Evangelism… in a “Christian nation.”

There’s a myth going round the United States that we Christians are a tiny, oppressed minority, shrinking all the time thanks to the insidious forces of paganism and nontheism in our secular culture.

It’s rubbish. And I know; Christians don’t wanna believe it’s rubbish. A lot of us are deeply invested in the idea the world’s only getting worse… and they believe Jesus will intervene once it’s the worst it can be. (Whereas I don’t believe he’s forced to wait for us to get depraved enough; he’ll return whenever he wants.) But statistics don’t confirm their deeply-held beliefs. True, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian is going down. The Pew Research Center pegged it at 65 percent in 2019. But that’s just pagans who believed themselves Christian, recognizing they’re really not. They’re coming out of the closet.

As for me, I share Jesus with people, like every Christian should. Most often by chatting with strangers in coffeehouses, but sometimes I’ve gone door to door. You wanna find out how truly secular your community is, try tabulating them like a census worker: Go from house to house, and meet ’em where they live. What you’ll find out is Christians are hardly a minority. We’re the vast, overwhelming majority.

Some towns are more pagan than others. In more devout towns, 99 out of 100 figure they’re Christian. In more pagan cities (i.e. San Francisco or Portland), it’s still more than half. On average I’ve found two out of three identify as Christian… so yeah, about the same as the Pew Center’s findings.

So when you go forth and share Jesus with people, you’re largely gonna find they know him already. Or at least think they do.

Those who think they do.

’Cause a lot of self-described Christians aren’t all that Christian. They don’t go to church, and don’t figure they have to. They can’t tell you the last time they read a bible. They say grace on Thanksgiving, but otherwise don’t pray unless they really want something. They might do something religious on Easter or Christmas. That’s about it. They’re the I-got-baptized-and-that-counts kind of Christians.

So if you’ve ever wondered why American culture looks so pagan, despite all our professed Christians: We’re more Christianist. Our so-called Christians are irreligious and apathetic.

Yeah, when you put their backs to the wall (as dark Christians imagine will happen to us all someday), they’ll probably declare Christ. If they were gonna quit Jesus entirely and become something else, they would’ve done so by now. They didn’t. They choose a comatose sort of Christianity, but it’s still technically Christianity, and still something the Holy Spirit can work with.

This being the case, sharing Jesus within the United States is quite different than sharing him in non-Christian countries. Our job isn’t so much to introduce him to people. It’s to shake ’em awake. It’s to correct their distorted views of the gospel. It’s to get people to stop taking Jesus for granted.

That’s what I bear in mind when I do evangelism. A lot of folks will say, “I’m a Christian,” and I respond, “Good! Where do you go to church?… And how often do you go? weekly, monthly, twice a year?—does your pastor know you?”

Which some of them will take offense at, and say I’m prying. (Which is precisely what I’m doing.) Really they don’t go to church; they’re just telling me they do. They hope by identifying a church that’s “theirs,” I’ll assume they’re practicing, churchgoing Christians, and move along. But I make no such assumptions, and now I’m asking questions which might expose their hypocrisy—and that’s why they’re offended.

I also respond, “Do you pray?… How regularly?” And “Do you read your bible?” And “Has God ever done a miracle for you?” I’m trying to gauge just how Christian they are: Do they have a living, active relationship with Christ, or are they just Christianist? And again, some take offense at this. “I just told you I’m a Christian,” one annoyed man once told me. “I know,” I told him. “But you know how Christ said ‘By their fruits you’ll know them’? Mt 7.20 I’m bobbing for fruit.”

Yeah, sometimes people are bugged by my questions because they’ve encountered evangelists from the faith-righteousness camp: Like independent Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they think we’re saved by correct theology, not grace. Evangelists from those churches always wanna submit people to an orthodoxy test, and make sure people are saved before they move on. They’re not looking for fruit though. In fact a lot of ’em lack fruit themselves. So they tend to come across as jerks. My not-all-that-probing questions might remind people of their questions, and it may make ’em worry I’m another one of those jerks.

But more often it’s because they feel guilty. I’m trying to see how Christian they are, and they know they’re not Christian at all. I’m not trying to convict them, but their own consciences are making ’em squirm.

We’re here to help!

We need to accept Christ Jesus as our lord and savior, and start following him. That’s the usual spiel most evangelists make. It’s absolutely true… for pagans. You wanna be Christian, that’s what you do. But when we’re evangelizing Americans who figure they’re Christian already, they don’t need to re-accept Jesus: They need to follow him!

And they suck at doing it alone. They need help in following him. So that’s our mission: We gotta help.

They suck at prayer. Fine; help them pray. Invite them to your prayer group. Ask ’em what they need, and pray for it. Demonstrate good prayer practices. Encourage. Remind. And so on.

They suck at bible-reading. Fine; invite ’em to your bible study. Go through the bible together. Talk about it. Share. Discuss.

They don’t know any fellow Christians. Fine; invite them to your small group. (Not your church’s worship services; that’s how you worship together, not how you meet people. They should go to that too, but meet their expressed needs first.) Invite them to various interactive Christian functions. Or you can get to know ’em, you know—there’s always you.

They haven’t seen miracles. Fine; show them yours. Share your testimonies. Pray for them, and once God does stuff for them they’ll have their own testimonies.

They struggle with being Christian in this godless world. Well, who doesn’t? Show them they’re far from alone. Like I said, most Americans are Christian—but they’re not sharing that fact, and most Americans will be stunned to discover just how many of their neighbors, coworkers, fellow gym members, fellow coffeehouse frequenters, even random folks they run into at the supermarket, are Christian. The world isn’t as godless as they assume. Once they get to know some of their fellow Christians, they’ll see this.

Our mission is to get our fellow Christians out of their comas, and have them realize they can follow Jesus, can have his abundant life. It’s much harder than starting from the very beginning as a brand-new baby Christian. These folks are more like the moody teenagers who don’t wanna have anything to do with their parents—they’re that kind of Christian. Takes a lot of patience to get through to them. But it’s doable… and these are the neighbors God gave us to love.