In asking this question I’m not referring to the denomination or style of the church you’re part of (or not part of). Over my 30 years as a pastor, I’ve observed many “kinds” of people who refer to themselves as “Christian.” I’ve noticed some particular trends in the past few years, some of which seem to be especially unhealthy and not accurately reflecting the church Jesus said He would build. So, what kind of Christian are YOU?
1. The Convenience Christian treats the church, and their spirituality, like the local convenience store. They know it’s there whenever they need something. They’ll just pop in from time to time when it’s, umm, convenient. This is the lifestyle Christian who fits God and faith around the more important things of life like sport, time for themselves and catching up with friends.
2. The Consumer Christian attends a church for what they can get out of it, and they will continue to attend (when it’s convenient) for as long as you are able to meet their needs. They want everything to be just right – the right music, the right songs – at the right volume, the right teaching (as long as it’s entertaining) and the right programs for their kids. Don’t ask the consumer Christian to do anything; they’re not at church for that. Other people do the things! You have the consumer Christian’s loyalty as long as you continue to do the right thing and as long as a church doesn’t start up nearby who can do things more right than you. The consumer Christian is also willing to travel some distance to get what they want. They are very committed to their needs being met.
3. The Crisis Christian is often a convenience Christian too. They’re the ones you only see when they have an emergency. They’re quite happy when all is well. God is kind of “there” and they know the church will always be there too, but it’s only when something goes wrong that God and church seem important. Their prayer life will spring to life and God is entreated to get them out of the problem and to end the pain. They come back to church as a bargaining chip with God. They believe in the doctrine of Quid pro quo – offering prayers to God as a trade: “God, if you get me out of this then I will … (fill in the blank here).” This is not Christianity at all. In fact, this kind of thinking can be traced back to the idolatry and religious festivals of ancient Rome (Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “something for something”).
4. The Crowd Christian just loves to be amongst the multitude. The bigger the church the better! They often want to be anonymous (which is okay for a while but not long-term). The crowd is often made up of convenience, consumer and crisis Christians. This is leading to a modern phenomenon of large churches having more people who attend less often. It’s easy to build a crowd as long as you have the best of everything. The crowd will come for an event like a guest speaker, or a band or food. Just ask Jesus who had a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children when there were miracles and food flowing but only had 120 people at a 9am prayer meeting.
5 The Conspiracy Christian. knows that there’s lots of dark stuff happening in the world and feels called of God to make sure we all know about it. Some of the conspiracy theories perpetrated by conspiracy Christians over the years include:
- Obama is the Antichrist and plans to rule America by sharia law
- Charles Darwin took it all back the day he died
- The Birth control pill turns your uterus into a grave littered with teeny-weeny corpses of fully formed babies
- The Bible is really an ancient computer program
- Jesus invented the Internet
- Noah came from Mars
- The Garden of Eden is hidden under Kansas City
- The government is setting up concentration camps throughout the U.S. to intern Christians
- Each year, 1 million children are kidnapped and murdered by satanic cults
- Gay men wear special rings for the sole purpose of giving innocent straight people HIV.
- The abortion-mad Chinese eat human foetuses.
Now, I don’t doubt for one minute that there are things happening in this world that we don’t know about. There is a dark side to this, but Christians need to stop fixating on the Illuminati and start focusing on Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
6. The Condemning Christian is much like the conspiracy Christian but his “ministry” is to guard the truth and expose and criticise anyone who deviates in the slightest way. These people seem to have a massive amount of discretionary time to read and respond to blogs and Facebook posts. They like to disagree and argue and it doesn’t matter what you say they will always come back with why you’re wrong. They are cowards behind keyboards – usually faceless, often nameless. There are whole ministries set up for the express purpose of keeping pastors, churches & other ministries “accountable.” They are self-appointed guardians of the truth and they are unrelenting and brutal. Theirs is the ministry of condemnation. Condemning Christians are like the schoolyard bullies of the Internet and, just like the bullies, they crave attention. They also exist in our churches. They’re the people for whom nothing is ever right and who have to pick the one statement in your sermon they disagree with and focus on that to the detriment of everything else you said. They strain out gnats and swallow camels.
7. The Community Christian is the person that reflects what Jesus came to build – His Church. The English word “church” is translated from the Greek word Ekklesia that originally referred to a group of people who were called out from their homes (usually by a trumpet) and summoned to a public political meeting. Jesus, Luke, Paul, James and John use this word 114 times to describe the community that would result from Jesus’ life, death & resurrection. The church is not a building, not something you simply “attend,” not an event or a consumable commodity, not a convenience or a crowd to hide in. The church is a community of believers in Jesus who gather on a regular basis in large and small groups to worship, pray, be instructed in God’s Word, eat together, help one another in practical and spiritual ways, build friendships and grow in grace, give and receive and reach out to a world that God loves and for whom Jesus died (see Acts 2:42-47). The New Testament speaks many times of believers gathering or meeting together as a community. The writer to the Hebrew Christians was particularly strong on the importance of this gathering: “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Real community is life changing as reflected in this email I received from a guy in Bayside Church last week:
“Hi Rob. Thanks for last Sunday it was absolutely amazing. When you showed the video interview with the guy from Open Doors, and he spoke about the 12yr old girl who was persecuted by her father, I found it very difficult to comprehend. What came next was even more powerful. You asked us to get into groups and pray for the persecuted church. I was in a group of 4 and I felt like I needed to start off but I burst into tears, overwhelmed by Gods presence and how that 12-year-old girl had been treated. I prayed, then the lady next to me started crying when she prayed and so did her husband, and the guy next to me was also in tears. Then we worshipped God some more and that was amazing. And then we had a pray line so I headed straight out, still crying by the way. I went down for the count and God was all over me. Awesome! You know I woke up that morning and straight away I heard the Holy Spirit say ‘honour me.’ You see that day we had no kids so we were going to skip church and do something together. I went instead.”
So which one(s) of the above seven kinds of Christians best describes you? Be honest and, if you’re not reflecting the qualities of the Community Christian then it’s time to make some changes: “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
ABOUT ROB BUCKINGHAM
Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne. Welcoming people from all walks of life, Bayside Church invites all people to experience the Christian faith and God. For more information about Bayside Church: