Partnering together as one national family is important as we…live our faith in the world
by Chris Eidse
Raise your hand if you’re tired of the term “evangelical Christian” being referred to as a negative thing. For many reasons this term often leaves a bad taste in the mouths of a significant segment of our society. I am especially concerned when I read about our next generation of leaders being cynical.
People in their 20s and 30s are staying away from church more now than at any other time in modern history. The stats show that the majority of this rising generation views us evangelicals as largely irrelevant at best and judgmental bigots at worst. How did we get to this point, and more importantly, what can we do to change this perception?
I believe that this upcoming generation really matters, and if we want to see them embrace the Christian faith we need to figure out how to improve their perception of us. The future of faith in our country depends on it. We as a Mennonite Brethren family have a lot to offer, and I believe we can make a real impact on this changing culture.
Part of our image problem has to do with what we stand against. Evangelical Christians are known for their stance against some pretty controversial things. We take a stance against abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research and all kinds of things that we believe are sinful. Standing against these things is not the real problem.
The heart of our image problem comes when we are only known for the things we stand against and not for the positive things that we stand for. To mend our image we need to be known for all those great attributes that made Jesus a hero. Imagine if we were known 90 percent of the time for the fruits of the Spirit and only 10 percent for trying to legislate what is right. If so, our efforts could influence the country more than winning a few political victories at the expense of embittering our opponents.
Was Jesus known for his stance against prostitutes or crooked tax collectors? Was Jesus known for his stance against homosexuals and divorcees? When I think about Jesus I think about the people he stood up for more than the people he stood up against.
Jesus was a champion of the sinful masses. He was known for his outrageous love for people who were a mess. His love for sinful people shocked the culture. There is no doubt that Jesus spoke the truth about sin, but his outstanding love for people formed the lasting impression that built his reputation.
As Mennonite Brethren we have some pretty remarkable beliefs upon which to stand. Here in North Carolina we have a rich history of standing up for racial equality and integration. This sets us apart in an area that has struggled with these concepts in the past. We have a reputation of empowering the underprivileged and teaching the Word of God in a way that is relevant and trustworthy.
Building our reputation on these attributes will continue to attract people that are searching for real meaning and depth in a shallow world. Our U.S. Mennonite Brethren family has many great things to stand up for. I hope we are known for our emphasis on community, peace, justice and reconciliation. These are characteristics that people are crying out for. They are focal points for us that can change our image from judgmental to loving, from hypocritical to genuine.
The U.S. Mennonite Brethren family has solidly stood alongside our churches in prayer and support in our quest to shine our light in North Carolina. Together we need to stand and rebuild our reputation as evangelical Christians who are known for their outrageous love of Jesus. Now more than ever we need to stand with one voice saying, “This is who we are.” Let’s pray that it can be as shocking today as it was 2000 years ago when Jesus spoke his message loud and clear.
Chris Eidse is a Canadian who has served the North Carolina District Conference for the past five years. He and his wife, Rebecca, have two daughters. Eidse is currently an associate pastor at Bushtown MB Church in Lenoir, NC, and is also the NCDC district youth minister, serving youth from six Mennonite Brethren churches.