It is rare for an idea to come without baggage. We have a lifetime of experiences through which we’ve formed opinions that are difficult to disconnect from (remember the Curse of Knowledge?).
When I mention the words Christian and Christianity to someone who does not know Jesus, often there is an immediate bristling. Skepticism and distrust are often attached to Christianity, and often rightly so.
What can we Christians do? Christ and Christianity are not the problem—it’s the followers that do it in. Is there any way to add credibility to the faith we proclaim?
Reality is if you want your ideas to gain acceptance—to stick—you’ll have to make them credible.
That’s the fourth characteristic of a sticky idea, found in this week’s reading for the High Calling Blogs book club. We’re making our way through Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. We’ve already looked at the first three: simple, unexpected, and concrete.
The authors give recommendations for increasing credibility, one being the personal testimony, which is the bedrock of Christian witnessing: explain life before knowing Jesus and after knowing Him. Simple, right?!
Well . . . even though there may be a dramatic before/after to tell, skepticism isn’t so easily removed because:
A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them?1
Skepticism is strong when it comes to religious matters. Christians have tried to earn “trust points”2 by featuring their own changed lives on the ad campaign poster.
Should we be plastered on the posters? I am reluctant to be the poster girl, for I know myself, and I am a mixed bag. My life will not withstand scrutiny, and if I speak glowingly of my life and my transformation (even with the intent of proclaiming Christ), it will not hold up.
Michael Horton says this in his book Christless Christianity: “[Because] Christians will always be simultaneously saint and sinner, there will always be hypocrisy in every Christian and every church. . . . hypocrisy is especially generated when the church points to itself and to our own ‘changed lives’ in the promotional materials.”3
To lend credibility to the message that Jesus saves sinners and transforms them into saints, Christians would do well to speak more about Jesus and less about themselves, to proclaim the ongoing need for help and forgiveness found in Christ. Evidence of our lives in constant communion with and dependence upon the God who remains faithful despite our failures will preach—lend credibility.
Horton powerfully sums it up: “I am not the gospel; Jesus Christ alone is the gospel.”4
If we want a credible front man for Christianity, we have one: Jesus. Let’s speak much of Him and His credibility. He won’t crumble or fail.
Read other Made to Stick posts from this week here.
1. Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (New York, NY: Random House, 2008), 136–137.
2. Ibid., 137.
3. Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 118.
4. Ibid., 117.