NEWS FLASH—Americans are not as trusting as they used to be. And for good reason.
In 1964, we trusted our government. That was the year our confidence peaked at 77%. And why not? After all, we just assumed it was a ” government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But then Vietnam dragged on and on and on with no clear objective or end in sight. What was our government thinking? The elected leaders’ sloth-like approach to embrace the civil rights movement didn’t help. And then there was that whole crazy “moon landing?” Yeah, right. How could we trust a government that tried to sell us that hoax? (Yes, almost 1/3 of Americans were convinced the moon landing was fake.) Our trust in government in the years bookending the moon landing fell from 62% to 52%. We followed all that with Watergate … Iran-Contra … Monica Lewinsky …and [insert your favorite government faux pas].
It will come as no surprise that today only 17% of Americans trust the government. Finally, there’s something both Republicans and Democrats agree on: government can’t be trusted! (Of course, Republicans’ distrust is pointed at the Democrats, and the Democrats’ distrust is pointed at the Republicans.) Unfortunately, the continual bickering and political maneuvering only fuel our mistrust.
At least we can turn to the church as a trustworthy place. Whoa … think again. Trust has taken a dive in the church too. For years, confidence in religious groups stayed fairly consistent at 60%, but it has fallen to 38%. How can we expect people to come to Jesus when the institutions that represent Him aren’t considered trustworthy by close to 2/3 of Americans?
Christians, take note: we’ve brought it on ourselves.
Sexual abuse should be non-existent in the church of Christ, yet way too many children and adults put their trust in a church leader only to have that trust abused. And others in the church remained silent.
For years we fought the battle of the worship wars. Hymnbooks or screens? Guitars or organs? Now we’ve switched to fighting over Calvinism. If an unchurched person is bold enough to stick his head in the door, he can’t help but ask, “Why bother? These people talk about love but they don’t even like each other.”
Can we turn this trust issue around? Maybe. Frankly, my first concern is not getting someone to trust the church. Ultimately, I want him to trust Jesus, and my role in that is to be a person he can trust—a person who lives what he believes about Jesus.
We can bemoan the loss of trust in the church, but let’s focus on being individuals who are authentic Christ-followers. It’s not about the church as an institution; it’s about Jesus. When we live lives of authenticity and absolute integrity, we build trust. We earn the right to talk about our love and allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Consider what would happen if, because of your integrity and transparency, you gained the trust of someone. He sees your faith is real. You introduce him to other Christ-followers who also love Jesus and strive to live for Him. This friend now sees authentic, real Christians who love him deeply even though he himself is riddled with sin, questions, doubts, and/or a lifestyle that the organized church might frown on.
He may not trust the organized church, but without knowing it, he has learned to trust a group of believers (i.e., the church).
When we live authentic, transparent lives of integrity and love, we show him the face of Jesus like no organization can. Living individual lives that reflect Jesus can lead him to embrace Jesus for himself. And when he falls in love with Jesus, he falls in love with His body and bride, the church.
Trust is a commodity we’re missing in our culture, but I want to change that—but that change begins with me. Join me in this: as followers of Christ, let’s prove ourselves to be trustworthy through our love, authenticity, and transparency. As they see Christ in us, let’s pray they will choose to follow Him too.
“Pray for us, for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything” (Heb. 13:18).
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