In a secularized society obsessed with consumerism, entertainment, and modernization, Christianity is often portrayed as being old-fashioned, irrelevant, and useless, but it still serves some very valuable and profound purposes. Here’s why Americans still need it:
Community: Churches are among the few places that inspire deep, authentic, messy, and real community. They go out of their way to involve people and connect them via small groups, activities, and an endless variety of interpersonal platforms.
It’s within these contexts that deep relationships are built through discussion, shared experiences, vulnerable confession, and honest accountability.
Sure, our culture has lots of communities, but few foster relationships that go beyond superficial conversations or light-hearted fun. Co-workers hang out after a long shift, people join sports leagues to meet people, and they might socialize at their gym or at the local coffee shop, but rarely do these relationships become life changing or drastically meaningful.
Churches are places where people come together and share their stories — and they are amazing. There are people who have lost everything — homes, jobs, family, possessions — and have faced sicknesses, trials, heartbreak, and devastation, but they honestly and openly share this with the community — this is what makes Christianity so wonderfully unique and powerful.
Nothing brings people closer together than this type of meaningful interaction, where we invest in each other’s lives and help carry the burdens — and share in the joys — of others.
Inspiration: Christianity is about inspiration. The story of Jesus is one of epic redemption, grace, forgiveness, and love. He wanted people to face the realities of their lives with an abundant and expectant hope.
Churches aren’t meant to be an escape from reality, but a place where people accept and face truth — no matter how difficult it is. In fact, many people avoid churches for the very reason that there’s accountability and expectations — involving hard and very uncomfortable work.
But for all its faults, you cannot deny that people have been inspired. Christianity changes people. It causes them to completely adjust their priorities, values, and actions—because they’re inspired!
Cultural Awareness: It was through a short-term mission trip that I learned firsthand about third-world poverty. It was by attending a church that I learned about diversity, white privilege, and cultural awareness. It was through Sunday school classes that I learned about political action, current events, and was forced to interact with others who had a variety of different views and opinions.
The congregation consisted of people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, and we were different in practically every single way — yet united by Christ.
Yes, churches have failed, are failing, and will fail when it comes to racism, equality, and being culturally aware of others, but they often do provide unique environments where people are challenged to think and live beyond their comfort zones.
This was the essence of Jesus’s ministry: getting people to think outside of their normal preconditioned worldview and encouraging people to adapt a Christian mindset that superseded the normal cultural expectations.
Although the media portray Christians as culturally ignorant and intellectually stagnant (some legitimately are), in many cases it’s the opposite. Many Christians are radically involved with current events and heavily invested in the current trends, happenings, and events.
Why? Because Christianity consists of one big family, where our brothers and sisters are directly related to practically every single news event that happens on a daily basis. A bombing in the Middle East affects us. A famine in Central Africa affects us. A political race affects us. In many ways, Christians are more conscience of the world than non-Christians because there’s a vested interest in what’s going on — it’s personal.
Philosophical and Intellectual Growth: Life’s big questions are at the center of Christianity. Deep, serious, thoughtful, important, and meaningful ideas and concepts are discussed, debated, and dissected within Christianity. There are few perfect answers, and the discussions can often be confusing, complex, nuanced, and emotionally charged — but this is what makes Christianity so wonderful!
Christianity isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of mind. It focuses on everything meaningful. Christianity is a lifelong process of intellectual learning, growing, and discovery.
Provides Purpose: The world’s most important questions eventually lead to: Why do I exist? What is my purpose?
People strive to find meaning in whatever they do: their job, their relationships, and their passions. Eventually, many people feel frustrated and unfulfilled because they continually feel unsatisfied and “empty.”
We’ve witnessed this over and over again, by both people who have everything and those who have nothing — they all want to have a purpose. Christianity has a purpose. Do you?
Jesus: Christianity comes down to one thing: Jesus.
The New Testament is about God meeting us where we’re at, and sacrificing himself for our sake because he loves us. He passionately cares about the world. He doesn’t hate it or want to destroy it — he wants to gracefully redeem it. Are we ready to let him?
Many people have idolatrously turned “faith” into something other than Jesus — a political ideology, a set of religious practices, a group of theological doctrines. But in the end, Christianity is about Jesus. Study his life, seek after him, follow Christ’s example of love and sacrifice — this is Christianity.
Stephen Mattson blogs at stephenjmattson.com. He's contributed for Relevant Magazine, Redletterchristians.org, and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at the University of Northwestern St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.