The Christian Bubble: Part 2

In this blog, I want to continue the discussion of the Church bubble that occurs in many Christian’s lives. In Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus But Not The Church, he explains how new believers enter the Church passionate for the lost, but soon become stagnate and loose interest in mobilizing their faith for the sake of seeing new people come to know Christ. Dan outlines 4 phases that research has proven and he has seen through years of experience- I intend to sum up these phases for you.

Phase 1: We become Christians

Can you remember back to when you first placed your faith in Jesus and understood the grace of God? Do you remember what it was like to share your new experience with your non-Christian friends? Most likely, your sharing was natural, since you were friends not strangers.

In this first phase, we are excited to share our new found faith and what God has done for us to everyone around us. We are unashamed of the Gospel because it has just changed our lives. We are passionate about Jesus, because we have just met Him. And we most-likely have the largest circle of non-Christian friends at this point, because we have just accepted Christ.

Statistics show that within the first year of someone becoming a Christian, they tell approx 20 people, from among their family and friends, about their faith and even invite them to church.

Phase 2: We become part of church life

As we get involved in church, we make Christian friends and participate in church activities with them. If we came from backgrounds where substance abuse or partying is the norm, we cease going into environments where we could get pulled into harmful patters again, thought we might still hang out with our non-Christian friends in healthy environments or social settings. But in any case, we tend to slowly lose touch with non-Christian friends and become more immersed in Christian activity with our new Christian friends.

The longer we are Christian, the fewer number of friends we have who are not Christians. Even though Christians often work alongside non-Christians or have non-Christian neighbors or sit next to nonbelieving students in class, we generally tend no to actually befriend them, or pray regularly for them, or get involved in their lives so they trust us and we can be the salt and light of Jesus to them.

A question for you: Who did you go to the movies with this past Friday? or Who did you go to Carowinds with last? or Who do you talk to the most via Facebook, text, or email?

I’m willing to bet that you went with some Christians from the same church or you spend most of your time with people from church.

The flip-side: Don’t get me wrong! I understand that we need other Christian friendships- we need friends that will hold us accountable to what we say we believe and how help hold us up in our faith, but we must maintain Christian community in the midst of being on mission for Christ!

Phase 3: We become part of the Christian bubble

In phase 3 things change alot! As we have slowly withdrawn from ongoing relationships with those outside the church and focus relationships inside the church, something happens- we loose touch with non-Christians. We forget what it was like to not believe or not know of Christ! Once, it was more natural and even exciting to share life with people at work or at school, with relatives, or with neighbors. But slowly we begin to see evangelism as something the church does, primarily through events. We get more excited about going overseas to the “mission field”  than about the mission field that we live in every day!

We start to see evangelism as inviting people to “come to church,” where the pastor will do the evangelizing and explain Christianity, instead of spending time with people and “being the church” to them. (Just a note: spending time with people, sharing the Bible with them, will inevitably cause you to study the Bible harder, which will cause you to grow in your faith!)

Dan continues to point out that during this phase “we tend to stop praying daily for those who don’t know Jesus and instead start praying for our church’s latest building project or latest program. We rarely ever hang out with anyone who doesn’t believe the same as we do, then it happens- we start buying little Christian bumper stickers or metal fish symbols for our cars, we wear our Christian T-shirts, watch our Christian TV shows, listen to our Christian Radio stations, and make trips to our favorite amusement parks to indulge in the special Christian day they have each year featuring our favorite Christian bands. we find ourselves regularly using Christian words and phrases and cliches, such as backsliding, prayer warrior, fellowship, quiet time, traveling mercies, and praise reports.”

In this phase the transformation is complete; we have successfully become citizens of the bubble.

Phase 4: We become Jonah

After several years as citizens of the bubble, we begin to complain and point out the terrible things happening in the culture. Like Jonah, who ran away when God told him to go to the wicked city of Ninevah, we don’t want anything to do with those who aren’t following God as we are. Like Jonah, we even have a secret sense of delight thinking about how God will one day punish all those sinners in our towns and cities. We then start to complain, just like Jonah did, about not having shade over our head and being uncomfortable; we complain about how well the church is providing what we want and grow numb to the fact that people all around us need the love and grace of Jesus.

Then it happens- we become completely content living in our little Christian subculture as citizens of the bubble, but we don’t even know it because everyone in our social circle is also in the bubble…

Conclusion

It’s a sad, sad story the previous paragraphs. As I sit here reading and writing my heart is grieved because of the knowledge that we have created something so counter Christ. When I realized that I was a citizen of this bubble that Dan talks about, I was broken. How could this have happened!? How could I have wondered so far down the wrong path!? I felt lost. I felt convicted. I felt the heart of Christ…

I can’t help but think of Jesus prayer for his disciples: “My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Jesus didn’t pray that we be isolated from those outside the Church, He didn’t pray that we be happy and content living inside the Church listening to our favorite worship band on our iPod, but Jesus seemed concerned that His followers  not isolate themselves from the world around them. He was concerned that we understand that evil is real and that we should be aware of the schemes of evil (2 Cor. 2:11).

