Have questions about the church? I know I do. Is the church really living up to the example Jesus gave? I don’t have all the answers, heck no one has all the answers. But a good starting point is to start talking about it. Roy Peters, a friend of Geez, is doing just that. Read on to hear some of his thoughts on church. – megan kamei, editorial assistant

I grew up going to church.  I’ve gone all my life.  I’ve had a sense for a long time that the church isn’t all that it could be.  Six years ago my son began college at a private liberal arts Christian college.  Two years later his sister enrolled at the same college.  They have both brought home ideas and suggested readings that have challenged me and given me new insights.  To both of them and my beloved wife who has always figured out a lot of things before I have, I owe a great deal.

In the last year I read a book called Everything Must Change that made a statement regarding the church that summed up what I’d been feeling.  “a message purporting to be the best news in the world should be doing better than this.”  He made one other statement that I will quote here “The church has specialized in people’s destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant ….injustices in this life.  It has focused on ‘me’ and ‘my soul’ and ‘my spiritual life’ and my eternal destiny’ but has failed to address …. realities of their lifetime:  …injustice, poverty, and ecological crisis.”

I just started to read another book that summarizes research by the Barna group on what people outside the church are saying.  It was assigned reading for my daughter on her summer mission assignment this past summer.  The book is titled UN-Christian. It reports that those age 16 to 29 and outsiders to the church number 24 million.  Of these, nearly seven million said they have a negative impression of evangelicals; another seven million said they have no opinion; and ten million have never heard the term” evangelical”.  That leaves less than a half a million young outsiders–out of the 24 million – who see evangelicals in a positive light.

It seems wise that we at least listen to what this large number of people from this age group thinks.  One thing stood out, Christians are primarily perceived for what they stand against.  The three most common perceptions of present-day Christians are: antihomosexual (an image held by 91 percent of young outsiders), judgemental (87%), and hypocritical (85%).

And then what about those who were in the church but left?  I quote from the book Colossians Remixed:  “Of the friends of mine who have abandoned Christian faith, very few of them stopped believing in Christ because of intellectual problems with the Bible or because they were seduced by some other worldview or belief system.  Rather, they tend to abandon Christian faith because of the irrelevance, judgementalism and internal dissension and lack of compassion they experience within the Christian community.  Rather than finding the church to be the community that most deeply encouraged them in their struggles, they lost heart in their discouragement and lost their faith in the process. Rather than experiencing the church as the site of the most profound hospitality, love and acceptance, they felt excluded because of their doubts and struggles…What makes an argument that is alternative to the gospel plausible is the implausibility of the Christian community itself.”

And then the words from John 13:35 occurred to me: “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And that in turn reminds me of a saying I have heard quoted:  “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. – Roy Peters DVM