Living Our Faith: How to Practice Christianity in a Secular Society
Living our faith in a secular society can be challenging. With so many distractions and conflicting beliefs, it’s easy to get lost in the noise of the world. But as Professing Followers of Jesus, we are called to live out our convictions every day, no matter what obstacles we may face. In this week’s article, I will explore practical ways that you can practice Christianity in a wildly secular society and stay true to your convictions while also spreading love and light wherever you go.
The Current State of Christianity in America
In America, Christianity is in a state of decline. According to the Pew Research Center, “If recent trends in religious switching continue, Christians could make up less than half of the U.S. population within a few decades.” In a recent Pew study, the share of Americans who identify as Christians has fallen from 78% in 2007, and estimates that in 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. . This decline is especially evident among young adults. Just over half (51%) of Americans ages 18-29 say they are Christians, down from 64% in 2007.
Plenty of factors contribute to this decline, including the rise of secularism and the increasing acceptance of alternative lifestyles. But whatever the reasons, it’s clear that Christianity is no longer the dominant force in American culture that it once was. I truly believe that the challenge doesn’t place blame on society, but rather on Christians and Christian churches. Yes, society has slowly but surely moved from the days of Christianity as an “accepted faith of America,” but that isn’t solely a result of post-Christian secularism. Much of the blame must be squarely owned by individual Followers of Jesus and the churches that they attend and lead.
This doesn’t mean that we Followers of Jesus are powerless, however. Millions of us still practice our faith every day, living out our values in spite of an increasingly secular universe. God isn’t limited by our society, and we are limiting ourselves from His goodness and power by choosing daily not to take up our cross and walk with Him.
Why is Christianity Struggling?
Maybe Gandhi was ahead of his time when he said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
The Christian message is not always popular, and Christians are often seen as judgmental and old-fashioned. As a result, many people are turned off by Christianity and are reluctant to accept it. I’ve been attending church since I was an infant. I love the church. I lead a church. And I struggle with Christians daily. I’ll bet you do too.
We can quickly condemn others for their lifestyles or choices, creating an unnecessary barrier between them and us. The central message of Jesus is summed up in His own words; “Love One Another.” It is virtually impossible to love someone while condemning them, especially without knowing them. Jesus got criticized unmercifully for loving normal average everyday people that were just as messed up, or more so, than you and me. Why would someone struggling in their own life want to take on the faith system of someone mean, angry, and judgmental? The answer? The don’t.
But there is hope! As Followers of Jesus, we can reach out to those skeptical of our faith and show them that we are gracious, kind, and accepting people. We can also share our own stories of how Jesus has transformed our lives and offer resources that can help others learn more about the Christian faith. But doesn’t that point back to the central theme of Jesus? Love One Another requires that we hear, respond in grace, care for, and lovingly assist folks that might very well hate our guts.
What Can We Do as Christians to Improve our Communities?
Be more active and involved in the community. This means getting to know your neighbors and being a good neighbor yourself. It also means being involved in local organizations and activities. Another way Christians can improve their communities is by being witnesses for Christ. This means living your life in such a way that others can see Jesus and the attitudes of Jesus in you. It also means sharing your faith with others and being an example of what it means to follow Christ. Finally, Christians can improve their communities by serving others. This means giving of your time, talents, and resources to help meet the needs of others. When we serve others, we are showing them the love of Christ. Jesus once said that “if you want to be great, you must serve others.”
I fear that we have made church attendance the measuring stick of our faith in America. And the Bible says that we “should not neglect gathering to worship together.” But filling a room doesn’t always relate to loving one another. It can often set the stage for meaningful and purposeful relationships, but it is just one step in conveying how we should love one another. Let’s face it, one of the primary reasons that people do not attend church is that they’ve already been there. OUCH!
The Power of Prayer and Faith in Difficult Situations
Folks are hurting in every stratosphere in life. When we face difficult situations, it can be hard to know what to do. We may feel like we are all alone and that nobody understands us. This is where prayer and faith come in. Prayer is a way of communicating with God. It is a way of asking for help and guidance. Faith is believing in God even when things are tough. It is believing that He will help us through our difficulties. When we exercise our available option to speak with our Creator, He embraces us and gives us strength and courage. Pray for your neighbors, and especially for folks that don’t know Jesus from apple sauce. One of the single best ways to love one another is to pray for one another. It’s difficult to pray while watching Fox News or CNN non-stop.
