Christian. What does that word mean? Travel back to 40 A.D. and the word would be used most often as an insult towards the mean and women preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. And the way they would pronounce Christian would be completely different. Today we say “Chris-tian”; back then they would say “Christ-ian” meaning simply “follower of Christ.” Today, the word Christian has lost much of its luster. Pop culture has turned the holy name of Jesus Christ into a fashion statement to extort as much money as it can from the followers of this Jesus trend. We view Judas as a bad guy because of his actions, but we seem to be following right along in his footsteps. Judas sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver; we sell out Jesus for a lot less these days. The money value may be different but the message it sends is still the same. Some argue that this trend is good because anyway that spreads the name of Christ is a good thing and the verse most commonly associated with that is found in Matthew 28:16-19 which says: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’” Just using the verses above to defend such an argument is taking the entire passage out of context because the Bible itself was not written in chapters and verses but as a whole. Notice what Christ said after verse nineteen. “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). So what does Christ command of us? He commands us to pick up our cross and follow him daily (Matthew 16:24-27). We are suppose to follow in his footsteps throughout our walk through life. Christ gave us a lot of examples of what we are supposed to act like, and this Christian trend is no where near this. But what does Christ say about the people who don’t follow him? “And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38). To follow Christ means to step out of your comfort zone and do has Jesus Christ did when he was on this earth. Jesus knew he would day suffer on the cross, but he still asked those who believed him to follow; though it seemed counterintuitive to shadow a man who forgave prostitutes, healed lepers and hung out with “godless” tax collectors. (Bruce, Robert).
Christianity, with a market share of about 34% worldwide, remains the most popular religion globally. The religious landscape in North America is overwhelmingly Christian: about three in four adults identify themselves as Christian; the next largest organized religious groups Islam and Judaism at about 1%. Although the importance of religion has been declining in other developed countries, it has remained strong in the U.S. The United States has a higher level of church attendance than any other country which is at ‘a comparable level of development.’ Despite this statement there are some interesting signs that indicate religion is in a state of rapid flux, both in the U.S. and around the world. The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Christians dropped from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001. This is an unprecedented drop at almost one percentage point per year. If the present rate of change continues most Americans would identify themselves as non-religious or non-Christian by the year 2035 (Robinson, B.A.). Christianity is rapidly losing ground in a time when interest in religion is at a high. What is causing this decay of our moral fiber? What is blinding our eyes from the real Jesus Christ? Pop culture is mainly to blame for this downward spiral we have fallen in.
In recent years, what has pushed the envelope for Christianity was the movie “The Passion of the Christ” written and directed by Mel Gibson. After the great success of the movie, big celebrities such as Britany Spears and Ashton Kutcher could be seen wearing clothing announcing “Jesus is my homeboy.” Celebrities are such a huge influence on our daily lives. If we see them drinking Pepsi, then we are going to want Pepsi. If we see them driving a Ford Mustang, then we are going to want a Ford Mustang. So therefore, if celebrities are sporting the name of Christ then people around the world that idealize the celebrities are going to flock to the idea of Christ. And where do celebrities get their inspiration for these new styles? Most of the time it is just from another celebrity that is higher up on the food chain then themselves. “The Christian items are such a hot trend right now,” said Jaye Hersh, owner of L.A. Boutique Intuition, which sells some of the Jesus chic items. ‘Madonna has been wearing ‘Jesus is my homeboy,’ so that kind of trickled down to the other celebrities.” (Worner, Elka). If celebrities are causing such a great interest in Christ then why are the churches across America losing members?
The average number of people at Protestant church services have been declining steadily over the past couple of years. Take a look at this chart:
Year Church Attendance
The reason for a drop in attendance is simply this: There is no heart in what the trend preaches, what I mean by that is they are selling Christ out for just a money figure and are completely looking past the real reason for his presence on earth. “I don’t think there’s much spiritual significance in the popularity of the Jesus junk,” Gross said. (Worner, Elka). There is much more to Christ and his love then catch phrases and stylish t-shirts, but this is all the trend brings to the table and it is throwing mix messages all over the place. First they invite us in with warm smiles and friendly handshakes well all the while reassuring us that we are loved no matter what we do or say. Next they throw money symbols in our face, telling us we must purchase this or that in order to truly show we love Christ. And that is it; we are left with a couple of t-shirts with this message of Christ’s love written on them but inside we are empty. Inside we are still searching for his “love” that is on our t-shirts. When problems arise in our lives we have nothing to fight them with, because we were never given any armor to help shield us.
