent. As letters from Christ, what others think of us either opens doors for witnessing or closes ears to our message. And the aroma we project will either draw others to Christ or drive them away. If it drives them away, it is probably not the pleasing aroma of Christ we are projecting.
Does it matter? … Maybe we should ask a Millennial.
“When people sense a Jesus-like attitude and spirit from us, it clears the path for relationship; and perhaps for a testimony that just might be heard without defensiveness.” – Dave Desforge
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