The Barna Research Group did a survey in America to find out how much impact Christians were having in society and on their local communities. When asked to name a famous Christian leader the four most popular answers were Billy Graham, the Pope, Barack Obama and Joel Osteen. And each of these were only named by 1 in 50. When asked to identify an individual, that they knew, who they would consider to be an influential Christian 41% were unable to do so.
America continues to be considered by many to be a more religious country than the United Kingdom. Church attendance is higher (in 2008 the Barna Group reported that 56% of American adults attended a conventional church at least once a month). The statistic in the UK is less than 19% according to Tearfund’s church going statistics (April 2007). Admittedly, these figures are a few years old, but still give a reasonably accurate comparison between America and the United Kingdom. The sobering truth is that the majority of people simply do not see the importance of being connected to a local church, here in the UK.
Now if 41% of Americans report that they have no knowledge of any influential Christians within their work, home or social context, what might the percentage be if that same question were asked in the United Kingdom – potentially 80% or 90%. Do you even know of one influential Christian on your street? Or what influence if any do we have on those around us, if we consider ourselves to be Christian?
Throughout his ministry, Jesus grew in favour with God and man, what does this mean if he did not grow in influence. Phillip Yancey asks the question: “What government would execute Captain Kangaroo?” There simply would be no reason to fear Captain Kangaroo. The point is that Jesus stood against those who abuse power and leadership, and he showed God’s loved people a better way – the way of the Kingdom. The early Church grew at a prolific rate simply because the leaders were filled with the Spirit and walked with God, and crucially they were highly influential people. How influential do you want to be? Personally, if I could be part of a movement that reached 3000 people for Christ in a day – I would take that for starters.
Throughout the era of modernity and into post-modernity we have been told over and over again that our faith in Jesus Christ is a matter of private concern – and friends many of us have sadly bought into that lie. This is the reason why 41% of Americans and many more Brits simply have no ability to identify any truly influential Christians in their lives.
Now is the time to be truly incarnational, to follow the lead of Jesus and the early church. Now is the time to discover new and fresh ways to influence our communities, our homes, and our workplaces through the power of the gospel.
There is an openness to spirituality amongst our peers, you can be sure that they will find it easy to discover Buddhism, Reiki or any other amount of Eastern Spirituality – but we must ensure that whatever else they come into contact with, they truly experience the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so we really need to pray for a genuine anointing of Spirit-empowered influence.
May God bless you on this journey.