I came across some very interesting stats regarding Christians that were highlighted in the book, “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back” by Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock.
The premise of the book stems from the scripture in Matthew 7:15-20. Verse 20 sums it up where it states, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Unfortunately, according to the stats uncovered by Cooke and Bock, we as Christians have a real problem following through with what we say we believe. Our fruits are indeed lacking. To be more specific, here are some of the details they discovered – they may shock you.
● 70% to 80% of US population are Christians
● Only 20% attend church at least 19 times per year
● 37% of the 20% who attend don’t feel prayer is important
● 40% of the 20% who attend rarely or never open the Bible
● 10% of the 20% who attend pay a tithe
These stats are really disappointing to learn. I had assumed we were doing much better than this in terms of living our religion. Even on a secular basis, we are constantly being encouraged to step up and act in accordance to our beliefs. To prove this point, here are a few phrases we’re all familiar with:
● Practice what you preach
● Walk your talk
● Lead by example
● Don’t just talk about it, be about it
● Actions speak louder than words
● Put your money where your mouth is
These are all phrases we’ve heard many times throughout our lives and they usually don’t make us feel very good. The reason is – we all fall short. We’re not perfect so we make mistakes and fail to act the way we should, say what we should or accomplish what we should.
Then there’s the conflict between doing what we should versus what we want. I should eat a more healthy diet but I want the sausage and ribs. This reminds me of a saying that has stuck with me for decades: “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what we want most for what we want at the moment.”
We all make thousands of decisions every day, whether consciously or subconsciously. There’s the smoker who really wants to quit and has great intentions but ends up trading that want for smoking just one more cigarette right now. The result is failure to quit and the feeling of disgust with oneself and unhappiness with the lack of willpower.
There’s the individual who’s in far too much debt and really wants to pay it off and be debt free but trades that for putting a new flat screen TV he really wants on his credit card. There’s the couch potato who really wants to get in shape but trades going to the gym for just one more episode on Netflix. There’s the father that wants to spend more time with his kids but trades it for just a little more time on social media.
We all experience similar trades, often multiple times each day and as a result, we feel worse and worse about ourselves and our resolve to truly accomplish something of lasting value. I remember a definition of the word “character” that has stuck with me. “Character – the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the mood in which you made it has left you.”
One of the ways I can relate to this definition deals with my schooling. I’m sure I’m not alone in this but many a time, when faced with a looming mid-term or final exam, I would make a deal with myself that rather than spend the time studying on any given evening, I would get up really early the next morning and buckle down and study. I would convince myself this was a great idea and a sound resolution. Then when the alarm would go off at 5:00 AM the next morning, I would come up with every excuse in the book why I really didn’t need to get up so early to study. The mood in which I made my resolution had definitely left and as a result I far too often failed to carry out that good resolution.
I don’t think any of us would disagree that protecting and providing for our families is a very good resolution. We can all become very passionate about our roles to take care of our families and even put down on paper our specific plans and goals on how to follow through with our objectives. Having worthwhile intentions is an important starting point. Moving beyond those intentions can often times be a struggle.
I live in earthquake country and creating a sound plan for my family in the event of an earthquake was indeed very important to me. It’s funny how I justified putting my plans down on paper was somehow providing a higher level of protection for my family. It wasn’t until I actually put my plan into action, with my family, that I finally felt that sense of security and peace of mind that my family would be prepared.
As a family, we went into each room and discussed the possible damage that could occur and what we could do now to mitigate such potential damage. As a family, we went to our natural gas meter and practiced putting the attached wrench on the valve and turned it just a little so everyone could feel what was necessary to turn off the gas. We went to the outside breaker box and explained how to turn off the power to the house. We went to the water valve and took turns turning off the water to the house. We talked to the kids about what to do if we, their parents weren’t home when an earthquake struck. They were to wait for us inside the camper shell on the back of my pickup so we all got inside to practice.
Over the years, we have continued to review these and many other related issues to be prepared in the event of an earthquake with our now married kids and grand-kids. The point of all of this is that until I actually trained everyone regarding our plan, all the great ideas and intentions I had were of no real value.
Taking the time to create an emergency preparedness plan for your family is a critical first step. But just creating the plan will not protect or feed your family in times of need. Don’t trade what you want most for your family for what you want at the moment. We must “practice what we preach” and “walk our talk” so the fruits of our beliefs will indeed benefit those we love.