Let’s begin with some debatable thoughts. With an abundance of chaos and corruption in our world today, trust in almost anything is at an all-time low. We’re witnessing events and situations not experienced before in our lifetime. Things have changed. As a result, the reality is that with each generation, the general perception of faith has somehow been redefined in many ways.
We have more choices concerning how we decide to frame our reality of faith. Perhaps it’s just simply a response to the natural process of evolution of personal life experiences or just that our environmental situations contribute to defining what faith today really means to each individual. However, there is at least one simple truth that all believers have in common: God exists and the Bible still offers keys to a message of hope that appeals to our sense of decency, concepts about love, and forgiveness. It seems that most of humanity believes in the faithfulness of positive words and deeds that keeps us peaceful and centered during constant change and adversity. So, as mankind takes a critical look at the world, can we as Christians adhere to a core promise that faith today can be reframed as simply a way of living with peace of mind? After all, living in peace is a choice and, of course, having faith in God is a choice, also.
What is Faith?
The Oxford Dictionary defines Faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” With the intent to add more clarity to the subject, combine an academic perspective and some synonyms for faith, such as belief, conviction, credence, reliance, dependence, optimism, hopefulness, and expectation. As for church affiliation and the faith community, we are guided by “the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” (Hebrews 11:1). The Bible presents ideologies that make common sense to all, regardless of faith affiliation. It reflects the ‘worldview’ for living that many cannot dispute. On the other hand, Christianity within the faith community remains steadfast in agreement with the biblical definition.
Christian believers generally refer to the “world” as a term describing individuals who do not believe in God or participate in Christian values. While analyzing these definitions as a member of humanity and society, can we see more of an interesting intersection of commonalities that cannot easily be debated with absolute merit? It seems that both Christians and non-Christians believe the following worldviews, for example:
- Humanity should be respected and human needs should be valued by all.
- Issues with poverty, civil disobedience, murder, famine, hypocrisy from all sources, transparency related to all issues, greed on all levels and other societal ills can be resolved with a joint effort.
- Judgment of anyone or anything without a genuine effort of resolution to the problem is not a virtue.
- A church building is not essential to the spiritual growth of human development; and more importantly, God, or whatever an individual chooses to call their creator, exists and impacts lives.
Simply put in today’s world, almost everyone desires some assurance to trust and hope for things that they cannot see, even those things that they cannot explicitly prove.
Gaslighting is simple to understand in today’s society. Merriam-Webster defines it as an “attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation).”
This is not a new concept. We’ve seen it in the Christian community. Let’s drop the mike at this point! Do Christians gaslight other human beings as they may perceive themselves godlier? Furthermore, do Christians gaslight those who are perceived to be non-believers because of their differences of thought about faith and values based on a litany of alternative realities? The answer lies in John 8:7(NLT), “All right, but let those who have never sinned throw the first stone!” Be honest, there are a number of valid reasons why most pews are empty.
Perceptions About Faith Today
For the last 30 years, The Barna Group, a research firm has focused on the intersection of faith and culture by studying and tracking the role of faith in America. According to one insightful study entitled “What Millennials Want When They Visit Church,” they found that among those who say church is not important, most millennials were split between multiple reasons:
- Two in five say church is not important because they can find God or strengthen their personal faith elsewhere (39%).
- One-third say it’s because church is not personally relevant to them (35%).
- One in three simply find church boring (31%).
- One in five say it feels like God is missing from church (20%)
- 8% say they don’t attend because church is “out of date.”
Interesting enough, another published report “Making Space for Millennials,” virtually mirrors similar sentiments in that a significant number of young adults expressed deeper complaints about church and their perceptions about faith today.
“More than one-third says their negative perceptions are a result of moral failures in church leadership (35%). And a substantial number of millennials view Christians as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), anti-homosexual (91%) and insensitive to others (70%).”
These beliefs, of course, are not exclusive or experienced in all areas of the faith community as a whole, yet it seems quite revealing today that there is a large majority of people who lack interest in participating in any organized religious group and this appears to be a regular occurrence, especially within the Black church. The church’s decline in attendees corroborate this fact.
David Kinnaman, researcher and author of the book “You Lost Me,” shares some intriguing and perhaps valid perceptions about the Christian population of individuals ages 18-25 years old. Approximately, “38% have confessed to doubt their faith. Over 57% are less interested in the mundane messages preached based on traditional values of the old church that do not meet their concerns or provide the answers they seek in the troubled world in which they’re trying to survive. Even more puzzling, 59% do not regard church as a priority.” The author’s findings do not condemn the church, nor does it advocate that anyone change their views about their Christian beliefs. But the community of faith needs to make quality efforts to better understand that the realities of the world’s perception of love, faithfulness, values, and personal struggles have created a climate in which we all feel a need to be selective in our problem-solving and, in some cases, our very existence. Maybe this will cause a more positive change in perception of faith and promote the meaning of a true discipleship.
Today’s Faith In Action
Building faith and learning to consistently maintain it are two different constructs today. In a multi-diverse community of faith, there is a need to reframe how we can reach and teach God’s people with truth that matters. “So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Roman 10:17 NLT). Our world is complex, our government is distrustful, our rights have diminished in many ways, discrimination is real, Black lives matter and, of course, all lives matter. What good news do Christians today have for all?
Christians today are indeed aware of their own missteps. We also realize that even non-believers sense that true forgiveness comes from God and portions of faith exists in all of us. We all understand that we judge others with our biases based on the degree of their circumstances while minimizing our own vices. Honestly, some non-believers often become disappointed and frustrated with Christians. Those who desire to gain a better perception of our faith in God see some Christians who also demonstrate worldly actions as well. They can see that Christians are too busy reacting and interacting with “worldly” issues and struggle to maintain balance in their own lives. They understand shade when they ask Christians to help them understand better or help with their doubts and often told “Oh, I’m so sorry, I’ll be praying for you,” “God is good,” or they are judged because their tithes records are not up to par. The outcome is that some Christians fail to personally help or end up gaslighting within the faith community. In today’s world, this can easily become a detriment to anyone who seeks God and desires to learn about our faith.
Isn’t it high time to reframe our own evangelism? We need to consciously and actively commit to spreading the gospel and continue to strengthen our personal witness and advocacy of our faith, even in a world of chaos.