What Do “New Normal” Christians Act Like?
What do we expect the “new normal” Christians to act like before and after conversion? I think for me I have mostly wanted to help lead others to Christ that were about as close to living like Christ as I would expect from someone that had been a Christian for 10 years or more. I want to teach people that look like me, dress like me, and act like me (on my best days) – that’s the easy, not-so-effective evangelism method I have been employing for years.
I want to teach people that already have it all figured out. That is so much simpler, so much cleaner.
Why? I don’t want to be bothered by or invested in the mess that comes with broken people figuring out what it means to live like Christ. That can be quite an effort, it can be heartbreaking, it can be discouraging, can’t it?
I think we as Christians many times expect an instant holiness from “new normal” Christians – recent converts. We expect holiness in areas where we think we’ve nailed it (although our overestimation of ourselves is probably pretty far off, too), areas that are not as simple as “just changing.”
We forget what we were like when we became Christians. We probably even ignore what we are really like as Christians 5, 10, or even 20 years later.
Those of us that have been Christians longer, in some cases have probably just really figured out how to mask any of the sins that we still have kicking around in our lives. If you show up to church with me and see me sitting there on my pew – you might start to believe I don’t have any struggles. I have learned it is easier to keep these struggles to myself than to deal with them at church – where things can get messy. These “new normals” don’t know how to hide it so well.
Maybe, as was the case for me, we have grown up going to church and lived relatively easy lives, because of positive teachings, surroundings, and decent decision making abilities – so making that leap over to baptism and a Christlike life wasn’t all that big of a leap – maybe our backgrounds weren’t all that messy, so the cleanup after putting on Christ didn’t take, too long. For some folks, the cleanup takes a very long time. We forget that.
Sitting in church yesterday I got to thinking about some of those “new converts” from the New Testament – I wonder what they were like as the “new normal” Christians of their time?
How would we have felt about some of those Apostles that Jesus picked – the people closest to Christ – did they have it all figured out when they started following Him? I don’t think so. Especially that Peter guy – I know by the time of the establishment of the Lord’s church in Acts 2 it seems like he had his life together a little better, but you have to remember even after following Christ for 3 years – just a short time before his sermon on Pentecost – he had denied the Savior and swore that He didn’t even know Him. That was 3 years after starting to follow the Lord. And before that, he showed a lack of faith on multiple occasions, didn’t fully understand the Lord’s message, and was even rebuked by the Lord on occasion. Christ even referred to him as Satan at one point.
And what about James and John, a couple of other Apostles that were very close to Christ? And don’t forget, I’m, talking Apostles here, not just your average run-of-the-mill Christian. These guys could cast out demons in Jesus’ name and heal the sick. These are the men that would later reveal more fully the will of God for us today. James and John, continually worried about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, even had their mommy asking Jesus if her boys could sit on his right and left hand when He came into His kingdom. Oh yeah, and don’t forget how the “Sons of Thunder” (the nickname for James and John) also wanted to rain down fire from Heaven to destroy a village that rejected Christ.
You think the elders at your church would lose sleep over some of these “new normal” Christians?
I am sure none of the other Apostles had any baggage they brought into their ministries either; Matthew the tax collector, Simon the Zealot (terrorist), Judas – the one who would betray Christ and later hang himself.
Even with the cream of the crop, hand-picked Apostles – holiness was not instantaneous. It’s crazy to think, but these Apostles – especially as they were during Christ’s time on earth, probably would have been some of the “difficult cases” at church. Those rowdy new converts with their own messy interpretation of Christianity.
So, maybe we need to be careful when we get frustrated with and expect instantaneous perfection from “new normal” Christians today? Are we prepared to deal with some of the very heavy baggage that comes with those converted to Christ? Or are we looking to just convert people that look like us, and act like us, and have it all figured out?
Anyone that sincerely comes to Christ, truly believes in Him, and is converted to Christ is doing the best they can to figure out what living like Christ means in their lives – the version of Christ that they see in the scriptures. What that looks like to you and what that looks like to someone else sitting next to you in the pew could be totally different. Are we sure our version is better than theirs? Are we sure we are ready and willing to help someone start a messy journey towards the ideal?
