How do you define the word Christian? What words or images pop into your head? In the nation of France 80% of its citizens claim to be Christian. But only 20% acknowledge a belief in God. How can this be? Very simple. The word Christian has become a meaningless term in France to describe someone who truly follows Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.
I am not so sure that we have not lost the meaning of the term Christian in this country as well. In fact, within “Christian” circles we sub-divide ourselves from one another with additional descriptive language. We use terms like evangelical Christian to differentiate ourselves from mainline Christians. The word Christian by itself, I believe, has become meaningless. John Shelby Spong is a retired liberal Christian theologian and bishop of the Episcopal church (notice my use of the qualifying word “liberal” to go with the word “Christian). Spong, as a bishop within the church does not believe the virgin birth of Christ or his bodily resurrection. In short, Spong may be a “Christian” but he is not going to heaven because he does not believe in the Jesus of the Bible.
I think we may have reached a point where any attempt to recover an accurate definition of the word Christian may be futile. Sure, we may know what and who we are talking about within our evangelical, Bible believing Christian circle of our local church, but the culture applies a completely different meaning to the same word. In truth, the Bible only uses the word Christian two times. That’s right just two times, once in Acts 26 and the other in 1 Peter 4. In the rest of the New Testament other terminology is used to describe those who follow Jesus. And isn’t that really what we are getting at? Don’t we want people to give up following their sin and following their own will and following celebrities and following other desires and instead sell out to following Jesus? I guess what I am saying is that the goal of the church is to not to turn people into Christians but to turn them into followers of Jesus Christ.
I think that most people in America, when asked, will affirm that they are Christians. Even in the midst of Muslim immigration the Judeo-Christian foundation of this country still wins out in the public square (for now). But the problem is that affirming one’s Christianity just does not mean much of anything anymore just like it doesn’t mean anything in France. President Barack Obama has said he is a Christian but it seems very clear that he is not a follower of the biblical Jesus. Therefore we have a president leading our country who is not saved even though he is a Christian. Lest you think I am being partisan, I am not so convinced based on “fruit” that President Bush is a follower of Jesus either even though he calls himself a Christian. Or for that matter that Rush Limbaugh is a follower of Jesus, or that Glenn Beck is a follower of Jesus. You see, anybody can call himself a Christian but that is a long way from following Jesus and turning the Lordship of your life (and eternal life) over to him.
In order for the church to be Great Commission affective in our “Jerusalem” we must understand the culture. And in America we are a nation full of Christians who are lost and still need Jesus.