Prayer and faith are powerful tools that help us endure tough times. They give us strength and hope. They remind us that we are not alone. When we pray, we are reminded that God is with us always. And when we have faith, we know He will never leave or forsake us. God is bigger than present days and secularization. He is bigger than politics and pundits. Trust Him to do the work of your faith. He can handle it!
How to Share the Message of Jesus with Others
When it comes to sharing the message of Jesus with others, it’s important to be gracious and understanding. Folks in our ever changing, secular society have unique immediately beliefs, and it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to be receptive to the message of Christianity. That being said, there are still ways to share the message of Jesus in ways that are respectful and likely to be well-received.
Here are Three Rules to Help You as You Attempt to Share Your Faith in Our Everyday World.
- Always start and stay with grace. Nobody needs us to tell them how bad they are. Let’s face it; we are just as messed up. Be gracious – Sharing Jesus is never an argument! And for goodness’ sake, allow people to disagree with you. It’s okay!
- Don’t make politics your faith system. Jesus is more significant than donkeys, elephants, and climate change. So keep Jesus the main thing. Let’s face it. If the world acted and reacted more like Jesus, even from a historical perspective, the world would be far better. While it’s hard to avoid political and social divisions, you can rise above that, can’t you?
- Don’t take the other person’s response personally. I know that this one is challenging. Jesus Himself had people not choose Him. What on earth would make you think that folks won’t accept you? Remember your role. You share, and God takes it from there. When you share Jesus, it’s critical to understand that you need thick skin and a soft heart.
Here are Three Ways you Can Share Jesus in a Secular, Post-Christian Society
- Invite people to sit with you in church. It may seem simple because it is. Invite people to join you. Invite people if your church regularly shares the message of Jesus in love and with grace. Often it’s not about how hip or slick the service flow is but whether anyone cares enough to invite another person to sit with them. Recent research proves this fact. Far beyond the music style, the pastor’s preaching ability, or location of the building, people know when they are wanted, welcomed, and received in love. You cannot fake that with technology or talent!
- Be honest and admit that you need some work on your prayer life. I say that because it is true of every human that I know. Then ask someone, “since I am working on myself, can I pray for you?” But please read this in bold letters. If you say you will pray for someone, you are on the hook before God that you will actually pray for them.
- Intentionally build a relationship simply because you like or admire someone. Do so, especially if you think they might have a different faith system than yours. Don’t build a relationship for any other reason than building a relationship. Let God do what God can do, and you love others, period. When the time is right, ask your friend what they believe. I’ve learned that a simple way to have that conversation is to ask what role faith or church played in their growing up. and let them chat. Compare stories and get to see why they may not share your Christian faith. Then have an ongoing dialogue about your and their faith. Here’s a huge rule: When you openly speak of the things of God, Good things happen. Let God do His part, you just love and share. Remember, it’s not on you. You cannot save anyone, you can share. Stay in your lane and let God do His thing. It’s hard to love someone without letting them talk.
One way to share the message of Jesus is by simply living out your faith. People are far more receptive to hearing about Jesus when they see it lived out in front of them. This could mean anything from being kind and compassionate to others, living a life of integrity, or sharing your testimony of how Jesus has changed your life. If you want others to share your faith, you must be conduits of grace and love, rather than megaphones of anger and division.
Making a Positive Change Together
In conclusion, we must work together to change our increasingly secular society positively. We can do this by genuinely living our faith in action, reaction, and attitude and being an example to those around us. We can also support churches that are making a difference in the world. Finally, we can pray for our country and its leaders that they would seek God’s wisdom and guidance.
I urge you to lay down some of your rhetoric, orthodoxy, and preferences and grab hold of your cross daily. Love one another in the way of Jesus, and watch how your world and the world change for the better.
Go in Peace, Chuck