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Are Christians All Talk?

Reading a recent article, the question: “What do you see as the biggest struggle or issue currently facing Christianity?” was posed. One of the respondents, who identified himself as Ted Blair, had this to say: “One of the problems are guys like Brian McClaren who for the sake of looking missional and seeking dialogue and conversation neglect to follow the actions of Jesus and the doctrine of Jesus. Dialogue and self discovery are good, if it leads to authentic faith that follows with self sacrifice and a commitment to tell the world of the cross, grace, and goodness of God. The problem is we, the church, love to talk but rarely take action.”

In another post entitled “Assessing Your Relationship With God”, I laid out what I believe to be a pretty accurate scale for self-assessment of one’s personal relationship with God, based on biblical teachings. I believe in the accuracy of this scale, partly because reviewing it objectively I find myself scoring at a pretty low level. Breaking Mr. McClaren’s statement down into the components of his argument, the Christian Walk as he defines it would include elements such as:

  1. Authentic faith leading to self sacrifice
  2. Commitment to tell the world about the cross, grace, and the goodness of God.

These two elements are a subset of the ones I describe in my article on assessing our relationship with God. The weak spot in Mr. McClaren’s observation is that he has painted all Christians with the same brush. This isn’t McClaren’s fault – the question asked in the survey required a “one size fits all” response. I would say that for 80% of the Christian population, he is absolutely right. I think the Christian community, as a population, pretty much adheres to the Pareto Principle. In terms of our maturity and value to God (from the standpoint of Christian service), 20% of us do 80% of the evangelism. 20% of us spend 80% of the hours expended in worship. 20% of us do 80% of the financial giving.

The more detailed assessment tool, as described in the “Assessing” article, is 3 pages long. However, boiling my assessment tool down to a single chart, Christian maturity (defined as the degree to which the life of a Christian actually demonstrates compliance with what Christ directed us to do, and what He did Himself as an example to us) looks like this:

Duncan's Abridged Spiritual Maturity Scale

 

So looking at this scale, observing my own performance and the behavior of the general Christian community surrounding me, it’s pretty easy to see where McClaren is coming from. I think I agree with him. The percent of the Christian population occupying each level is smaller and smaller as one travels further and further upward in the scale. Between levels 5 and 6, where believers begin to really share our faith in a meaningful way with others on a frequent basis, the population drops like a rock. What percentage of Christians do you think meet that criteria? I would estimate that it is less than 10%; certainly less than 20%. By level 7 – where the majority of free time is focused on telling others about Jesus, worshiping, meditating, and praying, I’d guess we are down in single digits on a percentage basis. Most of us spend the majority of our free time on TV, web surfing, sporting events, restaurants and concerts. The percentage of us who actually take the Great Commission literally, drop our proverbial fishing nets and move into full time Christian service to become “fishers of men” as Jesus Christ directed us to do, is miniscule. Many of us talk a great game. We make great spectators, and to McClaren’s point, great commentators. Not many of us ever really enter the arena.

What do you think?

2 Responses to “Are Christians All Talk?”

  1. Brian Hanson says:

    Excellent thinking points! You know the higher I go on the scale, the more satisfaction or fullfillment I have in life in general. I believe it is God-planted.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Thanks for your post, Brian. I wish I could speak from the vantage point of a loftier place on the scale, but even from my very low rung on this ladder, there is no doubt in my mind that “Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father….” Of all the things I am thankful for in my life, and there are many, God’s patience and repeated forgiveness is right at the top.

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