Christianity may be its own worst enemy in having more of an impact in society. It certainly cannot be the fault of the messenger and message. Jesus is the only religious leader who proclaimed He would rise from the grave. Historical evidence for an empty tomb and Jesus being seen are far more credible than conspiracy theories such as the body was stolen. God, the Creator, was not like the other gods. He did not demand power for the mere sake of being in power. He believed in freedom and even joined in suffering resulting from freedom by allowing His Son to suffer a horrible crucifixion.
Christianity’s lack of influence is partly because of a spiritually apathetic society. People are less receptive when you initiate spiritual discussions than when asking about emotional or physical aspects of their life. It is true others may feel Christians have an agenda, rather than simply caring. Also, it is difficult to measure influence because of how one defines what a Christ follower is. One may say they are a Christian if they are religious or attend church. The Pharisees were religious and attended synagogue regularly, but they did not call themselves Christians. Christ followers trust and have faith in Jesus was who He claimed to be, which can only lead to striving to live out Jesus’ teachings such as loving others as themselves.
Alan Wolfe in his book The Transformation of American Religion suggests that Christians have impacted their culture so little by not sharing their faith for fear of being unfriendly or not liked. Why might followers hesitant in sharing something so important to them? Christians may not share their faith more because they struggle to explain certain beliefs about God that seem irrational. One may share their faith more if they felt free to not sell fire insurance. What if followers discovered that Hell is a human invention and God is not a sadistic torturer, trying to scare people into submission and obedience? Biblical interpretations must be plausible based on what a loving God should be like. We know intuitively how God loves others because we are made in His image. God doesn’t ask us to believe in anything unworthy of human, rational belief as it would go against His nature.
A second reason, besides misbeliefs, that followers of Christ may have less of an influence is because of the presence of Denominations. The creation of Denominations may be one of the greatest enemies of Christian influence. Denominations did not exist in Jesus’ time. The New Testament speaks often of the harm of divisions. If two pastors in the same church contradicted one another, we would run. Well, outsiders see Christians all as one group, whether Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc., etc., etc. Outsiders see the tremendous strife and disagreement and turn away. They have enough conflict in their own relationships.
We would be better off saying “we believe what the Bible teaches” than referring to some Denomination Creed, while recognizing our interpretations are fallible. The Bible is not a single text with a single author. The Bible was written in foreign languages thousands of years ago. Since Denominations are probably not going anywhere, those who call themselves Christians must learn to share and consider one another’s opinion gracefully. We must encourage others to work out their own convictions with as much consistency as possible, unless you don’t believe God can guide people. Imagine if our discussions about God were civil and lead to agreeing to disagree. Maybe then Christianity would have more of an impact in our culture.
Finally, Christians may not be impacting their culture as much because we have developed our own brand of telling others about God. We hesitate to share because certain misbeliefs may cause hesitancy in sharing, and words out of the mouths of Christians often offend rather than attract others. Jesus’ approach to others was less religious and more practical. Jesus harshest warning was for the religious, such as the Pharisees, who distorted His message. They should have known better. The OT has it greatest warnings for those that were just plain evil. You sacrifice children to gods and hell had no fury.
But, there are a lot of people in between the evildoers and the religious distorters. Jesus came alongside and simply loved and served. Followers may hesitate to share with others when they don’t feel they can do so naturally. Jesus did not demand praying some Christian prayer as if that determined one’s final destination after death. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman involved in adultery but advised her to go and leave her life of sin for her own good (John 8). Jesus simply encouraged others to follow Him. Jesus loved people unconditionally in hopes to attract them to His ways which brings true joy in the long run.
How can Christians have more of an influence? They can begin by slaying the greatest enemies of true religion which is religion itself. Followers must let go of certain beliefs about God that aren’t plausible based on what a loving God should be like. Denominations are not going away unfortunately. At least let’s stop declaring our interpretations are infallible by the way we handle discussions. Finally, we need to get rid of evangelistic ways where the focus is on praying a prayer to avoid Hell. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered your battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins in your life? Simply love and serve others as Jesus did and when open invite others to understand how much God loves us so a true friendship can develop. True intimacy in relationships leads to life transformations.