You think, "Why didn't anyone tell me?" How could they let me go about my afternoon without at least telling me I looked, well let's just say, less than my best?
Now, ramp it up a bit. Suppose you have poor listening skills. You constantly interrupt before the other person can finish. The light bulb that just went off is so important, so much more important than what they are saying, you've just got to share it. Or, maybe it's something else. You are a critic. The glass is always half-empty. You gossip.
Still, no one tells you. No one warns you that you are losing friends and credibility. No one tells you until it's too late. You wake up one day alone and unhappy.
I don't mean to offend or hurt my Christian brothers and sisters. I don't want to make them feel bad. I only want to offer a perspective.
With that caveat, here goes the analysis:
The United States was founded upon Christian beliefs and principles. Our history and historical documents prove it. Our founders were largely practicing Christians. It's why they left home and came here. They wanted the freedom to exercise their faith.
Today, the United States largely operates outside those principles. I don't mean this as a criticism for the purpose of this blog post. It's just an observation. And I think the observation is based upon pretty solid empirical evidence. All you have to do is consider what has happened to "organized" religion's place in American culture.
The day when most American families regularly attended church are behind us (see, e.g http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html). Why? I don't know, but can only assume it's because church no longer works for many Americans. I don't think it's because we have become more secular. That would essentially be circular logic. We don't go to church because we don't believe; we don't believe because we don't go to church.
Instead, I think it's simply because people don't view it as providing a return on the investment of time. But there's another problem. Wherever there is a spiritual void, something will fill it. We replace Christian values with other values. And that seems to be what is happening in America today. It is uncool to be a Christian; it is cool to be anti-Christian.
By "Anti-Christian," I don't mean hating Christians. I simply mean believing in things (such as lifestyles, leisurely interests, and other activities) that are contrary to those that are taught in the Bible.
Why? It's simple. Churches are filling the needs of their members, but not the needs of the sick. Most people in church are in fairly decent health, spiritually speaking. But as Jesus taught us, it isn't the healthy people who need Him. Instead, it's the sick. The church is a hosptial of sorts for the spiritually sick. But if the hospital excludes, for example, people infected with HIV or leprosy, or other communicable diseases, then it pretty quickly becomes an ineffective place of healing.
Now suppose that the hospital is populated with doctors and nurses. When they are at work, they busily deal with the health issues presented to them. All day long, they diagnose, treat and prescribe. But when they go home, and are off duty, they place a metaphorical "Closed" sign on themselves. A sick person approaches them after hours. The doctor says, "Sorry, I'm off duty. Come see me when the hospital is open." Unfortunately, the sick person never makes it to the hospital. The just get sicker. Eventually, they die.
What a tragedy. As Christians, our first obligation is to help lead others to Christ. We can do it by quoting scripture, or by leaving one of those little evangelistic tracts. We can do it by giving our money to our church, which in turn, sends it to the poor in Africa. But, in my opinion, the best way to do it, is through loving others. It's the testimony of our lives. We lead others to Christ, one person at a time, in a loving up close and personal way. We do it with our neighbors, our co-workers, the fast-food worker, the homeless person; but also with the CEO, the lawyer, the doctor and anyone else we encounter.
If, on the other hand, we invest most of our discretionary time (And by that, I assume that most of us Christians need jobs to get by. If we can't get by, it's pretty difficult to get past our own circumstances. If, on the other hand, you are full-time clergy or staff, then I'm talking about all of your time), in our church activities, then it will be difficult to lead others to Christ.
And I would argue that this is why mainstream America has become anti-Christian. It's because we Christians have become ineffective in our personal ministries. Instead of loving them, we have condemned them (Granted most Christians hate the sin but not the sinner. Unfortunately, this part of the message never quite makes it into the story). We have become so inwardly focused with the structure of our churches that we avoid the spiritually needy.
Consider that the majority of people you will encounter today are spiritually sick. Think of them as people who desperately need medicine or they will die. Would you give it to them? Or would you ignore them on your way to the hospital for work? Would you stop what you are doing and help them; even something as simple as listening to them and comforting them, and perhaps explaining to them where the free clinic is located? Or would you rush on to work where you can do what you do every day?
If more of us considered those people and stepped out of our places of comfort, eventually America would heal. C.S. Lewis called Christianity a sort of positive infection. It spreads, people catch it, and spread it some more. If we don't spread the love of Christ, then no one will be healed.
Churches are nothing but groups of people. My appeal isn't to the church. My appeal is to people. All of us. You and me.
May God richly bless you.