Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
He claimed to be the exclusive way to salvation and eternal life with God. But according to Pew Research, most American Christians believe they have found a different path.
Self-identified Christians were given a list of items and asked which ones were essential to being a Christian, which ones were important, but not essential, and which ones were unimportant. For most weekly church-attending American Christians, the essentials of being a Christian means doing some good things, believing in God, and … that’s about it.
In addition to believing in God, a majority of highly religious Christians (those that go to church weekly and pray daily) say it is essential to pray regularly, read the Bible, attend church services, be honest, forgive others, spend time with family, help the poor, and being grateful.
When you talk to Americans who call themselves Christians, but don’t go to church regularly, they come to a similar conclusion—except do even fewer things. Less than a majority include praying, reading the Bible, attending church, and helping the poor as essential parts of being a Christian.
Many of the beliefs and actions Pew Research listed as options for what it is essential to being a Christian are good and worthwhile, but they miss the very core of what it means to become and live as a Christian.
When Pew asked an open ended question to see if they had missed any other essential, the answers revealed more problems. More people volunteered some form of following the golden rule (15 percent) than said trust or belief in God (13 percent) or salvation through Jesus (11 percent).
Yes, it is problematic that Pew did not include salvation through Jesus as one of the choices listed, but do we honestly think it would make that much of a difference?
In essence, only 1 in 10 American Christians agrees with Jesus on what it takes to be one of His followers. If you are curious why the church in the U.S. often reflects the broader culture, that’s why. Christians don’t even know what it means to be a Christian.
Apart from Christ changing us from the inside out and the Holy Spirit living inside of us empowering us to follow Jesus and live according to the Scriptures, we have no shot at being substantially and consistently different from those around us.
If you have any position of leadership within a church, you should recognize the discipleship deficit that most likely exists within your congregation.
People are seeing lists of good actions as essential to being a Christian. For them, the core of our faith is living a certain way to please God.
Regardless of what they say, they don’t understand that Christ has already lived that way, pleased God, and offered His life as a sacrifice for our own. We don’t have to be perfect because He has been perfect on our behalf.
Your small group, your friends, your family, and your church need to be assured and reminded that their effort cannot save them. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Until Christians understand that truth, it will be hard to move on to anything else.