New research from the Barna Group suggests that being labeled as a Christian might mean you are perceived as being judgmental and hypocritical. According to a survey of 867 young people between the ages of 16 and 29, at least 85 percent of non-Christians perceived Christianity as judgmental and hypocritical. Twenty-five percent indicated modern-day Christianity is no longer like Jesus. Christianity has a major image problem among the younger adults surveyed. The Barna Group is confident many reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.

These are the very things that Jesus warned religious people about. Matthew 7:1-7 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In the book based on the research, UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, an outsider from Mississippi is quoted as saying, “Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fear mongering that has lost its own heart.”

Megachurch pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren is also quoted as saying, “For some time now, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been amputated, and we’ve been pretty much reduced to a big mouth. We talk more than we do. It’s time to reattach the limbs and let the church be the church in the 21st Century.”

According to the Barna Group, many Christians don’t want to be called “Christian” because of the baggage that accompanies the label. Instead they prefer to call themselves “followers of Jesus” or “apprentices of Christ,” because the word “Christian” could limit their ability to relate to others.

In Acts 11:25-26 it says the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. Before that they were called people of the Way. Whether we are labeled Christians, Christ followers, Believers, people of the Way or Oklahoma Baptists, we would all do well to pay close attention to how we are perceived by lost people. The Bible is very clear, once the salt has lost its flavor, not even the dogs will eat it. We as Oklahoma Baptists have a divine obligation to do all we can to live up to our family name. Doing so may require pulling the plank from our own eye. Only then will we see clear enough to extend a hand of compassion and offer a cup of spiritual water in the name of Christ.