A new book just hitting the shelves compares the eight major religions of the world, and attempts to explain why their differences matter. I haven’t yet read the book, so I have no further comment on the book at this time. However, in an interview given by the author, he made the claim that “Christianity is losing market share”. I’m not criticizing his answer or even his choice of words, but it is odd to think of Christianity in the business terms of “market share”. Regardless, the point is clear. Our world is growing rapidly, and the people in it are finding other religions more attractive to them than Christianity. My only question is, “Why”?
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus Christ is the truth, and the only way to God is through Jesus. Why then, would so many seek to find an alternate path that Christ has already stated simply does not exist? I believe part of the problem is that Jesus never intended to start a religion, much less one that would become one of the “eight great religions” of the world. He came to abolish religion, to put an end to our striving, our rituals and our piety. He came to replace ritual with obedience and judgmentalism with grace. He came to replace condemnation with love.
If Christianity is indeed “losing market share”, perhaps it is because we who call ourselves Christians are perverting the very message Christ came to deliver. We reek of piety and drip with pharisaical tendencies. Instead of extending grace to all as Jesus did, we have become known for choosing a select group of sins at which to wail and gnash our teeth. Adultery and homosexuality are seen as one way tickets out of the “church”, and prominent Christian leaders have proclaimed that the scourge of AIDS is God’s way of dealing with the sexual sins. Where is the love and compassion of Jesus in that message? The message of Jesus has been co-opted into a man-made religion that bears little resemblance to its namesake.
Jesus came to abolish religious rituals and to promote instead a personal relationship between God and man. No longer did one need to do and say all the right things or dress in a certain manner. Jesus accepted everyone, regardless of their background, occupation or lifestyle. There was no interview process for His disciples. Jesus didn’t spend time getting to know these individuals beforehand. He simply told them to follow Him. He told them to follow Him from the very place that they were, not to get cleaned up first, not to go pray about it. All He said was, “Follow Me.”. Over the years we have added onto this command a plethora of dos, don’ts and rituals. We have perverted the simplicity of His message.
Perhaps worst of all we have ceased to love. We are really good at offering entertainment choices and building beautiful facilities in which to gather, but we have become pathetically lackadaisical when it comes to loving others. People all over the world are starving. Over half the world earns less than $2 per day. Clean water is unavailable to huge masses around the globe. Meanwhile we build comfortable café’s and feature large screen projector screens throughout our churches. We are replete with cash but bankrupt in love. We have become diametrically opposed to the message of Jesus. The greatest commandment of all, as stated by Jesus in Mark 12:30-31, is to love God with all of our hearts, and to love everyone else in the same manner. Membership has become more important than service. Love has taken a back seat to religion.
Is Christianity truly losing market share? I don’t know, but there appears to be some proof to that conclusion. To be perfectly blunt, I’m okay with that. What the world needs is fewer Christians and more people willing to be followers of Jesus. In too many circles, Christianity has indeed become just another one of the religions of the world, one that does little to help anyone. The positive changes are coming from those brave and dedicated souls who are simply following Jesus, who have given their lives entirely to Him, and are living out His mission to the world. These are the people with whom I identify. Perhaps it’s okay to let Christianity wither and decline. Instead, let’s be about doing the things that Jesus told us to do and living a life that looks like His. True followers of Jesus are people who show grace and mercy to all, people who don’t judge others for their sin but accept them as they are. True followers of Jesus care for the needs of the sick, the poor and the hungry. Above all, a true follower of Jesus is marked by love, the greatest commandment of all. If we don’t have love, then we have nothing at all. Perhaps that is the very reason for the decline of modern Christianity. Love is the highest call, and Jesus is the only answer. Nothing else matters.