Being a Christian in a non-Christian world
July 12 2002 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Being a Christian in a non-Christian world | Friday, July 12, 2002

Friday, July 12, 2002

Being a Christian in a non-Christian world

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

For most of us Baptists who grew up in the South - especially those of us over age 50 - missions was primarily the business of missionaries who served in other countries, or at least, in some other part of our country. We would occasionally be reminded of state and associational missions - this usually meant reaching out to a language group or some other special category of people "not like us." Otherwise, we could assume most people around us held basic religious beliefs similar to our own.

Everybody I knew, with a couple of exceptions, at least said they were a member of some church somewhere. Attending regularly, of course, was a different matter. But non-members were a rarity, indeed. I also assumed that even those with little or no church affiliation held to some Christian beliefs similar to mine. I thought we all basically agreed on the essentials of the faith.

I'm not sure of all of that anymore. Religious beliefs have changed more than most of us probably realize - or care to admit - over the past several years.

I read a story about a religious poll taken recently that asked more than 2,000 adults across our country about their religious understandings. If these findings are correct - the poll said it had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2 percent - I'm in more of a minority than I had realized.

When asked whether Christians should attempt to convert people of other faiths to Christianity or is it better to be tolerant of people of other faiths and "leave them alone," almost three-fourths (71 percent) said to leave them alone.

Some 78 percent of those polled said that all religions have elements of truth where only 17 percent thought their religion was the only true religion.

The story about this poll, appearing in the June issue of Baptists Today, pointed out how Americans had become more tolerant of other people's faith than concerned to convert them.

"For many centuries, Christians have thought they had the truth, and that other people did not have the truth in the same way," said Robert Wuthnow, sociologist from Princeton University. "And now, Christians are not quite so sure of that. They are more likely to say, 'This is true for me.' And that radically changes the meaning of truth, when it's just true for you and not necessarily true for somebody else."

While most Baptists would probably register with the minority in these polls - i.e., we believe we should share our faith and that truth is the same for everyone - I'm not so sure we don't act as if we believe with the majority.

Do we share the gospel or do we prefer to leave people alone? Are our beliefs true only for us and people like us, or is our faith something for everyone? Are we primarily driven by toleration or by evangelization?

International missionaries go to non-Christian countries knowing they'll be part of a minority. It looks like the rest of us are rapidly becoming part of a minority as well.

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7/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments
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