Saturday, November 17, 2007

Five Kinds of Christians

The fall 2007 edition of Leadership Journal (part of the Christianity Today family) has an article discussing a recent survey the differences between all the people who claim to be Christians in the United States. The point of the article, besides highlighting these differences, was to help church leaders get a grasp on how connect with these different kinds of Christians.

Here are a few excerpts from Five Kinds of Christians:

Leadership discussed the survey results with leading pastors and religious experts to ascertain the ramifications for church leaders. Three critical issues emerged:

* The local church is no longer considered the only outlet for spiritual growth.

* Churches must develop relational- and community-oriented outreach.

* Lay people have to be better equipped to be God's ambassadors.


"These days, people can get good teaching, wonderful music, and excellent writing, whether through iPods, TV, or online," says Wilkerson. "They learn to shop around and pick and choose. Then they expect the same high quality in their local church. A generation ago, the average person learned to accept his home pastor and was faithful to his local church. But now, people's appetites for excellence have been heightened."

As pastor of a large church himself, Wilkerson acknowledges "we probably end up perpetuating that kind of appetite by trying to be as high-quality as what we find out there. The temptation of larger churches is to compete and to be as good as the others are."

Even for those Private and Cultural Christians who do not typically consume Christian media, access to it can still play a significant role in their spiritual development in ways that may not be reflected in the survey.

"The old paradigm of evangelism was a transactional sharing of the gospel," says Ken Fong, senior pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles. "I would try to get people to intellectually agree with me. But the new paradigm is different, an approach in which I invite you to walk alongside me, examine my life, and see evidence of the truth, and hopefully there will be something compelling that you see. It's a no-strings-attached invitation to enter my life as I follow Jesus."

In addition to these findings about the church, we found a most defining dichotomy over the Jesus question: Active and Professing Christians said "accepting Christ as Savior and Lord" is the key to being a Christian (almost 9 in 10), while Liturgical, Private, and Cultural Christians favored more generally "believing in God" as the main element in being a Christian. So, for a vast number of people who consider themselves Christian, Christ is not the central figure of their faith.

I hope that you take some time to read the entire article and ponder how it can apply to the situation that you are in.

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