So, are you consumed with the “Christian Bubble?” Can you honestly say that you have people outside of you belief system that you are trying to befriend? Do you view mission as an event of the church, or the calling each and every member of the church?

I hope that these two blogs challenge you in a new way, to look at yourself and see how much “churchiness” may be hindering your love for non-Christians.

 

The Christian Bubble: Part 1

I grew up in the American Church system. I knew all of the churchy words and things to say to make myself look “righteous,” but little did I know that no one is righteous according to Scripture. I slowly learned that all of my good deeds inside of the church was making absolutely no impact on the lost world around me. I noticed that I, along with hundreds of other people just like me, were actually building something that was starting to look an awfully like a social club full of fat, selfish club members.

I wanted to share this concept with you, in hopes that it will challenge you to scrutinize your Christian walk. I believe that many times, we Christians, separate ourselves so much from the world that we are no longer capable of sharing Jesus with anyone- kind of like salt that has lost its flavor. But on the other hand, I believe that we have taken Christ’s message to an extreme in many cases, causing the call to be “not of the world” to the extreme of not even being part of it either!

So, to challenge you, I am giving you a short excerpt from Dan Kimball’s book, “They Like Jesus, but not the Church.” If these next few blogs interest you, I strongly suggest you get a copy of this book and read it. I read this book over a six month span, looking at my own life and the calling that Jesus placed on His Church. I noticed some inconsistencies in myself that needed confession and change, therefore, I share this with you in hopes that God would do the same in your life. I hope you enjoy!

“Have you ever noticed that once you begin thinking about buying a particular model of car, suddenly you start seeing it all over the place? It had been out all along, but you hadn’t noticed it before. This is what happened to me. As I began looking around, all I saw was Christian paraphernalia. People carrying Christian end-times novels with them everywhere, more than the Bible itself usually. People putting chrome fish emblems on their cars. While driving on the highway, I was a minivan that had two larger parent Christian fish emblems and two smaller children fish emblems on it. I wondered what that looks like to people who have no idea what the fish symbol means. They must think, “That family must be seriously into aquatic life.” Why are we compelled to put those on our cars in the first place? You can see all types of bumper stickers on Christian’s cars warning people, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” Maybe you have seen the rather funny rebuttal bumper sticker: “In case you get raptured, can I have you car?” I can’t blame them for saying that! We have created so many little Christian products and trinkets that you just look so bizarre from an outside perspective. The more I looked around, the weirder it all looked.

Then I began noticing what most of us talk about. Generally it’s the latest Christian band or concert or what’s happening at church. As I recognized that we really only socialize with our Christian friends, I also recognized that overall, we are complacent about those outside the church. We aren’t thinking about their eternal destiny. We aren’t concerned about whether they’re experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers. We are more concerned about whether there will be good snow on our church skiing trip than about the spiritual status of our neighbors and the people we work with every day. I became aware that I didn’t hear much concern about those who don’t know Jesus yet. We are all about making church better for ourselves and making our lives more comfortable in the Christian bubble we have created. I didn’t hear much about being a voice for the voiceless or being concerned with social justice, the poor, AIDS in Africa, and other pressing needs. (I am thankful that since then the church does seem to be awakening to the AIDS epidemic and other global issues of social justice, but we still have a long way to go.) As I was awakening to the subculture I had been sucked into and was a part of, I heard and saw Christian buzzwords and phrases that suddenly sounded so incredibly corny, phrases such as “food, fellowship, and fun.” And most disturbing was that when we do talk about the non-Christian world, we tend to point fingers and complain about the “horrible things going on in culture.”

I didn’t hear too much heartbreak for people outside the church among church leaders either. Church leaders are mainly dealing with complaints about last week’s sermon or complaints that the music wasn’t good enough, along with threats that people might go to another church where these things are better. When church leaders feel pressure from this kind of complaining, naturally the focus becomes having better programs, music, and activities to keep the people in their churches. Pastors face subtle pressure from Christian parents to have good youth programs to make sure that their kids stay away from the bad non-Christian kids and have the opportunity to meet other Christians. The whole thing feeds itself, isolating us from the outside world. It feels like we’re building this social, spiritual, and consumeristic infrastructure, and Christians are only demanding more of it, building a stronger and thicker bubble around us, protecting us from the outside while we create this very strange Christian subculture inside. But it had happened to me so slowly that I hadn’t even noticed it.”

Writers Bio:

This is an excerpt from the book “They Like Jesus But Not the Church,” Written by pastor Dan Kimball. Dan is the author of several books, including “The Emerging Church” and “Emerging Worship.” Dan is a pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.

Bibliography:

Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but not the Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2007.

Pgs. 40-42