Every year around January 21st, a friend of mine would attend a huge Christian conference called “Hot Hearts.” He told me that never before had he seen so many people worshipping God in one place. He enjoyed the trip so much that he went every year the trip was offered. But his last time down he began to notice something different. He told me he was in charge of some boys going that year; they all loved the event, a few even shared to everyone in the group what God had showed them during the conference. Three or four weeks after Hot Hearts that year, they stopped coming church. He told me some sad details of some troubles a few of the boys had fallen in to. What happened? They all had a great time at the Christian conference. So what went wrong? Christianity is not just a warm hug and a free Bible. It is about so much more! It is a heart change! Not a clothing change! Christianity is not an easy road to travel and Jesus never said it was going to be! This Christian trend promotes the idea that Christianity is a smooth road to travel and that “we’ll have such great success money wise” if we will travel down their path.
Another problem this Christian trend tries to do is transform Christ into their own image. And this is has not just been happened this century! The breadless, toga-wearing, chariot-driving Christ in the fourth century looked suspiciously like earlier images of Apollo the sun god. Having the Son of God as a poster child as quite an influence on getting people to listen to what you have to say. “A scan of history pops up any number of ‘Jesuses’: Confederate Jesus, Hippie Jesus, Black Jesus, Comrade Jesus, Coach Jesus, Amway Jesus, the Aryan Jesus, Psychotherapist Jesus, Jesus the Vegan, Jesus the UFO Pilot, the Ascended Master Jesus, Isa the Imam and Jesus the Star-Spangled Patriot, to cite but a few.” (Eskridge, Larry). Many people, even devotees of other religions, want to use the man from Galilee as the poster boy for their, nation ethnic group, cause, hobby, profession or obsession of choice (Eskridge, Larry). These groups that are using Christ as their poster child for their own purpose are mentioned throughout the Bible. We have been warned about such “false teachers.” “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who brought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth of disrepute. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:1-3) How can we tell though if the trends are really “false teachers”? All we need to do is look at what Christ said about false prophets and what to expect from them. “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect— if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lighting that comes from east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:24-28). Many false teachers and false “Christs” have risen and will continue to come with the help of the Christian trend. We must be able to identify the truth from the false.
We can not sit around like carcasses and wait for a “trend” to help us along the Christian path. We can no longer lay around and let this issue steam roll right over us! We have done that too many times in the past! Christians used to be known as strong and fear-less, they were bold and would under no circumstance hush their voice in the face of pressure. What a shame we have become these days! We are too worried about hurting everyone feelings instead of worrying about what our God in heaven thinks. We complain about how black the sky has gotten but we refuse to pick up our lanterns and light up the sky. So what can be done different? What changes can we focus on to make an impact on the world? First off, we need to hold our fellow brother and sister in Christ accountable for their actions; not necessarily judging them, but helping to guide them back onto the road when they have stumbled off. It is our Christian duty to do so! “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17). Second, we must learn that Jesus is who Jesus is. We can not change who Christ is to fit into our little boxes; we try so hard to contain Jesus in our small boxes and it is not working. We must teach about who Jesus Christ really was and what his message was really all about. Let us put down the books written about the Bible and books explaining Christ, and let us pick up the Bible. Everything we ever need to know is in there, every example we need to live out an effective Christian life is in the Bible. Thirdly, we must study the word of God and become mindful of false teachings. “While, as youth workers, our goal should be to communicate the core message of the gospel, we should always encourage our students not accept things simply because we, or the pastor, say them. When they discover Jesus on their own, when they read His words in the Gospels, they being to develop a living, breathing relationship that grows and evolves, rather than simply to rely on their youth ministers or pastors for spiritual maturity.” (Bruce, Robert). We must turn to the Bible to gather our strength; learning from youth workers and pastors are great as well but we must, as Robert Bruce said, discover Jesus on our own; through the Bible. If we have no knowledge to back up what we believe then we are blinded! The Bible clearly identifies who are the false prophets and who are not. “Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:13-14). This Christian trend holds no true meaning, it holds nothing of real value. It was created with earthly means from earthly people.
We complain a lot about how evil the world has gotten, we sit in our churches and talk about how dark the skies have gotten. It is time to stop talking, it is time for change. It is time to stop waiting around for someone else to do the job we were placed on this earth to do. Be the change you want you see! “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Bruce, Robert. “Discovering the unsafe Jesus.” Youth Worker Journal
23 (2006): 49-50
Holy Bible: New International Version Study Bible.
Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002
Worner, Elka. “Jesus Chic Is Latest Fashion Trend.”
10 May 2004 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119408,00.html
Eskridge, Larry. “Beyond Buddy Christ: Transcending Our Tendency to Remake Christ in Our Own Images.” Youth Worker Journal.
23 (2006): 52-54
Robinson, B.A. “Trends Among Christians in the U.S.”
07 Dec. 1999 http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_tren.html