Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gallup-ing toward a new kind of influence

One of my pastor friends posted a link to the new Gallup poll that reveals that most people feel that Christianity's influence on US society has decreased. Given the events of the past 4 years politically and especially the election just past, I totally understand how someone who equated the influence of what the media loves to call the "Religious Right" with politics could come up with that conclusion.

I would too.

But as someone who is on the "front lines" so to speak of Christianity's work in the world, I have never equated what I believe Jesus has called me to do as a person or as a pastor with whether or not the political party I voted for won or lost. My measuring stick was far more personal.

"Am I loving God with everything I have - my total life? Am I loving my neighbor - whoever God places in my circles of influence - as fiercely as I do myself?"

Then as a pastor, I am looking to see if our church - through individuals and as a group - are we doing the same? So my standard of measurement is how many people have we shown the love of Jesus too - spiritually, physically, materially, and what was the result - in our hearts, and in theirs? That's what I look to when I "take a poll".

I came across an article by an English writer who happens to also be an atheist who has looked at what Christianity is doing for the people of Africa. Read it and then imagine someone writing an article about the churches of Valparaiso and Niceville and what we are doing for the people God has placed us near.

"It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa....

Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary...

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates...

Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete." -- Matthew Parris in The Times

I want that kind of article written about what we are doing. Not for the publicity, but to measure what effects we are having on our community. Let's use that as a better "poll" and then see what amount of influence we are having.

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