Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Christian is a Great Noun and a Poor Adjective

“Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”

Rob Bell

I listen to a Christian radio station. I read Christian books (along with others not classified that way). I've attended a Christian writing conference. I am indebted to my Christian friends who hold me up consistently in prayer. On Technorati, this very site is classified as a Christian blog. So I understand the appeal of using the label "Christian." It is descriptive, helping us be more discerning in our choices, giving us the tools for spiritual growth.

But sometimes I wonder if it is a selfish convenience which hinders the cause of Christ.

Is it detrimental to nonbelievers to use "Christian" as an adjective? In doing so, do we discourage them from participating in some great music or literature or education strictly because the label turns them off? Many unbelievers may never attend a Christian concert, but a concert that honors God without being labeled that way? Maybe. They would never have a desire to read a Christian book, but if there's a great story without the descriptive adjective tacked on, they may give it whirl.

Adding the term "Christian" to our activities separates us some from the world too, doesn't it? It insinuates we are a special group, making some feel unwelcome. It isolates us from the pain of those not included in our circle. Immersing ourselves in Christian activities and products may be great for our personal spiritual growth, but how does it benefit those who don't share our faith? How will they hear of God's love and mercy if they don't come to our "Christian" gatherings? Does using "Christian" as an adjective close us off from the world, thereby limiting our exposure and opportunity to "share the good news?"

Plus, using the tag "Christian" causes us to be complacent, giving us a false sense of security, turning off our discerning filter. We think if it's "Christian," it's okay for us to participate in which is not always true. I've read plenty of "Christian" books which were not biblical.

Many years ago when Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith crossed over into the pop market, they drew much criticism from Christians for selling out, succumbing to the world in an effort to make more money. But what about the masses of new people exposed to music infused with the Holy Spirit? Whether God's name is mentioned repeatedly or not, does His touch go away in a musician who is devoted to Him? Does God stop using them because they are not specifically targeting fellow Christians? Absolutely not! Didn't Jesus talk to the masses? Didn't He go to those deemed improper by the religious leaders? Don't nonbelievers deserve to be reached too? If they aren't part of our "Christian" groups, how will they be exposed to Truth?

One of my favorite things is finding God in movies and books and songs not deemed "Christian." The recent movie Blind Side is a good example. Never billed as a "Christian" movie, it certainly displayed many Godly themes. How many people would have missed out on it if it had been marketed as "Christian?" And don't even get me started on the number of books published in the "secular" market containing great lessons of Truth.

Is it necessary to proclaim something "Christian" for God to use it? No. God is much bigger than that, my friends. I completely understand why it happens and like the convenience for myself, but do we better serve nonbelievers by not using it?

Well, enough out of me. Time to take a breather and let YOU pipe in on this discussion. What are your thoughts, ideas, frustrations? I am fully aware this quote may bring on dissenting opinions and I welcome them. I want to learn. I desire greater understanding. Give me your honest views. Don't be shy. Join us by linking up below.


MiPa said...

As I said before, I love this quote. Definitely gets my mental wheels to whirling.

I agree with you that the label makes us complacent. It is easy to not be as careful in our discerning if something is labeled "Christian". Truth is that we should be more discerning what we allow to have that label as it reflects directly on the name of Christ.

Thank you for hosting us this week.

Esthermay said...

Thank you, Tami, for hosting IOW today and for your choice of such a provocative quote. You have made some excellent points in your own post.

I personally believe that the term Christian has been so misused by both Believers and non-believers that it is no longer the sacred expression that it was meant to be. And I wonder if the First Century "Christ-Followers" had ever even meant for the label to be used as an adjective...

Don't you think the use of the label as an adjective is a more modern marketing technique? WoW! It's hard to know. . . You've given us much to contemplate this week to be sure.

Karen said...

Great post today. I wasn't thinking down the lines of "label" or I believe I would have wrote something a little different. Anyway thanks for giving us to think about and ponder.

Karen said...

Oh by the way, where's Mr. Linky. I pushed him and don't see where I enter my information.

mamas*little*treasures said...

Good morning Tami - thank you for sharing such a thought-provoking quote. And also I want you to know that your honesty is a blessing . . . it is encouraging to read opinions that seem so real and authentic. I appreciate you! Nina

Jaime Kubik said...

As always, I love the way your mind works. Constantly pushing to learn more and seek the Truth!

Twinkle Mom @ Sunflower Faith said...

Wonderful post-between your post and Esthermay-It was timely and much needed to think and discuss about and had me thinking..wow..have I been like that myself-If so...some quality time with our Father is much needed.

Nic said...

Great post. You're so right. God IS bigger than a label that many view as a hindrance, offensive, or uninteresting.

writingcanvas said...

Thank you so much for hosting IOW today! It was a good quote to ponder on. :)

Dianne said...

Great quote but then I really like Rob Bell! I recall reading in Acts where the disciples were "first called Christians in Antioch." I've often thought that "Christian" is best used as is an identification by OTHERS. So as a label applied by others as a descriptor of what they see - that's a good thing. While I do want to identify with Christ, I hope I just don't slap a label on for comfort and security and not consider all the responsibility it bears. Good thought provoking quote and post.

Kelly said...

Maybe you've seen this poem before, but I thought it was good.

When I say that 'I am a Christian', I am not shouting that 'I am clean living. I'm whispering 'I was lost, but now I'm found and forgiven.'

When I say 'I am a Christian' I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say 'I am a Christian' I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.

When I say 'I am a Christian' I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say 'I am a Christian' I'm not claiming to be perfect. My flaws are far too visible, it is He alone that is worth it.

When I say 'I am a Christian' I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.

When I say 'I am a Christian' I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner who received God's good grace, somehow!