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The Way Back to Credibility

LOSING GROUND
Though some churches around the world are experiencing growth, Jonathan and Phil say most statistical reports indicate Christianity is declining on all fronts.  “We thought it was a PR problem,” says Jonathan.  “But when we started to dig into the numbers regarding the behavior of Christians, you start to realize we are the problem.”  The average church-going Christian now only attends church 3 out of every 8 Sundays - or 19 Sundays a year. And 40% of churchgoers "rarely or never" open their Bible. “We need to have a candid conversation about who we are and what we are not doing,” says Jonathan. Phil adds, “With only 20% of Christians showing up at church every week, Christians are the minority and we need to starting acting like the underdogs.”   The fruits of the Spirit are what we are supposed to be known for - so which of those qualities do non-Christians use to describe us?  It really just comes down to the basics: prayer, church attendance, Bible reading and tithing. “We aren’t living our lifestyle.  Why would people want to live our lives?” asks Jonathan.

Looking at this dilemma through their eyes of marketing, Jonathan and Phil agree Christians have a sales force problem.  “We have a sales force who don’t believe in their product,” Jonathan says.  “We’ve abandoned our faith.  We’re just the last to notice.”  Jonathan and Phil say we’ve ventured off in another direction.  “Hundreds of millions of us have abandoned the narrow road that leads to Christlikeness,” says Phil.  “We find ourselves standing at the temple of That Other God,” Phil reminds us that God made us in His image.  Many believers have inverted this and have now made a god in our own image.  “We look at idol worship as a problem from the past,” says Phil. “But the reality is that it’s not a relic of the past.  American Christians are guilty.  We crafted an idol that looks like God, who doesn’t mind if we don’t go to church or read our Bibles and who doesn’t mind when we only pray to Him with our self-absorbed desires.”  Ouch.  As Christians, we have substituted That Other God in place of the One True God in many areas of our lives and we need to get back to the beginning.

Phil and Jonathan have discovered 7 mysteries that Early Church attendees were radically committed to and are areas that most modern churches no longer make a priority: Surrender (repenting of our sins), Scripture (daily infusion in reading our Bibles); Submission (submit to church authorities and obey Scripture), Service (service helps us and transforms entire cultures), Sacrifice (giving back what wasn’t ours to begin with), Simplicity (nothing gets in the way of our relationship with God) and Suffering (we’ve stopped sharing the story of Jesus).  

A MUCH-NEEDED COMEBACK
Underdogs understand reality.  The good news is that America loves comeback stories.  Phil and Jonathan say, “Underdogs understand they must be clever to be heard.”  If Christians are going to fight significant battles with today’s culture, then we need to understand our priorities.  “In an age when there is so much need in our culture, do we really want to bicker about whether the King James Version is the only legitimate translation of the Bible?” says Phil.  It’s time for Christians to stop looking at our differences and start finding the core teachings on which we agree.  “The same old, same old won’t work,” says Jonathan.  “If we are going to find our way back, then let’s set our minds to astonishing the world again.”                      

Jonathan and wife Kelly felt moved to post a Craigslist ad in the “Free Stuff” section several years ago.  They asked anyone with a serious financial need at Christmas to respond.  Most readers probably thought it was a scam, but a few moms who were desperate responded.  A few days before Christmas, Jonathan and Kelly arranged to meet the moms at Target and asked them what their kids would want for Christmas.  After an hour, the shopping carts were full of toys, clothes and food.  The grand total at checkout per family: $350!  Jonathan and Kelly shared with each woman that it was their faith in God that motivated them to help and prayed with each mom before she left the store.  “With tears in their eyes, these mothers could barely express the difference this one kind act of generosity made in their lives,” says Jonathan. The next year, Jonathan and Kelly asked a group of friends to join.  With additional people to help buy gifts, they could accept more families in need.  Year after year, the giving group has grown.  Over the years, they have collectively helped hundreds of families make a U-turn on their Christmas nightmare.  “These families think we’re the ones blessing them,” he says.  “But in truth, they’re the ones blessing us!”

In a city the size of Los Angeles, their Craigslist Christmas barely makes a dent but if 1 percent of Christians did something similar in their cities, it would make a major impact.  “Only 20 percent of Christians attend church every week.  If 1 percent did something similar, it would make an impact on the people who are helped and in the way culture perceives us.”  There are other ways Christians can impact their communities including volunteering in senior centers, after-school programs, visiting shut-ins, doing yard work for the elderly, babysitting for young families, etc. There are 450,000 foster kids and 300,000 churches in the US.  “What if every church in America got serious about solving this problem?” says Jonathan.  “If we wanted to, we could wipe out the entire foster care system in one year.”

Jonathan and Phil remind us that boycotts don’t work. Petition drives don’t either.  For too long, Christians have sought out influence and power instead of seeking to serve and love.  “We should never stop looking for ways to change people’s thinking,” says Phil.

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Guest Info

Credits

Co-authors: The Way Back,  Worthy 2018

 

Phil Cooke: Hollywood TV producer, some clients include Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Salvation Army, Museum of the Bible, etc.

Writer, filmmaker

Author

Ph.D. Theology, Trinity College and Seminary

Appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News

Member, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and Producer’s Guild of America

Wife: Kathleen

 

Jonathan Bock: Founder/President, Grace Hill Media

Marketed more than 500 major motion pictures and TV projects to Christian audiences, including Hillsong – Let Hope Rise

Member, Producers Guild of America

Elder at Bel Air Church, Los Angeles

Wife: Kelly

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