Many of us start out as Cultural Christians, I know that I did. I was raised in a home where my mother took us to Sunday school and church each week . . . I was living in a Christian culture. That didn't, however, make me a Christian. My decision as a teenager to follow Christ is what made me a Christian. I'm not slamming the Christian culture in any way because that's the very thing that has led many of us into a personal relationship with Christ. What I am concerned about is the many people who comfortably live in the Christian culture and mistakenly consider themselves to be a Christian without ever having a personal relationship with Christ, himself.
For Cultural Christians, Christianity may be a lot like membership in a civic club. Civic clubs do good things, provide a venue for companionship, and can be valuable for networking. I wonder how many people are treating the church like another Rotary Club, Junior League or other civic organization but with a "family values" twist? I think it's important to understand that it takes all of us some period of time to grasp the message of the Christian faith and it can effectively, but not instantly, be communicated in the Christian culture environment. It's for that reason that I want to be patient with Cultural Christians just as Believers were patient with me as I made my journey to the cross and as more mature Believers are still patient with me as I continue to grow in my faith.
It's also important that I not assume that because people may be connected at some level to a local church, that they are Christ followers. In truth, many of the people that sit in the pews on Sundays are still Cultural Christians on a journey that I hope will ultimately lead to a life-changing, world-changing, personal relationship with Christ. If it doesn't lead to that kind of relationship, it will only be another club membership for them.
So what does all of this mean to Christ followers? I think it means that we must:
- model the life transformation that comes from our faith,
- be transparent with our own struggles but, also
- be prepared to explain the hope that we have through our faith in Christ. (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)