I recently came across a statistic that says 80% of Americans believe they should choose their faith apart from the guidance of churches or synagogues. This week’s Observer ran an article about the growing “marketplace” of faith communities. For the first time in our country’s history, there will no longer be a majority of Protestants while 28% of Americans do not adhere to any particular faith tradition.
These statistics are not startling when we look outside our church walls. Even in Charlotte, we are noticing the religious landscape is changing as rapidly as Uptown’s.
The challenge for us as a church community is to remind ourselves of God’s unique call on our lives in order that we may confidently share our faith with our co-workers, our neighbors, and perhaps even our significant others. I believe that we are so cautious to “not be like that church over there” that we often neglect God’s call for us.
This past week at Theology on Tap we were talking about how churches are often dismissed because they constantly preach what we are not supposed to do. By doing so, we neglect to instruct, equip and send people to actually demonstrate a life of faith.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Often, preachers stop after the first verse, but it is important to follow the full train of Paul’s thought, because the newness found in a life of faith calls us to do something about it. For Paul, because of God’s work in our lives, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, we have been charged to demonstrate God’s love to the people who we encounter in our daily lives.
I am not surprised by the growing marketplace of faith in our culture. I am surprised, however, that the church has become a major culprit in the individualization of faith, rather than boldly demonstrating that a life of faith is radically different from our culture. A ministry of reconciliation shows to people that faith occurs in community and in relationship. Therefore, what are the ways that we are seeking to share God’s good news in our daily lives? What pressures hold us back from forgiving others, helping the needy and inviting friends to join us in our faith journeys?