“I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Malachi 3:6 (NIV).
When someone mentions “Missions” we automatically think of far away, distant places. We never really think of it being close to us; we just assume everybody we know are Christians. After all, how could we sing “When We All Get to Heaven” and think anything different? What if there was a “mission field” on the pew you sit on at church or in your own home?
“We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.” 1 John 5: 9-10 (NIV).
On December 1, 2016, the Barna Group published “Notional Christians: The Big Election Story in 2016.” It contains some interesting information. Most of it probably won’t come as a surprise as it shows who voted for who in November. However, the makeup of the “Who’s” really caught my eye and should tell us something very meaningful about the world we live in and the assumptions we make about people.
The folks that voted were broken down into “five unique faith segments.” They are as follows:
Skeptic (21%) – these are individuals that described themselves as atheist or agnostic, or who indicate that they do not believe in the existence of God or have no faith-related ties or interests.
Other Faith (5%) – these individuals associate with a faith other than Christianity. Among these are those who identify with Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
That’s 26% that can definitely be considered a mission field.
Notional Christians (43%) – these are people who consider themselves to be Christian but they have not made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” or believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.
These folks have never accepted Jesus and don’t think they are going to Heaven but call themselves Christian? I guess they just have a notion. If this line of thinking is acceptable then let me re-introduce myself: I am Astronaut Houston Simpson. That’s right, I’ve never been to space nor been in the astronaut program but I just had a notion.
Non-evangelical born again Christians (24%) – these people have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, they do not accept all of the remaining seven conditions that categorize someone as an evangelical.
This adds up to 67% of folks that call themselves Christian but don’t believe in some things. That can’t be a bad thing can it? After all, who are we to judge or pay attention? Here is the final segment:
Evangelicals (7%) – these folks met nine different criteria. Just like the Non-evangelical group, (#1) they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and (#2) believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. This group also believes that (#3) their faith is very important in their lives today; (#4) strongly believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; (#5) firmly believes that Satan exists; (#6) strongly believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; (#7) strongly agree that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; (#8) strongly assert that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches; and (#9) describes God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent on church attendance, the denominational affiliation of the church attended or self-identification. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”
So only 7% of those that voted in the last election believe those 9 things? How can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe in all 9? This would mean that 93% of the voting population in the US doesn’t really know Christ. What else could it mean? Can you be a Christian and believe that Christ committed a sin? Of course not, but some do.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV).
Cafeteria Christianity. Get want you want and ignore the rest. You can treat the sinless nature of Christ like a vegetable on the steam table you don’t like to eat.
Morrison’s, the Pioneer, Cedar House, Golden Corral, the buffets that made America great and a little portly. I remember the joy of getting to pick out the things that I liked and wanted to eat. I could totally ignore and look with disgust at the booger peas, hominy and beets. Only choosing what I thought was worthy of my appetite. It seems like we can treat God with the same attitude.
We are all too eager to accept his loving nature but want to “hold the holiness” stuff. We like this Jesus and the salvation but telling others about Him gives us heartburn, so I won’t do that. We like the Bible as a “Good Book” but it being without error is like that casserole we don’t know what’s in it so we pass on it. On and on, we pick what we like and what we are comfortable with and completely ignore that God tells us it’s an “all or nothing” relationship.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28 (NIV).
Jesus tells us it’s a narrow road but we live like it’s a 20 lane interstate and everybody has their golden ticket to Heaven, at least the people we like has a ticket. We sing “When we all get to Heaven” when we know everybody doesn’t. We do the things that God commands that we like but ignore the remainder. We lie to ourselves and think “Commands” can be ignored. You can ignore an invitation but you rebel when you ignore commands.
If only 7% identify as an “evangelical”, then our homes and churches probably have someone who needs to come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So the next time you have a family gathering or are at church, you may have the opportunity to witness to someone about Jesus. Just because they call themselves a Christian, doesn’t mean they are a follower of Christ. We can say anything, some can even claim to be an Astronaut but the truth is we live what we truly believe.
Run to the Cross!