In The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier, Tony Jones writes:
"Just ten percent of Americans are not affiliated with a church or synagogue, and another five percent hold a faith other than Judaism or Christianity. That leaves eighty-five percent of Americans who can write down the name and address of the congregation with which they are affiliated. Yes, that bears repeating: eighty-five percent. There are about 255 million church-affiliated Americans.What can be questioned is the level of commitment that Americans have to their churches. They may know the address, but do they know the doctrinal statement? Or the denominational affiliation? Do they care? The answer to the last question is most decidedly no. American Christians care less and less about the denominational divides that are so important to their seminary-trained pastors."
He is answering the notion that America is becoming more and more secularized by stating that the majority of Americans are spiritual, but without the concern with denominational teachings that divide. I think to some degree that is true, especially with those who consider themselves emerging. The emerging conversation definitely cuts across denominational lines.
The statement, "What can be questioned is the level of commitment that Americans have to their churches", raises a different issue. Looking at the fact that eighty-five percent of Americans are associated with a church (or synagogue), I question the level of commitment that American Christians have to Jesus.
We are called to be salt and light. Salt flavors and preserves, and light allows us to see. When a great deal of what passes as the "Christian" arts is nothing more than cheap knock-offs of what is already out there, and when much of the preaching is really self-help philosophy wrapped in Scripture - where is the flavoring? When we are more concerned with beginning more programs and building bigger buildings than we are with the homeless, the poor, and the hurting in the neighborhoods surrounding those buildings - where is the preservation?
We say we have the light, but instead of going and shining that light into the darkness, we want people to somehow stumble out of the darkness into the light inside the walls we have put up to protect the light.
We have become so afraid that somehow the corruption in society will overcome the salt, or that the darkness will overcome the light that we have put ourselves in a ghetto where we are safe within its walls and from which we lob scud missiles at those outside - with the same effect.
We say we believe that God has called us out of darkness into the light, that he has saved us by his grace, that grace gives us the power to follow Jesus and that God is forming us into Christ's likeness. We say that Jesus told us to go and make disciples. We claim to follow the King of Kings. Yet we live in fear. Fear of the culture capturing and corrupting us, fear of screwing up, fear of somehow not quite measuring up.
We are loved by the Creator of the universe! His word tells us that this love is perfect and that perfect love drives fear out! If we belong to Jesus, our day-to-day life, not just our salvation, is by God's grace and not our feeble effort! Our Father loves us and accepts us just as we are, and will change us and make us grow. He will not leave us in our current state. Yes, there are commands in Scripture for us to follow. We are not absolved of all responsibility. But the power is from the Holy Spirit.
As we focus on Jesus Christ and the amazing grace that God has given us, we will desire to follow Jesus closer and closer. We will, as the Jewish rabbis used to say, be "covered in the dust" of our Rabbi. As we become more like Christ we will truly be salt and light. We will mess up from time to time. We will fall. When we do, we just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, agree with God that we screwed up, and turn away from it and move on. I believe it was Martin Luther who said, "Sin boldly, trust God more boldly still." Walk with Jesus and trust him to guide your steps.