We might see Christ as a saint sitting in a pew, perfectly quiet, dressed nice, attending to the needs of the saints.
They might see a Christ who is in rags with a bloodied body, as a rebel in the temple, teaching and calling out sinners, flipping over tables in His Father’s house, healing all the sick, showing compassion on those outside His body.
Who has the better view?
How “new normal” Christians act may be a more authentic version of what we forgot we were like when we were first introduced to the Savior. Maybe we can learn a little from each other?
Why aren’t we converting more people that are different than us? Maybe you are – that is great, but I think a lot of us can do a lot better – I can guarantee you that I need to improve significantly. One reason, as we have discussed, is that we probably don’t talk to many people that aren’t like us. Secondly, we are probably looking for people, most of the time, that already go to church and the only difference between us and them is that they haven’t been dunked in the baptistry. That’s a safer, easier, cleaner approach.
We need to get messier in our involvement!
How Do We Attract More “New Normal” Christians?
A lot of the “new normal” Christians didn’t grow up in a traditional setting at home or at church. A lot of “new normal” Christians aren’t fulfilling our older standard or expectations of being married by 30 with a child and being financially independent. These new normal Christians are not your normal Christian converts from 40 or 50 years ago.
I think it is difficult for a lot of churches to figure out how to minister to these “new normal” Christians or even how to evangelize to these millennial groups. They just aren’t the same and may not respond the same way people did 40 or 50 years ago, to the same methods. Many of these recent converts are waiting until much later in life to even start their own walk with Christ – that’s going to make a transition even that much more difficult.
So, with that thought in mind – what do we need to change in the way we evangelize to people like this or how do we need to adapt to the way we minister to them and meet their needs.
I think the immediate response from a lot of people is… “We aren’t going to change – this has been working for 50 years. We aren’t going to dress up the Gospel to sell it to this new generation. Present Christ – if that isn’t good enough for them, then so be it.”
I guess it depends on where you are and what/who you are trying to attract. If you are trying to attract people that look like you, act like you, and dress like you… then maybe you don’t need to change. But, if you want to offer the Gospel to the whole world (which is kind of our mission), including this newer messier group – we’re going to need to change some things up.
Can we minister to a generation of skepticism where people are waiting until later in life to claim their own faith the exact same way we ministered to kids that grew going to church their whole lives 30, 40, or 50 years ago?
The answer is, “No!” We can’t. I think we need to adapt to culture, we need to adapt to the audience. I know to many that sounds horrible – it sounds like I am advocating changing the message, making Christ more appealing, etc., but that is not what I mean by adapting to the culture.
Our attitudes need to change. We need to be willing to take Christ to the masses in an effective way – we can’t wait for them to get cleaned up and show up on a Sunday morning and sit quietly for 45 minutes and get what they need from a sermon.
Who are we attracting – who are we hoping to attract? Why don’t we lead people who don’t look like us to Christ?
Maybe we need to… and by maybe, I mean, we need to… get outside of our comfort zone. Maybe we need to force ourselves to be uncomfortable a lot more often. Maybe we need to get outside the walls of our comfortable church and start carrying sick folks into our hospital. You think Christ was comfortable?
Let’s treat one another with respect. Let’s not assume that because someone is different than us, dresses different than us, talks differently than we do, or learns differently than we do that they are not as holy as we are. We are all only as holy as God makes us. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of people in Heaven that don’t look just like us.
We cannot expect instantaneous holiness from “new normal” Christians. Grace is a little messy sometimes. Sometimes the new normal might still swear – a little less each week hopefully. Sometimes new normal skips services. Sometimes new normal still… you get the picture.
We want “new normal” to love God and keep His commandments just as much as we want the “old normal” to. We should have high expectations, but not unrealistic ones – we were once the “new normal.”
New normal isn’t going to look like a seasoned veteran Christian.
We need to be patient. We need to be loving. We need to be more like Christ!